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All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them!

The last days of 2022 are upon us and soon we will get to toast to the new year together, time for reflection on this past year. I find it very valuable to pause for a moment after a year, to realise and see what steps have been made and what a crazy development I have experienced both on a personal level and with the development of my company SMOKED by Liz.

January was all about creativity, making choices, getting to know the needs of entrepreneurs and their employees, discovering where strengths and talents lie, how we can then use them optimally and, finally, writing a new concept to expand the SMOKED by Liz platform. The first step here was to choose the amazing entrepreneurial coach Linda Nordtholt. As a startup, it is important to gather the right people around you, Linda is one of those people for me. Straight, challenging, she makes me look critically at my business at how we can take the right steps to guide growth in the right direction. Sometimes you need a mirror to show you where your strengths are, to remind you to make the right choice and target the right audience. For SMOKED by Liz, that is overwhelmingly the B-2-B market. I just really enjoy working with entrepreneurs, the drive, the creativity, the persistence, the passion they have for their business, daring to improve their organisation in all areas, it's simply inspiring! To do unusually well for the entrepreneurs and their businesses I work with, I build extremely intense, close and strong relationships with them. You have to get to know each other well and be able to trust each other to achieve an ultimate result that you look back on with satisfaction. An occasional phone call for a chat, a spontaneous cup of coffee, concrete sparring sessions, unburdening and evaluating to see where we can improve. The necessary ingredients for a pleasant and at the same time great working relationship.

To create and write the new concept, I was allowed to draw inspiration from the experience of befriended entrepreneurs and employers from across the country. To explore where exactly the needs of the entrepreneur lie, I created a series of open-ended questions to gain insights into their thinking. Unanimous comment: WOULD YOU NEVER ask so many open questions again, THAT COSTS TOO MUCH TIME 😉 haha. First lesson, time is scarce and time can be put to good use. Besides, attracting the perfect new employee and retaining the loyal one is a huge challenge in this day and age.

Furthermore, the main insights were as follows (and perhaps you recognise this yourself); one moment you are laughing with your employee and having the greatest of fun and the next day there is a resignation letter on your desk. Feels a bit like a dagger in your back to you as an entrepreneur, because after all, your appreciation for that person was clear, besides, you created the openness in which this could be discussed first, right? Another great example is the Christmas package. As an employer, you make a budget available for which you arrange a nicely filled Christmas package with enough snacks for the whole family. With this, you want to show that you, appreciate your employee and wish them happy days. For giving and arranging the Christmas hamper, you expect at least a thank you, right? In short, you as an employer experience the feeling that you are not very appreciated by your employee. Do you feel the negative spiral that lack of appreciation creates?

On the employee's side, the experience is the opposite, he or she feels no openness to discuss change she needs. The employee's feeling is mostly that the employer does not know at all what he or she likes, enjoys or values. In that respect, the employee feels absolutely not seen or valued and experiences a lack of the so hugely important job happiness. And then that Christmas package, nice to hear all that snacking... chips, ragout is also such a topper, curry and other "unhealthy" stuff, exactly everything I don't like or indeed am allergic to. Thanks for taking an interest in me as a person, employer. No that Christmas package I do directly to my grandparents or better still to the food bank. Some throw it in the drawer (because you want to deal with products responsibly) only to throw it in the bin a year later because everything is past the date. Recognisable? In short, the employee experiences a great lack of appreciation and job happiness. The resulting conclusion is that both sides, employer and employee, experience the negative spiral of lack of appreciation. A pity because the will is there on both sides to increase happiness at work and to work with a positive vibe.

You as an employer want to be considerate and create work happiness for employees and you as an employee want to be the loyal ambassador for the company, the employer, you work for. The most important keyword to achieve this is simply: TIME. Being attentive at the right times is an underrated child in many companies due to the lack of time. It is often left to HR, secretaries, office managers or receptionists (they can do it on the side, while there is really no time for that either. Besides, it is certainly not part of their job description). For me, more than enough concrete information to write the new concept: GIFTS by Liz. Specially developed to let you, as entrepreneur and employer, be warm and attentive towards your employees. With the aim of creating extra work happiness on the shop floor, creating loyal ambassadors at your company. An important goal, especially when the facts show that 1.9 million people will retire over the next five years and only 1.6 million new entrants will replace them. This means that there will be considerable challenges in attracting and retaining employees in the coming years. Making the connection and expressing appreciation to your employees is a must. GIFTS by Liz is the ideal solution for that.

The following months were mainly used to test the concept with companies, evaluate it and improve it where necessary. The icing on the cake was that on 30 June 2022, exactly one year after the live launch of SMOKED by Liz, I got to launch this amazing addition and extension. Thanks to my amazing creative team; Emma Ward, Larissa Tops and Martijn Swolfs, we were able to deliver a gem, even if I say so myself 😉. It is then with great gratitude and pride that I can truly say that the concept is already a great success with quite a few collaborations already. We can build on that wonderfully in 2023.

Visibility is an important item. To increase SMOKED by Liz's visibility with companies, there are ongoing content campaigns throughout the year about the concepts and that means doing photo shoots to achieve matching pictures. The first big shoot of the year was in May, the second followed in November and to do those shoots well you need a great team. My big thanks go to the professionals I get to work with. The styling was done by my regular stylists at Maggy's Mode: Lianne Heek, Robin Rita, Marijke & Maggy. They flawlessly sense what my style is and what I want to radiate. The photos were taken by Peter van Hout, Leonie Voets and Enrique Meesters, really amazing how beautifully they managed to capture everything. Beautiful photos become better with beautiful locations, and boy were those locations hospitable. Spakenburg Eel, fish auction house Spakenburg, V.V. IJsselmeervogels (my grandfather's club), Coppelmans Garden Centre, each and every one of them amazingly beautiful locations to shoot. Last but not least, again the guidance of Emma and Larissa. Larissa joined the team this summer and I am extremely happy with this text miracle. A very fine, pleasant and valuable addition to SMOKED by Liz.

There was also no shortage of media coverage in 2022. The wonderful magazines Young Business and Women in Business featured SMOKED by Liz extensively and well-described. It was also featured in the "featured" section of the Frits top 50. Bonus point I'm in those magazines with mega amounts of beautiful entrepreneurs and we're just among them. How grateful that makes you and who would have thought that eighteen months ago.

Yet another great efficient tool to increase the visibility of your business are networking clubs. I get mega energy from networking because it's like working but different 😉. This entire year, I was allowed to be a candidate member of the most beautiful entrepreneurs' club in the south of the Netherlands, Netwerk 040. The year of the candidate member has passed and now I belong to the permanent club of more than 40 passionate entrepreneurs. This club has already given me so much this year, great parties, instructive conversations and great collaborations that we will continue to build on in 2023. Another great club with entrepreneurs is BNI Holst, they start in the morning even earlier than 040 (read: 06.30 a.m.) but oh well, accelerating in the first hour you are awake is like fitness for your brain, just good. I had the opportunity to be a guest at this club several times this year and from there also came some very nice and interesting collaborations. An absolute must to be part of as an entrepreneur!

A major development this year is the expansion into suppliers of SMOKED by Liz. The exclusive gifts we have are put together with care and have a tremendously high level of quality. The suppliers are also selected for this and they too have ensured high delivery reliability again this year along with the quality we had in mind. A big thank you to: Het Zuyderblad, Spakenburg Paling, Ewolve, Acqua di Bolgheri, Bowls & Dishes, We produce, Walra, Hanos, Eakers, Bouquet exclusive & Squisito. With you, we were able to put together the most beautiful and personalised gifts that really made people immensely happy and delighted!

The last quarter this of 2022 was a whirlwind with lots of fine and magical moments. Letting go of the wonderful circular company WEPA where I was allowed to be part of a top entrepreneurial German family for 5 years. Here I was allowed to develop and build SMOKED by Liz, so I am very grateful to WEPA for that. This was also the moment in which SMOKED by Liz's development accelerated and I was finally able to fully focus on my company. It may sound crazy, but I fell in love with my profession of making people happy and increasing happiness at work. The love for the profession is the most powerful driving force there is to manifest and realise your success. For me, an important red line to work towards the mission of SMOKED by Liz; to help 15,000 companies permanently increase work happiness by 2030. DREAM BIG! To realise the mission, I work together with my regular partner Brabant Business Media, the entrepreneurial platform of the south. Together we are working on special and interesting topics for 2023, what they are that will remain a surprise for the time being.

The Christmas madness fell in at SMOKED by Liz, from exclusive gifts to special and especially delicious Christmas packages. From less than 50 boxes in 2021 to more than 600 packages in 2022. Luckily, my local hero Jurgen Brouwers, Brouwers Reklame, allowed me to borrow the most beautiful and stylish bus in the Netherlands, to supply my customers with their special gifts in style. Being able to work together with my regular team and of course with the flexible team in Spakenburg, it was a huge joy to do and it makes me a genuinely happy and grateful person.

Looking back, I can say that we were able to witness a particularly wonderful development this year. Meanwhile, 2023 is on the horizon, a year in which many special moments are planned again. Evaluations with all clients were all scheduled in January because you have to keep learning and improving to keep the quality high. New shoots are in the agenda and the first exceptional ideas for next year's Christmas presents have already been floated. Further professionalising SMOKED by Liz, setting up the production line where we have everything together for good and efficient processing. In other words, plenty of new challenges ahead. Most importantly; we are going to surprise you extremely and unusually well again. 2023 will be a magical year full of new adventures, collaborations, ideas, developments and successes.

And that is exactly what I wish you all: Always believe something magical is about to happen!

Cheers love liz