Think big and focus on how it feels

As was published in an entrepreneurship series for Future Females in 2018.

It’s the most natural thing about us human beings: to follow what feels good. We love to feel good and so we pursue things that make us feel good. Then there’s also responsibility, expectations, obligations, competition. Important factors that fuel our everyday actions too, but often they keep us from feeling good.  

Blogging about this month’s theme “thinking big” and here I go talking about feelings. If there anything further away from entrepreneurship it’s feelings right? We’re all tough as nails. Powerful, rational people. But are we really? Aren’t a lot of the decisions you make as an entrepreneur right from the gut? And the passion that drove you to found your business, isn’t that pure emotion? 

I’ve started an experiment on feeling good, life and entrepreneurship earlier this year. I started shifting my focus from the big goals in front of me, toward my biggest goal yet: feeling good along the way. 

Bare with me here as we explore feelings and entrepreneurship. You wanted a challenge right? You want to take it further than you have ever before? You want to think big? I’m challenging you to focus on your feelings as an entrepreneur. Are you up for it?

Work hard

In my work and personal life, I’ve always set my goals as big as possible. While imagining my future self I could already sense the juicy feeling of success and accomplishment. Knowing that when I’d achieve my goal I would feel so powerful. That feeling of I DID IT! I believe Walt Disney when he said: if you can dream it, you can do it.

When your plans are really big, chances are you get disappointed. You might get overwhelmed or frustrated when you notice you are not moving in the desired direction or the destination you are aiming for still seems miles and miles away. Being the big thinker that I am, I’ve had my fair share of frustration and disappointment. And what I’ve learned is that when you are a big thinker, most likely you’ll be a big worrier too. 

I was raised in an atmosphere where hard work pays off. And the reward is best, when you’ve sacrificed and given it your all. And I can honestly say that I’ve gotten so good at this. Being very hard on myself, pushing myself, always needing to accomplish, work hard on success, coping with stress every day.

At some point I found myself pushing harder and harder. My goals being my main focus, no matter what. Working through my frustration. Pushing myself and the people I work with and my loved ones too. To the point where I got exhausted. And far worse I lost the passion for the initial goal that had been my drive all that time. 

I saw all the things I had built start to crumble. And it felt like I was further away from my goals than I’d ever been, in spite of all the hard work. And worse yet, I had no idea and no more energy to keep going. 

What a terrible thing to go through for me, but at the same time it was an opportunity to embrace growth. Something had to change. I saw all these friends around me sliding into burnouts. Every week I heard about another case of burnout, all people my age or younger. 

If you are working to reach your goals, because reaching them is the ultimate, how much are you willing to sacrifice? How do you want this path to unfold? You don’t know how long this path is or what bumps in the road will come up. Are you up for it? Is the end-goal so import that you are willing to sacrifice almost anything for it?

Chill mode on

I started thinking what if working towards my goals was pleasant? What if this journey was about having fun? What if it wasn’t about pushing hard, ignoring emotions, running into walls, but about flowing with ease and joy at every step? Could I get back to that initial exhilarating feeling when you first imagine your goal and keep that feeling while moving toward it? 

1. Get started

So I started experimenting with this. First step was a 30-days yoga challenge. Practicing yoga every morning for 30 days. This cleared my mind completely. I felt energized, in shape, strong, confident and calm. Best thing: we took on this challenge with a group of friends, supporting each other, sharing the experience.

2. Be a warrior, not a worrier

Next step: address the worrying. I needed to find a way to control my thoughts and stop over-analyzing and worrying so much. I followed a program on positive thinking that taught me you can actually control your thoughts. You can just choose thoughts that will cause you to feel worried, or thoughts that will make you feel relaxed. 

3. Relaxing as a priority

Learning to relax was the third step. Seriously I couldn’t relax without feeling guilty for not being productive. Making relaxing a stressful exercise too. This really took some practice and a shift in mindset. What helped me most was finding things to do I love that help me clear my mind. For me that’s taking a long walk in nature or horse riding. 

4. Trust

Final step: learning to trust. Trust in myself and trust life. Trust in the fact that things will work out, and that I get to choose whether I’ll be super stressed, or totally relaxed along the way. What a revelation to learn that this is actually my choice to make. And what a delightful idea to just be relaxed, have fun and enjoy the unfolding. 

Let the good vibes fuel your action

That first feeling when you come up with the next big thing you want to do is so powerful! It feels so great! Let that feeling guide you towards it and not the worries and stress of how you are are going to get there. When you start fussing to much about the how, and start to lose that exhilarating feeling: practice the four steps above. Your goals are still there, and the excitement about them is too. Yet the focus is on feeling good. No more pushing, pulling, worrying. But enjoying, appreciating and flowing. 

And guess what? It’s awesome! Things are really starting to work out. On a daily basis I feel great. I’m attracting all these wonderful talented people. I get invitations to most the beautiful and inspiring venues. I get amazing business offers, exactly in line with my business goals. More money is coming in. And all this time I’m not pushing anything, I’m not working hard. I’m just chilling and appreciating all these things while they unfold. 

For the record: I’m not lying in bed all day. I’m still working, but from a place of joy and excitement. And I’m continually practicing step 1-4 on a daily basis to really get good at it. I understand it now, but I do need to keep reminding myself to keep it as my main focus. Because it’s very easy to go back to my stressed old-self. Instead of working hard I now say: be there, be prepared, be the best version of yourself and have fun!

How to get started on your business?

Quote: from idea to reality, that's what it's all about

As was published in an entrepreneurship series for Future Females in 2018.

If you are asking yourself this question, I can tell you that you have already done so. Something has caught your attention and you can’t let it go. When you think about it, you feel butterflies in your stomach. You can imagine your future self running a successful business around just that. In other words, if you’re wondering how, that means you’ve already decided to start that business. Good for you!

Quote: from idea to reality, that's what it's all about

“From idea to reality, that’s what it’s all about” is something I live by. Those words are on my company website and on my office wall, and every time I read them, I get excited. When you start with an idea in your head, you begin to explore and expand. Slowly you start to fill in the details, you find people to create something with, and before you know it, the idea starts to manifest. That journey of making something, creating something, is exhilarating. And I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that this is what life is all about.

I love it so much that I started my own business to do just that! I help environmental entrepreneurs and cleantech companies bring their ideas to life. I’ve had this wonderful experience with so many clients now, but it never gets old. The journey is never the same and the learning never stops. When you start your business, you will soon learn that it is a continuous journey of learning, growing, meeting new people, frustration, failure and success (not necessarily in that order). Every step you take will prove to be important. And while it may not always seem like it, all steps are in the forward direction, I promise.

Becoming an entrepreneur is in large part about willingness. Remember, you’ve already decided to start your business. That means you’re ready to get started. Now take further steps and maintain that readiness. When you start a business, you will be faced with so many things that you cannot possibly anticipate. Don’t shut down or give up when things get tough. Because I can tell you upfront that it’s going to be tough. The key is to be willing to face all of these things with an open mind, an open heart, and open arms when they arise. Be willing to learn and allow for personal growth.


In the beginning, you may experience a lot of uncertainties. You’re still working on your business concept. You’re trying to narrow it down, doing research, looking for feedback from your peers. But you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, maybe you feel like you’re drifting away from your original idea thanks to all the well-intentioned advice you’ve been getting.

It’s important to do your homework, know your market and have a good pitch. That said, I would say this is the next phase for your business. Decide on your idea first, be confident, and then I’ll move on to the next phase. This second phase is not meant to verify your idea. It’s meant to grow it.

Or you’re stuck because you can’t decide which of your 100 ideas to try. Just pick one, really. Starting a business is much less about the idea and much more about the execution. Or in the words of Dell founder Michael Dell, “Ideas are a commodity, their execution is not.” This means that the crucial phase begins after you have decided on your business concept. The next phase, as your concept grows, is much more important.

What these two examples tell you is not to overthink the initial idea. I understand that you want to know if you have a good idea. But you won’t get the answer by analyzing all the industry reports twice or asking everyone you know if they think it’s a good idea. Your answer lies in the unfolding of your business and that requires patience. You just have to start, work hard, and enjoy the ride. At some point, when you know whether your idea was good or not: you either have a successful business or a great story to tell. There is no losing in this game.

One more thing about choosing your business: passion. Probably the most overheard word in business articles, I know. But you need to realize that your business becomes your life – or vice versa. It’s best to choose an industry, service or product that really speaks to you.

Structure – Structure – Structure

We’ve established that you’ve already started your business. You’ve been wondering how to get started, but it’s clear that you’ve already taken some very crucial first steps by sifting through all the initial choices and deciding on your idea with great excitement and zeal. However, you feel like your business is still an idea and you’re just now getting started. Get out of your head and into the real world.

At Minimal Mass, we collaborate to develop new business concepts that contribute to Green Economy and provide education and inspiration for environmental entrepreneurship in our online communities. Basically, I help entrepreneurs build structures. We create a roadmap or recipe for them to follow. Depending on the stage and need of their business, we start with either structuring their idea, expanding their business strategy, or developing a fertile atmosphere of mentors, partners, customers. And from there, we know what steps to take on the way to the envisioned goal.

Setting up a structure like this makes your idea manageable and helps you move from idea to action. You know what things you need to do, what people you need to contact, etc. Basically, you translate your idea into an action plan.

This plan is never set in stone, and you will constantly be working on the plan as you work on your business. Pivot, pivot, pivot. And the more experience you have, the easier it gets. What really helps is to be flexible. Don’t get stuck in one direction or get too frustrated. Just switch around and keep going. Try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else. Remember you don’t know everything, you learn along the way.

Business bliss

Too much thinking can slow you down. Get into action mode. Get moving. Certainly it will not be a straight line you will be on. You will run into dead ends, take detours. Trust that this is all part of it. You don’t need to survey the whole journey. Just start taking steps. You will get there. And enjoy moving towards your goals. The true bliss of business is between your idea and the mega-success you want to make of it. Be there when it starts.

If you have your heart set on Green Economy, feel free to contact me directly or via Future Females if you need help implementing turning your idea into reality.

Marleen Mulder asking: who's supporting you on your entrepreneurial journey?

Keep Moving 1:1 accountability sessions for entrepreneurs

#ThinkWater: eat less meat

hands raising classes to toast with quote 'first we eat, then we do everything else'

As was published on Linkedin in 2017

Fresh water shortage is a big problem in South Africa at the moment (2017). The water reserves are almost dry and Day Zero is getting very close. Shortage of drinking water in the world, is caused by our choices in food consumption. In the Netherlands “86% of our water usage is related to the food we eat”. Food that is being imported from everywhere in the world. By eating less meat, you can reduce your water footprint at lot.

Yesterday I read an article in VU Magazine about our water footprint. It already starts off by saying that you use 4000 liter water a day (when living in the Netherlands)! Showing an image of a running showing: 50 liter and a hamburger: 2400 liter. The article is in Dutch, however this image really says it al. 


The article was based on the research of Professor Arjen Hoekstra , initiator of the Water Footprint Network. Considering the amount of water it takes to produce your hamburger, water usage for your shower is nearly nothing. Hoekstra critiques government campaigns promoting shorter showering to safe water. In itself it’s a good thing to spend less time in the shower, but that is to safe energy. When considering our water consumption, the 50-60 liter for your shower is only a drop in your total daily water footprint. He argues that not eating meat one day a week directly saves 800 liter on average!

Today Cape Town is facing the worst drought since 1904 and the water levels continue to drop every week. Drinking water in the city comes from several dams in the area that are all nearly exhausted because there has not been sufficient rainfall in the last three years. This week’s dam levels are at 33% []. The city is preparing for a Day Zero scenario when people will be cut off from water supply and will have to collect water from centralized collection points throughout the city. Day Zero is at 13,5%, now estimated to be from May 18, 2018 onward.

Consumers have the highest impact on water consumption according to the research of the City of Cape Town. And much of the city’s campaigning is directed at consumers who are allowed to only use 87 liters water per day. Last week’s report shows an increase in consumer water usage. “At this time of year [it is now summer time in South Africa], the heat increases the evaporation rate so intensified water savings are a must. We appeal to residents to please step up their water-saving efforts as we can only get through this together. The city will also continue its roll-out of water management devices to restrict households who are still using excessive amounts of water.” [News24]

The City of Cape Town is managing this crisis and keeps pushing its citizens to cut down water usage. One thing I noticed though, while being there, was the concern people have for this crisis and the personal and collective drive and resourcefulness that comes from that. People coming up with the smartest, most inventive ways to save water in their homes. If anything this crisis is bringing people together. Sharing their water saving solutions with one another. Sharing their concerns for the future. It’s the talk of the day. 

The thing is this crisis concerns everyone! Not specific areas or neighborhoods, the whole city is dealing with it. And that’s something special in South Africa. The opportunity in this crisis is the innovation and inventiveness on the one hand and the sense of community on the other. A crisis like this is bringing out the best in people. And that opportunity is tremendous. 

When I came back from my latest trip to Cape Town I was very inspired by this and I wondered what I could do back home about the water crisis people are facing there right now. After reading professor Hoekstra’s articles I’ve learned that there is a huge correlation between food consumption and water usage. And do check out the beautiful infogram on Explaining in a simple way how much water you eat every day and what you can do to change that.

In the Netherlands we always assume we have water enough with all the rain we get. However by importing so much of our food, we actually consume water from elsewhere in the world. According to Hoekstra 95% of our water footprint lies outside of the Netherlands. We are creating the water scarcity in the countries that produce our food. And guess what in 2010 the Netherlands was South Africa’s largest agricultural export destination, accounting for a little over 10% of South Africa’s total such exports in 2010, worth $700-million [BrandSouthAfrica].

Also Australia is coping with fresh water shortage. But it keeps exporting a lot of its water by exporting food. Their Economic Affairs department even keeps its employees from linking the water problem to export, because of the apparent importance of export [Lindhout, 2017]. 

When thinking about South African culture, food is really important. And it’s safe to say South Africa is a meat eating country. On a global scale South Africa is ranked number 14th by the OECD on meat consumption in kilogram per capita. So changing this might be very difficult and could be very uncomfortable for a lot of people.

However I think the first step is to know what’s going on. To know about the amount of water that is needed to produce our food. And think about this and your own behavior.  For example take beef. An average cow brings 200 kg boneless beef. To produce this amount of beef takes 3.091.000 liters of water! Meaning 1 kilo beef equals 15.400 liters of water.

If you know now that by not eating meat 1 day a week you can already save so much more water, then by not taking a shower, it might even be easier! The impact you create with this is very big. And it is very empowering to know this as a consumer. By making different choices in what you eat, you can actually make a difference. 

Find out more at and

Do you want more Minimal Mass lifestyle tips?

>> check out the 3 super simple steps for a minimalistic life

Helping a carbon removal company tap into a new market.

woman walking towards sunset on forest road

Technology that creates a more sustainable world is my favorite kind of tech. Why would you want to create any other kind of technology, would be my question. The challenge remains the same though, to find the right market.

Skytree’s technology finds it origin at the European Space Agency (ESA), giving them the great advantage of having a technology with an impressive track record. However, the challenge was to find the right market for their tech here on earth.

For Skytree I developed a launching strategy for their plant growth application. A carbon removal product designed for urban greenhouses to enhance plant growth. The assignment was to explore and advice on the commercial aspects of this venture, including:

  • How to market the product
  • How to brand and present
  • How (and where) to sell

What are the exact details of the product from a commercial perspective? Where to find the ideal market and what is the market potential? Who is the customer and what are their needs (customer validation study). Leading eventually to the launching strategy.

Key factor in this assignment was the combination of telling the (commercial) story and initiating and building customer relations. Communication services are for a large part about making connections and building meaningful relationships.

skytree logo

Skytree is a carbon removal company. Their technology revolves around scalable, carbon removal products that increase power efficiency whilst improving air quality. Their units have a wide range of applications: from improving plant growth to fuel synthesis and air purification.

There are still so many innovation stories to be told!

Do you want the story of your technology to be next? Get in touch by filling in the form below and book your first appointment for free.

Communication strategy: CO2 neutral road building

The beauty of sustainability is that it can be applied anywhere and everywhere. So when I was asked to create content about CO2 neutral road building and sustainable pavement, I was exited at once! The mere fact that a heavy industry such as road building (asphalt) is contributing to sustainablility is very inspiring.

For Provincie Zuid-Holland and Boskalis Nederland I created a series of content to promote and explain a new road building innovation: sustainable pavement.

Video language: Dutch

This video shows in just a few clips what the sustainable pavement innovation is all about and how it is applied to roads in the Netherlands. This video was created in collaboration with Donkergroen Creators and Haags Productiebedrijf.

road building site

As communication advisor I had the pleasure to tell the story of sustainable road construction. Besides video production, where I wrote the script and directed, I created a lot of copy and visuals. And an instagram story series.

What surprises me often with assignments like these, is that the innovator, in this case Boskalis, is very modest about their technology. No wonder, to them this is business as usual. But for their audience it a fascinating story. To learn how they innovate their product and make it more sustainable. To see the inside of their Innovation Lab and to actually see how asphalt is being made.

There are still so many innovation stories to be told!

Do you want the story of your technology to be next? Get in touch by filling in the form below and book your first appointment for free.

Personal branding: a deep dive

Be your own greatest USP

3 steps to build your most powerful personal brand 

As was published in an entrepreneurship series for Future Females in 2018.

Let me start by saying I’m not writing as expert in this post. Future Females announced this theme and I thought: … [nothing]. Don’t get me wrong, I do think personal branding is very important. When I look at myself I’m right in the middle, still figuring it out. So for this blog post I’m taking a deep breath – diving into the subject with an open mind – sharing my findings here with you. Ultimately leaving you with a 3-steps guideline. Hoping it will help you and me both to build our most powerful personal brand. 

Some first thoughts that come to mind: who do I know that embodies personal branding? How does this theme relate to last month’s theme of self-love? And oh yes, confidence. You’d definitely need to bring that when working on personal branding. Okay let’s go!

Personal branding heroes

A great way to get your personal branding right is to look for heroes. Real life examples, or even fictive ones if you like. Last year Forbes featured an article calling superheroes “the ultimate brands”. Superheroes teach us the importance of having a purpose and finding your superpower. Also you need to consider aspects like consistency, continuous improvement of your skills and networking. Read this great piece at

Jeff Bezos, founder & ceo of says: “branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. So how do you know…? Kidding. You can actually know. And you control this more than you might think. Ask yourself what did you leave them with? How did you look? How did you speak? How did you make people feel? All these things you control. Sure there are always people who like you and people who don’t. Not everyone is going to be your customer, your fan or your friend. That’s (hopefully) not the goal here. The goal is to bring across you. Your personal brand. 

We should pay close attention to the way we engage with people in all facets (our words, energy, appearance) and make sure it is always true to you. This brings me to the next buzzword you find when reading up on personal branding: authenticity. I believe authenticity is key in every part of your life. If something or someone is not authentic, then what do you have? Be real, it definitely lasts longer. Or in the words of one of one of my personal branding heroes Chris Haroun: “be long term focussed” And he likes to quote Warren Buffet: “the longer the view, the wiser the intention”. This applies very much to building your brand I believe. Because you need authenticity and a long term focus to build trusting relationship with your customers, followers, community, etc. 

Joel Peterson, chairman at Jet Blue Airlines wrote a very personal and helpful article about personal branding and how to become aware of how others perceive you. He did a great experiment where he would see himself through the eyes of his kids and this in turn opened up his eyes and eventually changed him (and with it his personal brand). “He drives a grey car, has grey suits and his hair is getting grey, he must see the world as grey. My brand – at least for my kids – was boring, conservative, predictable, and all business.” He had no idea this was part of his personal brand, and he realized it did not at all reflect his personality.

Peterson agrees, if you want to make it in business, you have got to be authentic. Your personal brand has to really reflect who you are in order to be successful. “A great, caring and competent brand requires you to become a great, caring and competent human being”. 

My personal absolute favorite branding hero is a woman who embodies all the above. She comes across as totally real and completely herself on camera. I’m talking about Adriene Mishler of the youtube channel Yoga With Adriene. Big big Youtube hit, with currently 3.2 million subscribers (that was 2018, in 2021 counting 9.79 million). Already in 2015 “Yoga with Adriene” was most googled in the category workout. She is one of the best in what she does, by being who she is. What she adds with her personality to her work is what makes her so great. She is her greatest USP (Unique Selling Point). That must be the ultimate personal branding result. Read the latest interview with Adriene on Mashable

Personal branding & self-love

I promised a deep dive, so brace yourself. It seems personal branding is all about going inward before presenting yourself to the world. To define your personal brand you first have to define yourself. What makes you you? What is your superpower? And what is your purpose? What do you add to the table that is completely and uniquely you that adds to your personal USP? 

And here I thought I was going to write about marketing, social media, appearance. Sure that is part of the outings of personal branding, but at a much later stage. I don’t think the word count of this blog is going to allow me to get there. If you are building a strong personal brand, before you can start communicating, you first need to start a real conversation with yourself. Go inward.

Last month’s theme was on self-love. In order to be successful, to be happy, to be unique, to be balanced, you first start with a lavish dose of self-love. It will allow you to trust who you are, and what you’ve got. And from this trust comes the much desired confidence you need to go outward. To present yourself in a consistent way. To take on any competition. And to deal with the critique and setbacks you will face. You got this now. Because you have your own back. You love yourself, not matter what.  

3-step guide

This quick deep dive has turned out to be a real treasure dive! We’ve already discovered so many gems (12) that can help us build our personal brand:


The quotes and articles I shared and the 12 buzzwords can guide you towards your personal brand. To help you do this I’ve put the 12 gems into a beautiful 3-piece gemstone jewelry set for you to wear at any occasion =) It sums up the article nicely and it can help you define your truest most powerful personal brand.

3 steps to build your most powerful personal brand: 

1. Love yourself to bits: get to know yourself, trust your inner-self and be confident

2. Follow your nature: be authentic and be your true self when you engage with others

3. Be your own greatest USP: whatever your trade is, your skill or service you provide, make sure the YOU shines through in everything you do

Marleen Mulder asking: who's supporting you on your entrepreneurial journey?

Keep Moving 1:1 accountability sessions for entrepreneurs

5 musts for a balanced (business) life: It’s all about the positive vibes

jeans with quote 'put your positive pants on'

As was published in an entrepreneurship series for Future Females in 2018.

For me the journey of becoming an entrepreneur has been about personal growth. About getting to know and appreciate myself. Talents and limitations included. It has taught me that the driving force of your newborn company is you. It is the embodiment of your vision for the future. But it is also a reflexion of the energy, thoughts and mindset that you put into it. 

Entrepreneurs need a positive mindset to drive their business forward. Positivity creates opportunity, creativity and ultimately helps you reach your goals. Yet along with entrepreneurship also comes a lot of stress and anxiety. Relating to failures, to the unknown path you are following, or the pace of growth that you don’t always control. How to keep this vital positive mindset when at the same time you’re dealing with lots of stress and setbacks?

This quote explains Elon Musk’s take on entrepreneurship. I wrote this quote on a post-it at quite an early stage of setting up my business and it’s still hanging in my office today. I quickly discovered that for me talking about my company’s challenges and my personal limits really helped me to understand and to learn. However most of my (non-entrepreneurial) friends did not know how to respond or worse yet, they would get worried about me, and start doubting my decision to start this company in the first place. And that was not helping me at all. 

So I started looking for other ways to help me clear my mind and keep a positive attitude when things would get tough or when I would start to doubt my decisions. This lead to the 5 musts for a balanced (business) life.

Why is positivity so important for business?

Who are your business-heroes? And do you know any or their famous business quotes? Do they help you get motivated? Of course they do. Business quotes are all about positivity, they are motivational and you need that! 

Positive thinking is often related to meditation and a more spiritual attitude towards life. That’s great for some, but not convincing for everyone. Lately though more and more research is being done about the science of positive thinking. In this article James Clear explains how our brain is wired to turn positive thoughts and emotions into new skills to help you succeed. 

Moments of happiness are also critical for opening your mind to explore and build the skills that become so valuable in other areas of your life. [..] Periods of positive emotion and unhindered exploration are when you see the possibilities for how your past experiences fit into your future life, when you begin to develop skills that blossom into useful talents later on, and when you spark the urge for further exploration and adventure. To put it simply: Seek joy, play often, and pursue adventure. Your brain will do the rest.

That gives me hope. We just relax, have fun and the rest will happen. However for most people a positive state of mind is not easy to get to and to stay in, and it requires hard work. We often find ourselves worrying, and that is so much easier than staying positive all the time. A positive mind takes practice, but it is totally worth it. 

Nurture positivity and a relaxed mind

Whether you adhere to the practice of yoga and meditation or you are more of a science cookie, we all need positivity to thrive in business and in life. It would be very impressive to aspire to be 100% positive all the time. But more realistically just know that not everything will go as you thought it would. You will feel stress, and sometimes a lot. And you will make mistakes and be uncomfortable with that. It’s a given. 

The practice of positive will help you to keep going, to keep motivated and ultimately to turn these negatives into positives; into learnings and into personal growth. The key is to find your balance and to always be able to return to a peaceful mind and positive attitude.

Here are the 5 musts for a balanced (business) life that will help you nurture a relaxed mind and positive vibes.

  1. Go outside, into nature

Feeling tired, feeling exhausted? Then push yourself to go outside and tap into some outdoor energy. Fresh air, birds singing, the smell of fall leaves, sun on your skin. Humans need this. A daily walk outside can help you relieve stress and it’s great for your body as well. A great commercial (unfortunately in Dutch) explains that some people are real outdoor types, but none of us are made to be indoor all the time.

  1. Meet people, new ones and old ones

Engaging with others helps us grow. We need fresh perspectives and we need social interaction. We grow by lifting up others and by making an impact on other people’s lives. One of my favorite quotes comes from the Holstee manifesto: “Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them”. Working together, achieving together and celebrating together with the people that you surround yourself with is so important. Invest in your relationships and be open to meet new people.

  1. Exercise

In order to control and to rest your thinking mind you need to tend to your physical body. Regular exercise will give you: dopamine (feeling happy), stress release, fresh energy, confidence, anti-anxiety and a good night sleep. I’m not kidding. It is tough to get up and to start your exercise, but you’ll get so much out of it. Totally worth your while. Continue reading: “6 reasons why exercise makes you happy” by Krista Stryker.

  1. Practice to clear your mind

For some this will be one of the above. For many people it is playing or enjoying music. Most important is that you find what helps you clear your mind. Ask yourself: have you ever experienced not having any thoughts in your head? How did that feel? Or if you haven’t, what would help you get there? For me it is when I’m horse riding, running or doing yoga. For the entire hour I’m not thinking about anything except being in that moment. And afterwards I am totally recharged. Explore what clears your mind and do that as often as you can. 

  1. Do more or what lights your soul on fire

This brings me to the final must, diving in just a little deeper. At the core of your happiness, your positive attitude towards life and your peaceful mind lies the thing that makes you tick. It’s unique to you and very personal. But every time you think about it, or practice it, you feel invincible and full of love. Let this be your guide in life. 

And if you don’t know what it is yet, start to explore, it’s fun! No need to go out too far, because the answer is probably right in front of you. It’s the things you do already. The things that your are concerned about the most. The things you do so well, effortlessly. The things that light your soul on fire.

Photo of Marleen with text 'who's supporting you on your entrepreneurial journey?'

Keep Moving 1:1 accountability sessions for entrepreneurs

Inspired employees: how to engage staff with the founders’ inspiring initial vision?

City skyline with quote 'wake up and smell the inspiration'

When you start a company alone or with a small team, the ambition you have and the vision that drives you is quite clear. But what happens when your company has passed start-up phase and you grow faster every year, with more and more staff joining the team? Does your company still run on inspired employees?

Does the team know your vision? That thing that makes you work tirelessly on your goals and so proud of the accomplishments you’ve made so far? And do you know what makes your staff work tirelessly and what makes them proud looking back on the years they’ve worked for you?

It’s time to ask yourself if your initial vision is still accurate? To what extent do you communicate your vision to your staff? And have you shown enough interest in their vision? What effect has an inspiring business vision on internal operations and ultimately on performance? Let’s explore this together.

You might not be the Steve Jobs kind of inspirator. You are not the type of guy or girl who likes to stand in front of your staff to give a speech on freedom, co-creation or some other philosophical theme or personal anecdote just to inspire.

You might even refrain from much staff interaction at all, because you hired people to do that for you, managers. Yet what drives your business? What drives the people that work for you? The people that your people hire, based on what shared passion are they inclined to work for your company?

It could be that it’s about the job they get to fulfill. They love their field and at your business they get the chance to further develop their skills and do what they love doing the most. And/or you offer great salaries and other benefits, so they love working for that.

But for a lot of people [generations x-y-z] working is about more than practicing their trade, developing skills and earning a decent living. It is about contributing and being part of something bigger than yourself. About connection to a bigger goal and connecting to the people they work with and for. They want to feel and contribute to the energy that flows through the organization and feel excited about team efforts.

Many employees [across industries and company size and structures: in commercial, impact or public organizations] choose to work for a company not only for the job, but for the vision of the leaders on the world or the company’s work field. You can have your marketing team or an external branding company present the most inspiring campaign and company website to attract employees. But once they are in, do they get to experience and share passion one-on-one with each other and with the company’s founder?

The interaction of performance and inspiration

Harvard Business Review has published several studies on business leadership and inspiration and conclude that inspiration among employees is key to business performance. “When employees aren’t just engaged, but inspired, that’s when organizations see real breakthroughs. Inspired employees are themselves far more productive and, in turn, inspire those around them to strive for greater heights”.

Inspiration seems to have a snowball effect on individuals and those they interact with. Being inspired enhances productivity and joy, that can in turn inspire the next one and the next. A steady flow of inspiration into your organization could be a simple investment, with a lot of output and spill off effects to enhance business performance.

One other important observation by the Harvard Business School is that inspiration and performance not only affect each other linearly, performance by example is a necessary form of leadership to bring inspiration across. “Those who focus only on inspiration may find that they motivate the troops but are undermined by mediocre outcomes. Instead, inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results”.

Bringing across inspiration onto your employees thus entails much more than standing up on a stage every now and then and speech. You need to lead by example. By excelling in what you do in the business. This way you not only motivate, but invite your employees to join you in the success.

Live it, be it, do it

If you want to inspire your employees, you need to know what inspires them. It all begins with your people. If you’ve decided that you want your employees to be inspired you need to first make a connection. You do this by starting to talk and getting to know your employees.

There might be too many employees and too little time to have an in depth conversation with each and everyone, but you can make it a regular habit in your week to engage with employees, by talking about passion. Share yours and ask what drives them in their job and in this company.

From these conversations you will learn a lot. You will learn about the things that are in place, that positively affect your employees. You will also learn what things are missing or what things you do feel, but they don’t experience in the same way.

Also the effort you make by having these conversations on a regular basis, the interest you show and time you take to talk about these subjects, will already have a positive impact your employees.

You start to notice a form of attention and human connections on a deeper level than planning and performance. And you could decide to incorporate this throughout the business. But remember it all starts with you. Show your support by example, not just talk. If you are serious about motivating your staff to achieve great things, you need to be in it yourself first. From there you can delegate your management to implement it in a more structural way.

Ultimately you can develop a roadmap to implement continuous flows of inspiration into you business and integrate it into the company culture. Perhaps you haven’t yet defined your company culture. Then this is a great way to start building from a strong, ambitious and positive place. If you did already have a clear company culture (meaning you actively communicatie about it), you can review and see how inspired action and team motivation could become part of the very core of your operation.

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Inspiration is such an import part of life and business. Inspiration makes you move, creates new ventures and helps you to keep going when things get tough. By running an inspired business, you create stories that inspire others to get started or keep going.

The supply of inspiration is endless, you just need to tap into it. Minimal Mass gathers inspiring stories on business and environmental awareness. Check our stories online and share your story with us.

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Environmental Entrepreneurship Explained

forest and sunlight with quote 'may the forest be with you'

Many articles have been written about entrepreneurship. About success formulas and the importance to allow yourself to fail and grow. You can sign up for tons of courses, incubator programs, mentoring opportunities and get support from business coaches. Startup ecosystems have taken root all over the world. Established businesses and governments are taking a major interest too, adopting startup mindsets or inspiration for their own organizations. Entrepreneurship and its ‘how to’ has become booming business. It’s hot. Everyone is invited and tickled to consider becoming an entrepreneur and the good life of freedom that is promised with it.


You can start a business in anything. You can develop an app, open a shop (online or offline), brand yourself and start vlogging, or continue the service you provide in your job and start freelancing. Some people decide to start a business because they want their life to be more meaningful. Because they want to realize or change something in the world that is very close to their hearts. They start a business to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. I’m talking about social entrepreneurship: “the art of simultaneously pursuing both a financial and a social return on investment (the double bottom line)”


From this inspiring category of business I want to focus on environmental entrepreneurship specifically. How do you build a business that is commercially successful and has a positive impact on the environment as well? Or how to create environmental impact while at the same time be profit driven? As an (aspiring) entrepreneur you have the ambition to make sales, yet at the same time your goal is to have a positive effect on the climate. Both your goals are equally important to you, and define the identity of your company. How do you succeed in both your goals? Since I’ve been working on this theme a lot, I decided it would be good to write a short article about it.  


What is Environmental Entrepreneurship?


There is not (yet) so much information available about Environmental Entrepreneurship. If you want a definition, I find the one from the Oxford handbook of business and the natural environment very simple and clear. – Environmental Entrepreneurs are individuals who create new, often for-profit, ventures that help address environmental challenges. The definition is wide enough to include a range of businesses from all industries, appling different business models. Yet it is also inclusive enough to state the bare essentials: creating, profit, environmental challenges.


Though it is important to find a theoretical common ground here, especially since the term is not yet too familiar to the masses, theory is always best explained by examples. Moving on now to a more practical approach. The environmental enterprises we work with are focussed around four main activities:


  1. Problems to solve
  2. Technologies to apply
  3. Communities to engage
  4. Money to make

All environmental enterprises operate in the green economy. Not all of them however, are technology driven. We also work with product or service oriented environmental enterprises. Yet they all at least incorporate A,C en D in their business models.


A. It starts with a question

Regardless of the business you set out to start, profit driven, impact or no impact, environmental objectives or not, they all start with a problem to solve. It could be just a simples question where there is not yet an answer for. A small gap in the range of products that is available to us that can make a big impact on people’s daily lives. How do you keep paper together, without damaging the document? In 1867 this question lead to the invention of the paperclip that you can now find in every draw of every desk worldwide.


B. Tech for green

The most common approach to answer our business, life or societal questions is through science and technology. Same goes for environmental challenges. Engineers are at the core of developing technologies to apply that take into account or even support the environment. The renewable energy industry is a leading example when it comes to tech for green applications. Continuously trying to enhance energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.


C. Power of the masses

Community building is a key element of today’s business. When you start a company in the environmental space you also have a community to engage with your activities. The building of a business community exceeds clientele only. Of course you do want to engage your customers continuously. Yet you also want to nurture a wider audience to bring your company’s impact and mission across to.


D. More profit more impact

One of the biggest business myths when it comes to social or environmental entrepreneurship is that impact can not go along with profit or vice versa. In our latest masterclass we try to break this myth once and for all. Simply because of the fact that the more profit you make, the more impact you can make too. Environmental entrepreneurs have money to make and lots of it to accomplish both their commercial and their impact goals.


Adopted into mature business

Environmental Entrepreneurship can also be integrated in “regular” enterprises, when mature businesses start to shift towards more eco-conscious operations. Adopting environmental entrepreneurship “from the inside-out” is can be a much easier and a much faster way to shift the paradigm.


Existing, mature businesses have the advantage of already having achieved a steady operation. They’ve booked their successes and learned their beginner’s lessons. They have matured and have the capacity and the funds to extend to other aspects of entrepreneurship. Environmental Entrepreneurship could be a natural step and an interesting challenge to enhance customer and employee engagement.


Also a mature company can start with the smallest of steps, measure the effects and continue to expand their environmental ambitions one by one. For example they can start with their office operation. Usage of paper in the office or recycling in general. Next they could reconsider their logistics or purchasing behaviour. These are relative small steps to start off with, making a real impact and appealing message to consumer and staff, before even having to make big changes in the business operation, keeping risks low in this regard.


Mature businesses can work out a multiple year strategy toward an environmental business goal (zero waste, climate neutral, etc.) without jeopardizing cash flow, and better yet, continue their growth to continue their journey toward environmental impact slowly but steady.  


Inspirational stories

The best way I know to describe environmental entrepreneurship is by sharing examples of entrepreneurs and businesses. Not only to make the definition come alive, but also to inspire and to educate. If you are looking to learn how to be an environmental entrepreneur: look for heroes. Let their stories inspire and teach you how to and how not to.


In the next series of Minimal Mass blog posts we will share specific stories to get you started. Each post will be focussed on a different industry. We go from transport to electronics, from food to fashion. Every issue will explain environmental entrepreneurship from an industry perspective, sharing examples and introducing you to the environmental entrepreneurship leaders of this time.


Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value


Join us

The question how to be a successful commercially and environmentally is one of many answers. And by working on this question you can start answering it. By starting a conversation, by learning from experience (your own and other’s). By sharing as many stories to inspire and ignite as much environmental entrepreneurship as possible.


Join our quest to answer what it takes to be an environmental entrepreneur through our social channels or join in one of the Minimal Mass communities.


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Minimal Mass in newspaper

AD newspaper logo on red background

Dutch Newspaper AD features Minimal Mass. The article tells about the recent Dutch trade mission to Cape Town, lead by the Dutch national government and the local government of the Hague. Minimal Mass was one of the participating companies joining this mission for sustainable and water technologies promoting our Environmental Entrepreneurs program.

The newspaper article is written in Dutch. Please find below the English translation.

newspaper: Haagse bedrijven aan de slag in Kaapstad

Companies from The Hague get started in Cape Town

by Germa Graveland

The Hague. Companies from The Hague and surrounding areas are working on water issues in Cape Town. They are turning sea water into drinking water. With electric ‘waste sharks’ they clean the ocean from plastics. And they’re working on drought issues.

These are but a few outcomes of the trade mission held in November 2017, lead by city council member Karsten Klein. The economic mission was one of a series of missions following the stopovers of the Volvo Ocean Race. The mission was organized together with the ministry of Foreign Affairs offering a unique platform for economic diplomacy, trade and positioning of the city of The Hague. During the mission the ships of the Volvo Ocean race had their stopover in Cape Town.

A total of 28 companies and organizations joined the 5-day mission of which 15 were from the Hague region. Among them were a lot of startups, trying to build a presence in South Africa, where Cape Town could be a point of entry for the rest of the African continent. Cape Town and The Hague, both coastal cities, deal with issues like rising sea levels and coastal security. Their harbors, fisheries and maritime industries are of great value to both city economies.

All encounters and visits, costing the municipality of The Hague nearly EUR 6.000, resulted for the participating companies into business deals, the opportunity to present their projects and meeting new partners and clients.

Elemental Watermakers, a company from Delft, is now connected to a number of potential partners. They are very interested in their technology to make fresh water from salt water. RanMarine, a Rotterdam-based company, signed a deal with the Cape Town harbor company to apply their ‘plastic waste sharks’, submarine drones that collect plastic. And they are now talking to the Volvo Ocean Race organization to apply their drones at every stopover during the race.

Minimal Mass, originated from The Hague, a network of cleantech experts, is talking to a large number of private companies that is in need of innovative and clean solutions for local issues.

Dunea and Hoogheemraadschap Delfland (watermanagement services) support the local government in watermanagement and drought.

And three South African companies will open an office in The Hague, adding 50 jobs for the city in the next three years, according to the city council member.

Several exchange programs were launched.