Rain and gales greet us when we arrive at the Coenecoop industrial park in Waddinxveen, a 45-minute drive from Rotterdam. Aad Verboom, the owner of Beaufair, comes and greets us at the door. It is his company that typically creates the larger stands used by Erasmus University’s study societies. He immediately takes us to the first floor, where he is still in the middle of a brainstorming session with representatives of a pharmaceutical company. “Generally, I don’t have to attend such discussions, but this one is quite important,” says Verboom. “They want a stand with a built-in app for a fair, and I need to make sure everything will work.”
The first floor is the company’s showroom. It is full of stands, company logo panels, reception desks and roll-up banners in various colours and sizes. This is where Beaufair displays examples of its products. On the one side of the room is a white-and-pink stand, replete with a tall white table and chairs in retro style. On the other side is a large, standing light poster on which screen shots of TV shows are printed. The room also features several small LED light boxes, two of which have photos of Rotterdam’s Market Hall on them. In the middle of the room sits a long conference table where Verboom is closing off the meeting he was in. “Well, see you soon, then,” he says to the clients, giving them a firm handshake and a friendly smile.
Verboom then gives us a tour of his company. The ground floor is home to the workshop, which is where the stands are constructed. The company annually creates more than 150 large stands for all sorts of fairs all over the world, and this is where the magic happens. “It obviously depends on the design and its measurements,” he explains. “But generally we’ll construct the basis of the stand here, and then we’ll finish the job on site.”
Standing behind a long workbench is his colleague Mark, who is building a stand completely on his own. “All our other colleagues are currently in Zeeland, constructing stands at a trade fair,” he says. All sorts of tools can be seen on his workbench: an electric saw, a drill/sanding machine, a tape measure. Mark grabs a screwdriver to affix a hinge to a plank. He calmly goes about his work, listening to Lady Gaga on the radio as he does so.
The company’s storage room is full of tall, floor-to-ceiling shelving units. They are full of planks, frames, pipes, plywood and many other types of building materials. “This is what we use to construct several stands and rear panels for EUR’s upcoming Master Students’ Open Day,” says Verboom, taking a long frame off a shelving unit.
Beaufair uses what Verboom calls a ‘modular system’ in the construction of its stands. “Our basic stand consists of a system that can be used and re-used many times, comparable to Lego pieces. By changing up the arrangement, we can adjust the stand for different events, depending on the customer’s needs,” he explains. The basic frames easily last fifteen years. In other words, they are sustainable, and affordable, too. “This is how we pass on savings to our customers.”
In 1993 Verboom founded a company that sold all sorts of mobile presentation equipment, such as reception desks and folding partitions. “Then someone asked me if he could rent the stuff, since he didn’t have any room to store it,” he tells us. Gradually, clients started asking whether Verboom might be able to build them a stand. These days, the construction and rental of stands are the company’s core business.
Beaufair has created stands for Erasmus University for fifteen years now. “On that occasion, students of SVIIB1 rocked up on a Thursday afternoon to tell us they needed a stand by Friday,” says Verboom, reminiscing about his first encounter with the university. He managed to build the stand within 24 hours. “Once the stand was up and running, someone from the then Department of Business Administration2 approached us, and that’s how we started working for the faculty.” Over the years, more and more faculties and student societies joined that first faculty on Beaufair’s client list. STAR Management Week, Erasmus Recruitment Days and EFR Business Week (among other EUR event organisers) are all regular Beaufair customers.
While we enjoy a cup of tea in the office adjacent to the storage room, Verboom tells us why he enjoys working with students. “The people with whom we work are very practical, meaning it’s very easy for us to solve problems. Student societies are completely different from companies. They are much more open to discussions and experiments.”
So what was the coolest stand he has ever created for EUR? “My favourite was the stand we created for the 2018 Management Week. We constructed a stand entirely in Banksy style. It looked like concrete, with huge pipes and planks. It really was a fun stand to put together.”