Where do Erasmus University students end up? In this series, graduates speak about their career path and their lives: what have they learned? Along the way they’ll provide you with tips about the dos and don’ts when building a career.
Kevin van Wijk (33)
Study: Pre-master Business Administration, master Entrepreneurship & New Business Venturing (2006-2008)
Current job: Owner of the Rotterdam footwear brand Vico since 2012; a hybrid of a sneaker and a formal shoe. The name comes from vicus, which means ‘street’ or ‘neighbourhood’. Each new pair of shoes is named after a neighbourhood or street. “I don’t wear any other kind of shoe except for football boots. I have 18 pairs in my closet.”
Career path: After graduation Kevin travelled regularly to China, Vietnam or Indonesia as a product manager for the footwear company Premium Inc. That’s how he learned about the world of footwear. He left after two years and started Vico with a partner. Their collaboration was unsuccessful and when Vico went bankrupt, Kevin just couldn’t abandon his company, so he bought it back from the receiver.
Offering a shoe entirely produced in Europe, he chose a very specific niche. This was a good move as turnover grew in 2016. Some of his customers even own 15 pairs.
“I always wanted to be the first to get a close look whenever a friend got a new pair of football boots. I was only six, but even then I was obsessed with the idea of how shoes are made. As an adolescent that led to an endless quest for the first-rate sneaker. Every pair I’ve ever bought is stored in a warehouse. I don’t dare throw them away because that one type of material could be the one that inspires me to come up with a new model.
Even now the first thing I do when I see someone is look at their shoes, and then the face. I often travel to Porto where our shoes are made and when I’m at Schiphol Airport I’m always looking at the ground to see shoes.”
Owning a business is relative
“I used to spend the entire week on Vico-related work, but I now take Sundays off to spend with my family. Our relaunch taught me that owning a business is relative. We’re not afraid to choose for producing a limited quantity of shoes made of good-quality Italian leather. These are small steps, but it still means growth, even if it’s slower-paced growth.
“When I decided on this goal I made a step-by-step plan to realise it. Working systematically like this is something I learned during my master’s programme, where I also learned how to give corporate presentations. At the university you clock a lot of hours on presentations…”
Don’t be disillusioned
“By now I know what I’m good at and what would be better if I outsource it. Letting things go is hard for me because I’m a perfectionist, but luckily deadlines force me to make decisions. Setbacks and falling flat on your face can make things more difficult, but the trick is no to let yourself become disillusioned.”
Yoga and indoor football
“I was already interested in how other entrepreneurs run their businesses when I was at university. For inspiration I preferred to interview creative business owners rather than accountants. I also got tips from stories told by guest speakers, such as ‘read for an hour every day so you’re occupied with something else besides your business’. I manage to do that from time to time, preferably with books where I can learn something. For relaxation I play indoor football and practice yoga.”