“As a catering entrepreneur, I paid everything neatly for years, but when corona arrived, the bank lost interest in me. The Briqwise set-up and their attitude was completely different: “How can we help you?” was the response to my initial enquiries. To my surprise, the financing was arranged within three weeks and the conditions were good for me. All the worries I’ve had are gone. I have air and space to focus on my business again. ”
Hospitality entrepreneur through and through
Cafe owner Hans Ribbers is an entrepreneur, heart and soul. He was born into the catering industry says Ribbers: “My father used to play football and next to the field was a catering company planning to close. My father thought: “I don’t want to lose my club, I’m starting a catering company”. That was in 1976, when I was in the sixth year of primary school. That’s where it started for me. You help out, do the chef’s training, gain work experience in various places… and it has become more and more itchy.
I started my own business in 1992, when I was 25 after getting a diploma.”
You work hard, but you are free
“I have now been in the business for 42 years. What do I like best? The freedom you have as an entrepreneur. Well, usually. It is hard work, seven days a week. But over the last five or six years it’s been going very well. We’ve had tough times, on a business and personal level, but if you compare those periods with what’s happening now, then corona is only a temporary hurdle.
The company consists of a restaurant, a hall, and a terrace front and rear. It used to be a café for young people, but in recent years the nightlife has completely changed. Young people drink at home in the evening and don’t go out till 1am. This was disastrous for our turnover. We tried everything, but even a live band and a DJ didn’t get the youth out earlier.”
Despite corona, we are doing well
“I decided to put the emphasis on the restaurant. That worked out well. During corona it’s run like clockwork, and we are still not doing badly. At the moment catering is the core business and the takeaway is also going well.
I employ 23 people. We have remained active throughout this corona period. Of course it was difficult, especially at the beginning. But as long as we have a bit of notice about what changes are in store. we can predict to some extent where our business is going. Although after some Corona press conferences, we sit down together and ask: “Does anyone have any ideas?” Sometimes the best idea is rewarded with a crate of beer.”
Don’t complain. Be brave and creative
“For example, we have organised gatherings for elderly people who have become isolated, because everything that took place in groups is no longer allowed. We’ve looked after up to 45 elderly people at different times. We prepare comfort food for them: mashed potatoes and beef, a stew, dishes like that.
We are the main sponsor for local football and recently organised bingo. That is good for the club and fun for the bingo players. We served 5,400 meals in two months. The summer also went quite well, despite corona. We have used the opportunity to catch up on considerable maintenance. Before corona we were so busy we hardly got around to it. Now we have refurbished and painted everything; you don’t recognise the place!
You can give up, but I don’t sit that way. You have to be brave and you have to be creative. I have a great young team with many students. Having fun and a good time together takes you a long way. ”
Financing without a bank
“Naturally you need money to do business. I think most banks and other financiers don’t understand what you need as an entrepreneur. I have really noticed the difference in their attitude in recent months. I need someone who will stand next to me, not in front.
In March last year, we received a six-month repayment break from our bank. When the second lockdown came, I needed another extension to give us a little more leeway. The bank was very clear: “We can arrange that, but you must leave us by June 30th.”
If you’ve always paid for everything properly and promptly and they say casually, “Get out of here in six months” you hit the roof. That relationship of trust you thought you had was not there at all. What also annoyed me is an account manager deciding this from behind his desk. “Come on and have a look,” I pleaded. They did, and they were amazed: “Gosh, I had a very different idea of the company. I didn’t expect it to be that big!”
It was over for me. I started looking for an alternative financial arrangement. A financial advisor friend put me in touch with Briqwise and a deal was done in three weeks! ”
I can focus on my business again
“Now I pay an interest that is 2% lower than at the bank. Plus, a bank always wants money from a catering company as quickly as possible. And if you have an extra good year, they want you to pay more. Additional bank costs were also high, but at Briqwise I pay a one-off fee. The terms of my monthly repayments are far more flexible than at the bank. That makes so much difference. You get air again, more freedom; more space to focus on the business again.
The whole process was surprisingly pleasant and very efficient. Before Briqwise came to visit, I was nervous. I was used to difficult conversations with the bank who were always very business-like and cared mostly about security for the bank itself. But with Briqwise, it was completely different. The team that visited radiated calm and their attitude was more like: “What do you need?”
My father-in-law, who is very controlling, was part of the conversation. Afterwards we looked at each other and asked “What just happened? This cannot be true!” It was as pleasant a conversation about finance could be and their “How can we help you?” attitude was unimaginable!
After that we had to wait, because they need time to examine everything, but it all came around. I am very happy with the outcome.”
Confidence in the future
“I’m optimistic about the future. I think we’ve had the worst of corona and we may open again in mid or late May. And watch out, the floodgates will open! Then it will be packed and I am so glad I still have all my staff.
I truly believe we will come out stronger! ”