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Entrepreneurship During your Studies

Date:03 March 2021
Lydia Boonstra (picture by Klant in Zicht/Dennis van Mastrigt)
Lydia Boonstra (picture by Klant in Zicht/Dennis van Mastrigt)

You probably feel that your student life is too busy the way it is. With deadlines, infinite amounts of papers to read and group work to attend to. But beside all of this I decided to pursue my dream and start my own business during my Master. My secret? Scheduled coffee meetings with myself every week! I think that if you put your mind to it and set aside time for your passion project it is possible.

During my master Sustainable Entrepreneurship I started my business Fair Chain Fashion. With Fair Chain Fashion I want to connect sustainable fashion entrepreneurs to suppliers that can meet high standards on sustainability and fair working conditions. At the moment fashion entrepreneurs face a difficult and frustrating journey to find the right supplier. This can sometimes take years. By combining resources and working together with both parties Fair Chain Fashion is able to shorten this journey and increase the number of sustainable fashion on the market. Taking steps in the direction of eradicating fast fashion.

Since I was young the injustices in the fashion industry frustrated me and I wanted to be part of the positive change. How exactly I wanted to do this evolved over time. First I wanted to start my own fashion brand, but I quickly discovered that my talents lay elsewhere. I love to connect people, and to set the standards for sustainability. It wasn’t until I spoke to a sustainable fashion entrepreneur this autumn that the idea of Fair Chain Fashion sparked.

This entrepreneur encountered a lot of issues when finding the right supplier. My brain started working and something just clicked. I knew that this was something I would love to work on. Making the journey for this entrepreneur and her peers easier became my mission.

I don’t know about you but when it clicked for me and all the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place I believe that a higher power was at work. Everything just came together. But this did not mean that I could just wait and see what would happen. I took an active part in this. Every week I scheduled one morning for coffee and brainstorm sessions with myself.

When restaurants were still open I would pick a different restaurant or café each week and order a cappuccino and just sit down to think and plan. This quickly became my favourite part of the week. I am sure that if I would not have scheduled this time and guarded it, so obsessively I would not have been where I am today. Because I scheduled time I was able to plan all my other activities around this. It is just like sports, if you don’t plan it in your weekly routine, chances are slim that you will do it.

So my first tip is schedule a few hours a week for your passion project and stick to these hours!

After the initial spark during my conversation with a sustainable fashion entrepreneur, I was able to work on Fair Chain Fashion for a university project. This definitely helped me a lot because not only did I have more motivation to work on my business (I mean you get graded), I also got real-time feedback from peers and professionals. During a series of workshops named the Sustainable Startup Academy me and my group members worked on the value proposition, business model and triple bottom line of Fair Chain Fashion. Working on a business as part of the programme for me was the extra stimulus that I needed to finally start doing and stop dreaming.

This is also where my journey with Enterprijs started. This startup competition focuses on the student startups in Leeuwarden. Both the Sustainable Startup Academy and Enterprijs are organized by Founded in Friesland. Once I agreed to take part in this competition everything started moving so quickly. I was forced (in a good way!) to put my idea out ‘there’, and even made it to the final! For me, this was probably the most terrifying thing to do, because suddenly that means people can see your idea and give critique. However, taking a step such as joining a competition is probably the best thing you can do. Once you start doing, you get real life feedback and this makes it possible to adjust your idea based on reality, instead of it staying in your head and the comforts of your own room.

My second tip is: stop dreaming and start doing.

I will continue to work on Fair Chain Fashion on a practical level during my coffee and brainstorm sessions. If COVID-19 permits, but hopefully soon in a café again. I will also approach it more academically for my Master’s graduation project. Again, getting graded for working on your own business idea is the best motivation to continue! For my Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project (SEP) I will study what the barriers exactly are that sustainable fashion entrepreneurs encounter when finding a sustainable supplier. I am excited to see where this journey will take me. The Master’s programem at Campus Fryslân played a big role in helping me to pursue and develop my dream.

By Lydia Boonstra
Master Sustainable Entrepreneurship 2020-2021 and Finalist of Enterprijs 2021.