Doing business and becoming a successful entrepreneur never happens without a challenge. You need to be flexible, creative and change your route when the situation so requires. We ask our community of mobility entrepreneurs how they adapted their actions in Rerouted.
Not so long ago, we spoke to Marcel Tjin. He developed Leer in het Verkeer (Learn in traffic): an educative programme which enables schools and parents to teach children in the age of 1-6 about traffic. The programme is based on the illustrations from Dick Bruna who is known worldwide as the creator of Miffy, a favourite kid’s character.
Up untill May 11 schools were closed. What impact did you experience?
Marcel Tjin: ‘At this moment it has been 6 weeks since Dutch schools closed as one of the Coronavirus measurements. This means we could not give traffic lessons at schools. These months normally are the busiest ones for us because the spring weather is perfect for practical training for example on the schoolyard.’
‘On the other hand now it is the perfect moment to adjust school surroundings into safer school-zones. As the streets around schools are currently quiet and execution would carry less hazards. So if municipalities have planned these kind of projects for this year I would suggest them to use this period to get it done. It would also help companies like ours and our subcontractors and suppliers in maintaining our order flow in these challenging times.’
And how does this affect your own business?
‘Business wise, we are missing turnover and income. But this situation has also taught us as a team that it is possible to work together from home. Using video call software allows us to have meetings on a screen with all the colleagues. In the beginning it was a bit strange but now a couple of weeks later it is almost like normal. Of course we would rather be together but this works fine. Maybe in the future it can even save on office space and costs. Our customers are also easier to get in touch with, mostly by email.’
‘On the positive side, this situation asks for creative minds. Before this outbreak we already started new ideas to roll out educational packages for parents use and teach their children at home, directly ordered via a webshop. While the development of a webshop would normally be something we would probably take a long time since our core business lies elsewhere; we now developed it in a couple of weeks. The next challenge was to find the right channel to reach these parents directly. Normally we work with local governments and schools.’
‘Why not ask if we could share our post via the channels of Miffy? So we did. We shared the information on our new to order educational packages via Miffy’s social media channels and we were not at all disappointed. Not only did we learn that this asks for different communication, the enthusiasm points out that parents are in fact very much interested in our products and actually order. Even (or even more) in these strange times. This gave us a lot of energy. Of course it is only € 15-60 per order, but actually monitoring the orders coming in was great to see. I know we are still making impact improving road safety and educating children.’
‘Fortunately, schools gradually open from May 11. Currently, we are very busy since some municipalities and schools want us to help using our Dick Bruna “Back to School” campaign. Normally we start these projects after Summer holiday. So now this gave us new opportunities. This is still a big challenge to arrange in such a short period of time, but we are a flexible company.’
And what do you see in the long run?
‘The situation also has positive effects on mobility issues. Less traffic means less accidents. I see more people using the bike which is of course a good way of doing your physical training too. But what will our streets look like after Corona? We might work remotely more often. Will we still use the car bringing our children to school or will we cycle more often?’
‘Our core business lies with local governments and schools. The importance and sense of safety will increase. Therefore, I think road safety will remain a priority for governments, but we do not know how this will affect our projects.’
‘One of my goals was to find opportunities for exporting our “Leer in het Verkeer (Learn in traffic) “ programme. But I think I have to postpone those plans. Although we did learn to find each other online and global distance has become a little bit smaller. You never know.’
‘In the long run, we might decide to extend our B2C opportunities. The pilot confirmed interest in our products which we could expand finding new communication channels. For instance to mobilise local communities to improve road safety in their neighbourhood. Or we could start to work closely with non-profit organisations or insurance companies. Exciting times!’
Most important: healthy first for all of us!