Amsterdam, 1996. Monique Antoinette Ansink became Nestlè’s first female account manager. "I was an experiment" she explains “they thought sales was really a men's job”. But that wasn’t her first work experience. Her career started previously in Hoorn in a small company selling security straps. Despite her success at Nestlè, it only lasted until 1999. Until her previous employer from Hoorn, reached out to her.
“I don’t know what triggered me, it was more a belly feeling” Monique Ansink says. So on 1st of January 1999 Monique Ansink became 50% owner. 7 years later, she bought the rest of the shares, becoming the sole owner of the company.
Today, more than 20 years later, Monique is still head of Jumbo Cargo Products, producing tie downs to secure loads and selling them to DIY in more than 26 countries. In addition she is also sitting in the supervisory board of CONO Kaasmaker, as in the Rabobank WF board. While being the president of the Netherlands Entrepreneur Organization and chair of Amfori BSCI.
“I spent 50% of my time on the business itself and the rest of the time I spent on helping others’ businesses and organizations” says Monique. Amazed I exclaim,“What a busy life” and on the other side of the telephone line echoes a content voice, proudly saying “Indeed, it is!”
The three Ps
The conversation continues pleasantly as Monique takes me through her professional journey, mirroring her own personal development. At Nestlè she learned that more products are better than one. A learning she took with her and implemented once she became an entrepreneur herself. “When you have an appointment, it's easier to sell more products than only one. And once the company grows, you're less dependent on one product”.
Once the product range was expanded, the next step was to strengthen production. Given the strict regulations of safety and security products, which have to be checked and qualified before getting on the market, the next step became opening an own factory in Asia. “That way we could control quality in a better way”. At first, entering the Asian market wasn’t that gratifying. “When we entered Vietnam, I realized the huge difference in the way of living between Western countries and the upcoming markets and I didn’t feel comfortable at that time”.
So from focusing on the products, her next p to focus on, became people. Implementing a CSR policy became an urgency, together with building a factory in the image and likeness of the one already existing in the Netherlands, enforcing safety for employees.
“We have as much as possible the same regulations. So we really focus on the people, our main goal is to hire 300 employees, of which 70% women”. In the last years, instead, the P of Planet took the foreground.
“We try to avoid pollution and we changed our packaging from plastic to recycled cartons. Everything we innovate we look at these three Ps: if our product is safe for the end-consumer, whether it improves the life of the end consumer, and thirdly, whether it’s harming the planet."
But not only has the company evolved, but so has Monique herself: “because of the company, I learned a lot of things, and when I look back I really see these three pillars.When I joined the company, there were different times. It was the end of the 90s and beginning of the 20s. We didn’t really know about people in upcoming markets. We neither thought about the environment, we were really focusing on the products, on improving western people with better products."
This approach didn’t come without harm. “Due to the company I’ve changed, I met a lot of people and listen to their stories, and their visions” she continues. Expanding towards the upcoming market played also an eye-opener role for Monique.
“The biggest learning from these past 20 years has been acknowledging that Western countries have been taking the wrong direction after World War II, overconsumption and exploitation of planet, animals and people of the other side of the world. We lost the focus, by just looking at the growth rates, turnovers, rising revenues, forgetting the growth and the wellbeing of our own planet and people”.
Innovating in times of crisis
But Monique hasn’t been innovating only through the past 20 years, but also throughout the last year. Indeed, lately within the Jumbo range of products, sprout up a slackline - it is a flat webbing tensioned between two anchors meant to walk or balance on it -. The materials employed for slacklines aren’t that different from the ones used to produce tie downs to secure loads, indeed all those products that Jumbo was already producing. But how did this idea come up?
“Everybody was at home. All the DIY stores all over the world were closed, we had many orders cancelled. So, bored and without work to do we were sitting in the office with our employees. I decided to google what to do in times of crisis the night before, and saw that innovation was the key.
And that’s what they did: a brainstorming session, which traces can still be seen in the office, explains Monique. “We still have the walls covered with sticky notes: from garden to fitness tools, we came up with all kind of ideas, but in the end the slackline was the most tangible, we had the material and the sewing machines in house, so we didn’t really need much else”.
Unexpectedly, after less than a week the first order arrived through Bol.com, which brought some happiness to the gloomy atmosphere. “It was born out of a crisis and it brought a lot of fun, when we were quite depressed. Nobody knew what's going on, how long it would take, but this was really fun, and it gave us work to do and a little lightheartedness.” And she doesn’t deny that it could become a new business in the upcoming year.
Before concluding the phone call, I have one last question. What piece of advice would you give to our readers? Here it’s what Monique reply:
“I strongly suggest being a part of a board, doesn’t matter what kind of board, whether it’s a school or any sport association in your surroundings. You learn a lot, but you also let them learn. And especially because there is still a lack of women being on boards”.
The RISE team is deeply grateful to Monique Ansink for granting us the interview, but above all for sharing her contagious determination and strength not only with us, but all the We Rise members.
This year might be almost over, but not the #FounderoftheMonth stories. Next year is around the corner, remember each month is a different story. For any interview suggestions or requests, don't hesitate to contact us.