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Are you ready for a new Central Station Blog? In this edition we talk to two female entrepreneurs with an inspiring story: Manouk Maalderink (26) and Louise Cnossen (27), founders of the bliss project. Their mission? More authentic, resilient and happy people!

the bliss project: more authentic, resilient and happy people!

Central Station Blog 

Are you ready for a new Central Station Blog? In this edition we talk to two female entrepreneurs with an inspiring story: Manouk Maalderink (26) and Louise Cnossen (27), founders of the bliss project. Their mission? More authentic, resilient and happy people! 

 

What do you do when you have studied for six years for a profession and in practice find out that it does not suit you? This happened to Louise (27) and Manouk (26) who both studied Law in Groningen and completed a subsequent masters in Utrecht and Amsterdam. After much deliberation, they decided to change course and leave the legal field behind. They asked each other critical questions, dared to share their dreams and to have an entrepreneurial approach towards this. A shared dream is now becoming reality: their own business focused on personal growth. Curious about their story? Then read on.

Louise says: “When I was 18, I went to Groningen to study Law. I thought ‘a broad study, I can do anything with this’. I noticed many people around me who were incredibly passionate and had really found their calling. I never felt that passion. It was all fine by me. I was doing well, I passed my exams and I hoped that in “working life” I would like it. During my internship at the International Child Abduction Foundation, I had many parents on the phone, sometimes for an hour and a half, and with extremely difficult cases. Having conversations, coaching and helping people this way proved to give me a lot of energy. Not from a legal point of view, but in helping people from a human point of view. My passion? I just hadn’t found it yet.

Manouk: “I also found out during internships at various offices that I was not in the right place. I then broadened my horizon and went to work for Bol.com for a year, in a legal role. The business world really appealed to me: young, fresh, creative and innovative! But the legal field, on the other hand, unfortunately (once again) proved not to be the right fit for me. It was a difficult process. You just put your energy into something for six years and have always had a certain mindset. To suddenly question that mindset and think about whether it really suits you? That feeling is difficult to acknowledge and accept. It was confronting, but when I expressed it for the first time, it felt like an enormous relief!” 

Manouk and Louise got in touch through friends. It clicked well and they decided to keep each other informed about where they were applying. Both ended up at the management traineeship. The focus here was on personal development, coaching and training. Something they both needed and gained a lot from. A close friendship developed and with it a beautiful collaboration.

The ‘Bliss Kids’ in development!

On a sunny afternoon in the park in Utrecht, Manouk and Louise were contemplating on life. They asked each other the question: “If you could let go of all expectations and frameworks, what would you like to do? What would make you really happy?” Two themes clearly emerged for both of them: personal development and working with children. And so it happened: from sharing dreams in the park in June, to working out concrete ideas in November. In December, the time had come: ‘the bliss project’ was officially registered at the Chamber of Commerce! At the moment, Manouk and Louise are still in the development phase of their first product and they would like to take you through the process. 

Manouk: “We did not have a concrete idea right away. We first expressed our thoughts and then let them go. We did know which themes we found important, for example, to increase children’s resilience or their self-confidence, and we were looking for a way for children to work on this in a playful way. This is how we came up with the Bliss Kids cards! A card set consisting of 40 cards covering all kinds of personal themes: from developing a growth mindset and a positive self-image to learning how to deal with each other, emotions and disappointments. We would like to give children everything we have learned in recent years, through training and coaching, at a much earlier stage. But in an accessible way!”

Entrepreneurship, how does it work?

Louise: “To actually start marketing the product is a big step. “Do you take yourself seriously enough?” Then you start taking all kinds of steps that make it real and concrete: taking a course in entrepreneurship, coming up with a name, working out a logo, looking into a printer and different types of paper. But also finding the right people, such as an illustrator, a child psychologist and test subjects, who can help us realise and optimise the product.”

Manouk: “It is good to realise that everything happens step by step and that it often takes much longer than you had thought beforehand. The process is instructive and you really learn to step out of your comfort zone. What gave us the guts to go into business? The full conviction that our product must exist. In the preparatory phase, we talked to many entrepreneurs and teachers in order to pitch our idea. The extremely positive feedback, combined with our own enthusiasm, made us convinced of our own product. 

Louise: “We hope to contribute to the self-confidence of children with our cards. That even though children may sometimes feel different from other children, they learn to embrace themselves and develop a positive self-image.”

Manouk: “My ultimate dream is to make an impact on these little pure people! Ultimately, we also want to focus on secondary school pupils and peers. Because of all the burn-out statistics,  With all the burn-out statistics, it is also becoming increasingly clear when you do not listen, accept or embrace yourself properly. There is a great need for this, which we would like to respond to.”

“Being open in both dreams and fears”

Manouk and Louise explain what makes them a strong duo. Louise, according to Manouk, has a lot of guts and often dares to ask that cheeky question. Manouk, on the other hand, is more structured, which makes them complement each other well. In addition, according to them the basis is that everything is negotiable. They are open about both dreams and fears and give each other space to deviate from the beaten path. That makes cooperation familiar and safe.

Tips from Manouk and Louise! 

  • 1. Manouk: “Simple, but nice: start the day for yourself and not for someone else. That has given me a lot of peace to think about what I want, how I feel and what I would like to do today. So don’t start the day with your work or studies, but take a moment for yourself. This can be anything: a nice walk, yoga, a shower or a cup of coffee for example. That is when the creative ideas come! 
  • 2. Louise: “Perfectionism is a recurring theme in many conversations I have had in my surroundings. People can get in their own way a lot because of it. If you come up with an idea, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It was also terrifying for us to come up with our ideas, but during the process you make adjustments: so just do it!

 

critical, enterprising, contemporary, connecting

Critical: “We are critical of the times we live in and ask each other critical questions: “Are we satisfied with what we are doing now?” And related to that, we are entrepreneurial. 

Entrepreneurial: “We actively try to do something about it, for example by choosing a different path. A path that suits us better and with which we can also make an impact on someone else’s life. 

Contemporary: “There has been a lot more room for people’s well-being and that is fully in line with our mission. It really fits the times. Space for vulnerability, openness and honesty instead of putting on masks and carrying on. 

Connect: “A strong feature in us. Connecting between child and parent, between teacher and child, between child and child and connecting with yourself. By being honest with yourself and embracing yourself, you are much better able to connect with others. Finding connection in yourself, each other and the world! 

Such beautiful words by Manouk and Louise! Hopefully it has brought you new insights and inspiration. We would also like to help you develop yourself further, gain experience and find out what you like. 

And last but not least! Manouk and Louise are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to realise the Bliss Kids. Do you want their mission to become reality? Then you can make a donation here. Want to know more about the bliss project? Click here to go to their website.

 

 


(Foto 1: Bron: the bliss project , Foto 2: the bliss project, Foto 3: the bliss project)

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