If We Can, You Can Challenge 2015

Back in November, Olvanhill successfully won the ideas prize at the ‘If We Can, You Can’ Challenge 2015. The prize was a 4 day trip to visit the Start-up Foundation in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The trip was amazing and I got so many new ideas to help me grow my own business in the UK, from a start-up culture that is so much evolved and open to new ideas.


King Kong Hostel – Rotterdam 


Restaurant Bazar- Rotterdam


The Start-up Foundation

After my first day of exploring the city, I went to visit Larry Monster at the Start-up Foundation; an organisation set up to give support to individuals with scalable ideas. They also run start-up experience workshops for entrepreneurs, universities and companies. The Start-up Foundation had recently moved offices to an exciting open-plan workspace right in the heart of Rotterdam; which also had small pods for start-up businesses to work from . My day included mentoring sessions with experts who provided 1:1 support and shared some of their own personal experiences . Another highlight was the Pitch & Pizza evening hosted by Funk-e animations, where we learnt how the structure a successful 1 minute elevator pitch. I met some inspirational people and gained a huge amount from the trip, which has helped me explore different approaches when it comes to marketing and selling. The discussions highlighted issues fashion start-ups face in the UK; one being the cost of renting out a retail space.


The Start-up Foundation – Rotterdam

Pop- up shops

The city is so well known for its thriving start up culture; the high streets weren’t just overwhelmed with big brands but also small emerging designers, making use of the wealth of pop-up shops. I feel this is a concept that we should expand in high-streets across the North-East; not only would it give small start-ups a platform to showcase their products, but also help fill our empty shops that dominate our high-streets.

For example there are currently approximately 80 vacant retail spaces in Newcastle, with the majority in prominent locations like Grey Street, Eldon square and Northumberland Street. In my opinion we should encourage local landlords and councils  to adopt those of Holland’s, who either rent out there spaces for free or at a significantly lower rate, with the understanding that the shop has to be easily moveable if a bigger retailer wishes to rent the space. They view this as an opportunity to showcase how the space can be utilised, which makes it more appealing to potential longer-term rentals. I feel this would significantly help small start-ups, encourage more entrepreneurs to take the leap to set up their own businesses, which would help economic grow our local economy.

‘Tijdelijk Modemuseum’ – celebrating the old and the new

Whilst in Rotterdam I also visited the temporary fashion museum ‘Tijdelijk Modemuseum.’ It was like no other fashion exhibition I have ever visited; more interactive and insightful, not only were visitors able to see inspirational designer pieces, you could also buy vintage designer garments whilst at the exhibition. One floor specifically focussed on major issues related to the textiles industry such as over consumption and wastefulness. This part of the exhibition also showcased and sold designers work. The clothing sold in the museum was designed by Alexander van Slobbe and Francisco van Benthum who had collaborated on a project called ‘HACKED’ which aims to stop textiles wastage by only using offcuts of mass produced fabrics to create their collections.

The museum also included a live workshop, where you could see designers creating patterns and sewing their latest collections; an interesting insight into the production process which could potentially inspire the next generation of designers!


Tijdelijk Modemuseum- Rotterdam

I would just like to say a big thank you again to Charlotte Windebank from FIRST face to face, Larry Monster and the team at The Start-up Foundation Rotterdam and fsb North-East for sponsoring the trip!

Katie Jean


  1. Charlotte says:

    Hi Katie,

    What a fantastic blog/trip/experience you had! So glad that you embraced the opportunity with such enthusiasm and positivity and I look forward to reading about your next chapter. GO OLVANHILL 😀

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