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MKB Doorstart, The Netherlands

Description of the approach

MKB Doorstart is a nation-wide non-profit foundation, which helps preserve employment and strengthen entrepreneurship in the Netherlands by offering assistance to small businesses and freelancers with financial problems. A key point for MKB Doorstart is that entrepreneurs often wait too long before asking for help to deal with problems, usually because of shame and denial. Signalling and dealing with the problems at an early stage will help provide more time to find a sustainable solution and increase the likelihood of a successful intervention. 
The two founders, Jacqueline Zuidweg and Jannie van den Berg, have many years of experience with entrepreneurs and the problems connected to being an entrepreneur, and in 2014 they decided to establish the foundation. The two founders presented the idea to the Province of Flevoland and the five municipalities of Flevoland: Almere, Lelystad, Dronten, Zeewolde en Noordoostpolder, who decided to support the project financially. Everything went very fast after securing the financing, and within three weeks from the start date, the foundation had established a website and recruited the first advisors via the website. MKB Doorstart now provides their services in 5 out of 12  Dutch regions.

Since 2014, MKB Doorstart has assisted more than 800 companies employing more than 2 000 people in the Netherlands. Entrepreneurs with financial problems can contact MKB Doorstart directly and ask for help, but MKB Doorstart is also working closely together with multiple organisations such as banks, accountants, municipalities, tax authorities, and branch organisations who can refer entrepreneurs with financial problems to MKB Doorstart. MKB Doorstart will then analyse the situation of the entrepreneur and transfer the case to specialised “second line” advisors, who can help the entrepreneur deal with the specific problems, cf. Figure below. The MKB Doorstart advisors will create a report detailing the process, analysis and recommendations for the entrepreneurs on how to deal with the financial problems. After that, the entrepreneur will be matched with the right organisation or institution, which can help the entrepreneur the solution of his problem, e.g. financial, legal or marketing/sales institutions cf. figure below.

In order to follow up and support the implementation of recommendations, MKB Doorstart stays in contact with the recommended organisation and keeps ‘track’ of the entrepreneur during the whole process until problems are solved.

Source: MKB Doorstart

The advantage of this set-up is that it signals problems at an early stage thus increasing the likelihood of a successful intervention. The set-up also provides the referring organisations with a single contact point and they will receive information on the progress of the entrepreneur from MKB Doorstart. The entrepreneurs on the other hand receive independent analysis and advice as well as access to a broad network of experienced specialists, the second line advisors. For the second line advisors, the collaboration with MKB Doorstart means that the company cases that they receive from MKB Doorstart have already been analysed and prepared for them.

MKB Doorstart has no full time employees, but 25 self-employed persons who take care of the organisational tasks and the in-depth analysis and transfer of the company to the second line advisors who provide the needed, specialised assistance i.e. financial and legal services to the companies in distress. The group of second line advisors currently consists of more than 130 advisors and organisations. The advisors and organisations find MKB Doorstart though the website and there is done no additional requiting initiatives.

The services provided by MRB Doorstart are free of charge and include:

  • Admission interview done by in-house advisor via telephone
  • Quickscan of the company by in-house advisor including transfer of the company case to relevant second line advisors at face-to-face meeting.
  • Monitoring and follow up on cases at weekly team meetings.

In total, MKB Doorstart uses no more than six to eight hours per entrepreneur from registration to end of service. Furthermore, the MKB Doorstart advisors uses no more than five to six hours per entrepreneur from the initial talk to the final report.

MKB Doorstart identifies and get in contact to entrepreneurs through their website to which the entrepreneur has been referred by their accountancies, bank or government institutions such as the tax authorities or other part, which think that the entrepreneur could need guidance. 

The total annual budget (2016) for MKB Doorstart is 300 000 EUR, which is partly raised through government financing provided by the original partner, Province of Flevoland, and the Provinces of Noord-Brabant, Overijssel, Noord-Holland, Zeeland and the Foundation Instituut Gak.  Beside the government financing MKB Doorstart receives private funds from banks whose clients also benefits from the services of MKB Doorstart.

Key success factors

A very important success factor for MKB Doorstart has been that the Province of Flevoland and the entrepreneurs in the province five municipals are satisfied with the collaboration and results from MKB Doortstart. So far indications has been very positive. Furthermore, the University of Utrecht is currently finalising a exploratory and descriptive research about of MKB Doorstart and preparing for a impact assessment. Which will start later in 2017. 

Main challenges

The main challenge for MKB Doorstart is that the concept is spreading too slowly in the Netherlands. New ways of communicating the services to the rest of the Netherlands are needed. Also, entrepreneurs often wait too long before asking for help. This reduces the likelihood of a successful intervention.

Key learning points

The key learning points from the first years of MKB Doorstart has been:

Communication: It takes longer than first expected to spread the concept nationally.  
Larger companies also need help, not only the small businesses   
Getting access to funding is very difficult but not always the main problem: Around 60 % of the entrepreneurs who are looking for help will ask for money, but not all entrepreneurs need money and the lack of financing is often not the only problem facing the entrepreneur. Other problems for the entrepreneurs include; marketing/sales, legal issues, entrepreneurial skills, and business administration.

Further information about MKB Doorstart:

Contact: Director, Jacqueline Zuidweg,