Life as an Entrepreneur - Brock Sampson
Brock Sampson has left home and hearth to settle with his great love in Nijmegen. He tries to keep the fresh perspective of an expat when looking at the Netherlands. “I don’t want things becoming normal, because I can find normal in The States as well.”
Brock Sampson is from Raleigh, in the American state of North Carolina. As a student at a North Carolina State University job fair, he meets some people from a large consultancy firm. “They weren’t that interested in my degree in textile technology, but they did look at my resume and ask me how I managed to do so many things simultaneously. How could I also play an instrument and salsa dance in addition to my education?” Despite an offer from a North Carolina textile manufacturer, Brock chooses a carrier at consultancy firm Accenture, as supply chain consultant.
He moves to Atlanta, Georgia, lives in Texas for a while and travels the world for work. During an international rowing meet in Haarlem, he meets his future wife, Naomi. After a long-distance relationship of about 5 years, he moves to the Netherlands in 2016 to live together in Nijmegen. Close to his wife’s family and close to his latest project in Germany. Brock came to the Netherlands on a DAFT visa (the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty-visa). “This is a visa for highly skilled migrants. Part of the deal is that you have your own business, so you have to work as a freelancer.”
Built a solid network, thanks to StartUp
When looking for a place to work from, Brock found StartUp Nijmegen. “I just walked in. Dick said that I could come and try out for a few days. And I liked it.” A couple of years turned into a couple of years and now he has his own office, just down the street from StartUp.
“I have met many great people at StartUp and have built a solid network, thanks to their help. That community is how I managed to survive in Nijmegen.” He maintains close friendships with fellow entrepreneurs and StartUp Nijmegen alumni. He completed the Four Day Marches in Nijmegen with some of them.
Even though he no longer works at StartUp’s offices, he still experiences the joys of the community. “I can always turn to Dick for advice. And when I pose a question on the online bulletin board, there are always people answering. It’s so great to have a network of people who want to help each other. And they embrace expats too.”
Brock appreciates the StartUp community so much, that he is thinking about giving back and helping other expats who are now where he once was. “Maybe, in the future, I might approach Dick about becoming a partner myself. I think I can be of service to some startups.”
“People expect you to speak their language”
The main challenge he has experienced as an expat, is the language. “I have adapted quite well, culturally. I own multiple bikes, I eat bitterballen and I even cook up some stamppot for my family”, laughs Brock. “But I don’t speak Dutch well enough.”
He explains how in his experience, Dutch people initially love to speak English with expats, to showcase how well they command the language. But after a couple of years, they want to switch to Dutch with them. "That is the most valuable lesson i have learned: language is important, take it seriously. People expect you to speak their language. And I would expect the same if the situation were reversed.”
“Everyone is included in decision-making”
As a consultant in Amerika, Brock was used to working for mainly European companies. But while living in the Netherlands, he encountered many more differences with his country of birth. “In America, clients are more vigorous. A decision is made in an instant, whether that’s good or bad. Things take so much longer here”, he explains with a smile.
If it were up to him, he would let one person make a decision. “Someone has to say: Great, thanks for your input. But I’m the one that’s responsible for this decision and this is what we are doing. The polder model is very present here. And I understand the idea of involving everyone. But you just can’t make everyone happy all the time.”
“I’m the American they pay to do it”
On a personal level, Brock finds it important to continue looking at the Netherlands with the fresh perspective of an expat. “As an expat, it can be hard to live here. A way to survive, for me, is to find the new and fresh in everything I do. I don’t let anything get trite or plain, because I can find that in America.”
And while he loves travelling to picturesque villages in the Netherlands and Germany, as an American, he also adds something to the Dutch culture. “Americans are known for being loud. As a rowing coach, I notice that many athletes need this. They need someone telling them to get a move on. Nobody in their community does that. I can help with that: I’m the American they pay to do it.”
In this blog series, The Life Net and StartUp Nijmegen like to show what an attractive region Nijmegen is to start and establish as an entrepreneur. It spotlights various internationals or companies that attract internationals. They like to share their inspiring story about how they started and grew with their business. Check StartUp Nijmegen for how they pay attention to this.