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Judith Roetgering: How can’t do became can do

“There lies precisely what you have to learn and through which you grow, and everything around you grows with it.”

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2021

Ever thought I’d become an entrepreneur? Always ambitious, but not daring for a long time. Because, ‘What if you fall?’

After my studies in Enschede and Amsterdam, I started my career at Oilily at the Beverkoog in Alkmaar. Green as grass, a little bit of a geek, finally ready putting it all into practice. It took some getting used to this working life after studying for 6 years. Coming from an entrepreneurial textile family from the east of our country, I chose the fashion industry with everything I had in me, although several family members advised me not to do so, this world was way too hard for me…

With every employer that followed, I had the opportunity developing myself, first as a product manager, later as a buyer and merchandiser at a fantastically beautiful fashion brand, I’m still grateful for that period. Of course, with some trial and error, at the age of 28 I had a burnout, to me a valuable lesson in ‘setting my boundaries’. As a person I developed quietly, became a mother for the first time and then it slowly started to wring… I felt tossed back and forth, still traveling the world, I have been to 24 countries so far. My private life and my career fought over my subdivided attention, leaving me in despair whether I was doing it all right and not short of anyone. My last employer, that beautiful brand, taught me to look beyond the product that was a bit of a let go for me, I always had a fascination for the technical side of textiles and clothing. I still like to check all the labels and see how something is made just to understand it, but this period opened my eyes, seeing more the business behind it.

Just before I found out that I was expecting my third daughter, I said goodbye to my last employer quite unexpectedly. This mutual decision seemed better to both of us, in retrospect this turned out to be completely true. What followed was a year with many changes in the private field and even more questions to myself, because ‘now what?’ This question first stretched out in front of me as a great plain of uncertainty, in which my can’t do mentality totally took over. Slowly the idea of entrepreneurship began to appeal to me more and more, the urge to do it myself became stronger, and can’t do became can do.

I experienced this aha-moment with a dear friend, when she asked me to mention three things that intrinsically motivated me:

  1. Cultures: The world is amazing, all those cultures, customs and needs, which differ by country or even by region. Getting to know and especially to understand how other cultures work fascinates me enormously.
  2. Helping people: During my career in fashion, I have seen many internationals became totally frustrated by the Dutch culture. Our regulatory drive and one-sided communication. By giving them the soft landing, they can hit the ground running.
  3. Entrepreneurship: This is what I was about, the urge of doing it myself, working on all facets of a business attracted me. Figuring it out yourself, learn the hard way, making endless mistakes, fixing them, and moving on, that next unknown step. So much to learn!

This friend introduced me to my business wife, partner in crime and partner Sacha, and that day, that one 20-minute cup of coffee became a full-day brainstorming session. Your Expat Agency was born. First on paper, in endless spreadsheets and PowerPoints. We were going to rock this! I think this was the biggest leap I took, from total safety into the unknown, taking risks (because we can!) and occasionally picking each other up, speaking encouragingly and on to the next phase with our company. Easy? Certainly not, but that is the most beautiful thing about it, there lies precisely what you have to learn and through which you grow, and everything around you grows with it. 

What means entrepreneurship to me? 

If you had told me that three years after we started, at the end of 2018, we would have a team of 15 people by now, two branches in our business with which we would help amazing, cool tech scaleups to grow with international talent…Then I would have laughed shyly, but with a sparkle in my eyes, and say that would be crazy. And here we are and I couldn’t be more proud! Taking every next step, choosing growth over fear and with the right motivation in mind. By developing our own identity that belongs to us and Your Talent Agency, by gathering the right people around us and customers who understand and live our core values, we grow. And yes, our ambitions are huge!

Three years further and having three daughters who slowly start to understand what their mom does and more important why she does it, they start to understand that you don’t have to have limitations. These live mostly in your mind alone. So far it all worked out, but am I there yet? No, not at all, but it’s the journey what’s the most valuable part. 

So, ‘What if you fly?!’