Pieter Schoen is good at growing through marketing. “Marketing and sales, commercials, billboards, radio, magazines; I know my way there. I am also very passionate. Where others stop I start. I keep a healthy balance between guts and perseverance. ”
Entrepreneurship is in Pieter Schoen’s genes. As early as 1722, an ancestor of the same name started the paint mill “De Gekroonde Schoen”. From there, Sigma Coatings and the consumer brand Histor eventually emerged. The company was sold in 1969, but Schoen’s father was still working for this family business when Pieter was born in Greece in 1975.
Four years later the family moved back to the Netherlands and the still young Pieter knew immediately that he was going to continue the tradition and become an entrepreneur. He chose to study Business Administration at Erasmus University. He didn’t see much of the lecture halls, as a student he was already busy with his business in fake Ralph-Laurens, waterbeds with a mistake and turbo lighters.
In his last year, he writes the career choice book “What do you want to become?” Together with friend and (future) business partner Harald Swinkels. “We noticed among fellow students that no one really knew what he or she wanted to become and that their orientation towards the career choice market was very marginal. Often they knew who they would like to be. We are hooked on that. ”
The two students interviewed seventy well-known Dutch people with various professions, such as Joop van den Ende, Hans van Breukhoven, Erica Terpstra, Maurice de Hond, Goedele Liekens and Ronald Giphart. “We asked them how they had approached it, what study they had done, what they recommended to students.”
Publishers saw no profit in the book. That’s why they started a publishing house and did everything themselves. Successfully. All 25,000 books were sold in a short time. “We didn’t know what was happening to us! We knew it tasted like more and that we wanted to continue this. I then called my father and said: “Dad, I just haven’t graduated, but I graduated.”
Apply as a game
A few more books followed and Schoen and Swinkels started an IT company from the same student room. Both only 24 years old, in the middle of the internet bubble. They developed a CD with which you could apply in game form. The CD was mainly aimed at students.
Companies could rent a room in the game. Players who scored high in the Heineken room, for example, were immediately invited for an interview. Schoen: “The economy and IT sectors were booming. The odds reached for the heavens. We visited all major companies, such as Shell, Philips, Albert Heijn, Heineken, ABN Amro and Akzo Nobel. Everyone wanted to cooperate. We then sent the CD to 200,000 students. For them it was a safe way to explore the market. If you didn’t make it through the first round, nobody knew. If it worked, you could apply immediately and you didn’t have to write a letter. ”
It went very well. The two young entrepreneurs received ten million guilders for a rapid European rollout. They opened offices in England, Spain, Belgium, France, Sweden and Germany. Ultimately they had offices in seven cities and a staff of 100. And then came September 11, 2001, the day two planes flew into the WTC in New York. The internet soap bubble also burst that year. “Then things went wrong very quickly. We tried to reduce costs, but in the end we went bankrupt. That was very educational – we now mainly know how not to do it. We had built it up in two years, but spent longer with the entire bankruptcy process. ” In the end, they received a certificate of good conduct from the trustee, which enabled them to restart and succeed in making the company successful.
Opening up the energy market
In 2005 they sold the company and decided to focus on the newly released energy market. They start the Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij (NLE). “We saw an unexplored area there, filled with utilities, where no one had any knowledge of marketing and sales. The release of the market had caused quite a mess. That was a Valhalla for us. With our knowledge of marketing and sales, we were able to fill that gap perfectly. We became the enfant terrible in that market, Sjors and the Rebellenclub. But it worked. ”
The tactic was to use many famous Dutch people to create their own identity. Natasja Froger was the first to use the characteristic words ‘Ik zeg doen’ uitsprak, gevolgd door Maurice de Hond, Frans Bauer en Johan Derksen. Hun campagnes werden beloond met twee Loden Leeuwen voor meest irritante advertising, but it did have an effect. NLE grew into the fourth largest energy company in the Netherlands, with 750,000 connections in 2016. In 2018, they sold the company to Nuts Groep, known under the brand name Budget Energie and subsidiary of investor Waterland.
And that gave Pieter Schoen the opportunity to do what he likes best: making companies great. Ten years ago, in 2009, he set up an investment fund with a number of college friends that focuses on startups. Since then they have helped eleven companies. But Schoen also wanted to help companies that are a little further in their development. That is why he started a new company, Shoe Investments, where he helps so-called scale-ups with investments of between 2 and 10 million euros.
Schoen: “I think it is great when I can help an entrepreneur with accelerated expansion, to be able to ‘popcorn’ as I always say. By investing I can support many more companies than if I were to start a business again. Then you end up in board meetings and works councils again and I don’t like that side as much. I am now involved in the development of thirty companies, which I like. ”
Schoen pays attention to four points in his investments: “It is all about the people. There must be people at the helm with a clear vision and plan. Otherwise it won’t work. In addition, a company must be scalable and I must understand the subject. After all, I have to be able to offer more than money, I also want to be really involved and be able to help them further with my experience in marketing and sales. ”
In addition to the investment companies, Schoen also has investments in shares and bonds, real estate, real estate development, private equity and venture capital.
And with that, he laid the foundations for a possible new family business. He has six potential successors. From a previous relationship he has four children (three daughters, Sophie aged 18, Veerle aged 16 and Phileine aged 12 and a son Pieter aged 14), with his current wife he has two children (son Olivier aged 2 and daughter Kiki of 1 year). He lives in Rotterdam. He doesn’t have much time for hobbies, but he does have the ambition to run the New York Marathon.
About Shoe Investments
Shoe Investments invests directly in fast-growing and scalable companies. Shoe Investments is a hands-on investor who adds value through its knowledge of e-commerce, B2B as well as B2C, sales, marketing, finance & control. In addition to direct investments, Shoe Investments also invests in funds (worldwide private equity, venture capital, real estate, etc.). Shoe Investments currently has approximately thirty participating interests, directly and indirectly.