NAME: VIVIANE DE LAURENZIO
COMPANY: BALANS & DANS
IN THE NETHERLANDS SINCE: 1989
Viviane de Laurenzio grew up in a musical family. She danced through life and was crazy about the carnival. Love brought the Brazilian to The Netherlands, where her first son was born. With her South American temperament she was often found in the gym. So often, in fact, that she decided to ask if she could give lessons. And this was how she introduced Axé and Zumba. With her yoga teacher friend she set up ‘Balans & Dans’, a gym and dance school in Lelystad, where a multicultural mix of women get acquainted with exercise and dance in a relaxed and social environment. Viviane has left behind her fear of corruption and thrown herself into the Dutch entrepreneurial experience with great passion and commitment.
1. How long have you been in The Netherlands?
In 1989 I met a Dutch backpacker during a vacation in northern Brazil and it was love at first sight. After a couple of months I decided to go with him to The Netherlands. We bought an apartment in Amsterdam, where our oldest son was born. Seven years later we went back to Brazil as I suffered very badly from homesickness. Nevertheless, five years later, in 2002, we decided to return to The Netherlands.
2. How did you become an entrepreneur and why?
I was raised with South American rhythm. At home we always danced and celebrated and I am also crazy about the Brazilian carnival, the largest in the world. In Brazil I worked for years as a management secretary, but my heart wasn’t in it. In The Netherlands I worked in catering for a number of years and in my free time I was often in the gym. So often that I eventually asked if I could start giving lessons there. I introduced Axé, a mix of African and Brazilian dance and, later, Zumba. Zumba means ‘to move fast and have fun’. After a number of years of teaching at various gyms I decided to carry on with the Zumba classes, but in my own way. That seemed to catch on in a big way so, together with my colleague and friend Marjolein, I set up a studio for group lessons in Lelystad. As an experienced yoga teacher, Marjolein wanted to focus on ‘balance’ and I, with my background, on ‘dance’. And so Balans & Dans came to be – a sociable gym and dance school, providing group lessons especially for women and children. We consciously chose the ‘ladies only’ concept, which turned out to be a huge success as it appeared that 95% of the attendance at these classes consisted of a multicultural mix of female participants.
3. Did you encounter problems when you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
No problems, but it was very hard work, especially in the beginning. To build brand awareness I invested a lot of time in distributing flyers and I frequently gave free classes. In the meantime I was constantly looking for a way to differentiate myself.
4. What are the differences between doing business in The Netherlands and in Brazil?
In order to survive in Brazil you must always be on your guard, because corruption is the order of the day. When I started out in business here I realised that I was still being wary. The fear of corruption was apparently still deep within me. Now I have learned to trust the Dutch and I dare to be open and honest. Another difference is that the Dutch very efficiently plan as many appointments as possible in a day. Meetings are therefore never long. Unlike in Brazil, where very informal small talk over a hot meal and a drink precedes getting down to business.
5. What is typically Dutch when it comes to doing business and being an entrepreneur?
Being on time! Which is good, because you always know where you stand. Dutch people also love free offers and price reductions. For example, if you offer a free workshop you get many registrations. Not that they all come, because if it is free people don’t feel obliged to attend. If you make them pay in advance you get much more motivation. Just calling on someone in The Netherlands is not done. You do first need an appointment – whether your visit is business or social.
6. What have you taken from both the Brazilian and Dutch cultures?
From Brazil, the dance and the temperament. From here: balance and ‘gezelligheid’, which is a really Dutch notion!
7. Would you ever go back to Brazil?
No, I would only go there for a holiday or to visit family and friends. Seventeen million people live in Sao Paolo. It’s a very nice city but much too unsafe and it is very tiring to always be on the alert.
8. What are the secrets of your success?
Commit yourself with passion to your work and business. Because you can only achieve success with 100% commitment and 150% belief in your own success!
9. What is your favourite fruit, and why?
Watermelon: thirst quenching and delicious. And mango, with its intense taste and heavenly aroma!
10. What is your favourite Dutch product and/or place?
My favourite products are cheese, treacle waffles and tulips. And my favourite location is Amsterdam.
TIPS from Viviane
1. Learn the language as soon as possible
2. Immerse yourself in the culture and learn to understand it
3. Do market research before you start something
4. Hang on to your dreams and pursue them with determination