I’m the exclusive US distributor for a Dutch product, a revolving indoor ski slope.
It started when my husband and I took our first family ski trip to Butternut with our kids. It was a disaster; the kids were cold and tired practically before they’d started. I wondered, why don’t they have the machines here? All over Europe, they’ve turned it into a serious commercial indoor ski school venture, and they’re starting in China.
Ultimately I don’t want to sell—I want to open up my own indoor ski center in the New York area. I worked in the ski industry for about ten years before I came to the States. I was a ski instructor at an indoor center, and I also did public relations. Especially if you’re from another country, as I am, it makes sense to use the specialized knowledge you have.
I came to New York because it was where my husband was based—his whole network was here. It wouldn’t have made sense for him to move. And I always knew I wanted to start my own business.
My dad was constantly starting businesses—catering, restoring and selling furniture. He’d put me to work, selling. I enjoy working for myself and having the flexibility and freedom to do what I want. But I miss having colleagues, a team. It’s hard to stay excited when I’m just by myself.
I believe these ski centers will be in every big city at some point. The challenge is that it’s unknown; there’s no track record. Part of the reason I’m doing sales now is to build the contacts and establish my expertise.
In the beginning I underestimated myself. I didn’t realize how much knowledge I had. I trusted other people too much. Now I’m more careful with how much information I share. My biggest trouble was in seeing my own value. I’m way more confident now.
In the Netherlands, where I’m from, we have a different relationship between men and women. It was always very normal for married women with kids to work—my mother still works at 77. And in a marriage, even when the woman is not working, a husband will pull his wife into the conversation with his business associates. Here, I’ve found that the guys talk about work, and the women want to talk to me about babies.
Once I have the money, I’d love to start investing in women’s business ventures. I’m still surprised by things I’ll hear from men in business situations, their expectations when they meet me. Thinking I’m a housewife or a dilettante. I’ll be talking to a potential investor about my business, and he’ll say, “But how will you do it, with the kids?” They’d never ask that question of a man.
Interviewed on February 7, 2018