For today's episode of #inspirationseries, we talked to Mari Veselova, the founder of Amsterdam.Onboard. Mari moved to the Netherlands to pursue her goal to study abroad and to unite with her loved one, now her husband, Florian. Mari and Florian have gotten an adventurous idea of living on a sailboat. After they learned everything themselves, they started organizing magical sunset cruises. Those evening turned into Mari's full-time job. Currently, she is building a community for women. She already united over 1200 women and is organizing 10-12 monthly events for them. In the podcast, we discussed Mari's journey, challenges, important skills, and more.
Listen to the full podcast here:
What the podcast is about:
○ When did you move here and how did it happen?
○ A couple of years ago, after watching “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, you and Florian fell in love with the idea of owning a boat. How quickly did you execute this idea?
○ How would you describe living on a boat in 3 words?
○ How hard was it for you to build a sustainable business in a new country?
○ How many women does your community have? What kind of women are they? Can any woman become a part of it?
○ Tips on entrepreneurship for women.
Julia [00:00:00] Good morning everyone and welcome back to the Fashion Potluck podcast series. My name is Julia and I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of Fashion Potluck. In our third episode of the Inspiration series, we will talk to Mari Veselova, who is our guest today. Mari is an entrepreneur, organizing magical events for women and partially living on a boat. Good morning Mari.
Mari [00:00:22] Good morning. Hello to all the listeners on the podcast.
Julia [00:00:25] How are you today?
Mari [00:00:26] Actually very good. Super windy in Amsterdam. I was almost blown away.
Julia [00:00:31] Haha! Mari, you currently live in Amsterdam with your husband Florian. You are not from the Netherlands originally, and you moved here from what I know, a couple of years ago. How did you move here and why?
Mari [00:00:47] Yeah that's right.
Mari [00:00:48] I actually moved to Amsterdam almost five years ago and from my personal observations, there are two main reasons why people immigrate to the Netherlands. And it's either chasing your dream and following your missions like many startups do as we know from TQ as well, or uniting with the love of your life. And bingo, I had it all!
Mari [00:01:14] The reason I moved is to study Social Entrepreneurship in the Alternative Business school in Amsterdam. And I also moved to build a relationship with my Dutch partner and now husband Florian.
Julia [00:01:26] OK. And you met him before? Did you meet him online or offline? How did you meet him?
Mari [00:01:32] It's actually a cool story because at some point in my life I was a little bit bored of what I did because I did for eight or nine years Digital Marketing. I was a professional marketer. And at some point, I got a little bit bored and I tried to change different fields, different areas, like from extreme sports to designing furniture, and I also took several educational courses. And now one of them, the marketing camp, took place in Amsterdam. So we went to different creative agencies, exchanged experiences, and there I actually met my husband Florian because we had several, How do you say - workshops, educational workshops. He was my teacher.
Julia [00:02:16] Oh, he was a lecturer.
Mari [00:02:18] Yeah he was a lecturer. So it is a funny one. It's a good one to tell your kids you know.
Julia [00:02:24] Yeah, haha! Very nice. Very cool. And what did you leave behind in Russia? Was it hard for you to move to the Netherlands? Did you have to leave a lot?
Mari [00:02:33] Yeah I would say that I lived quite a full life there. OK. So I had a good job in an international company. Nice group of friends, family next to me, which is important. Cool apartment next to the park.
Julia [00:02:48] And you're from Moscow, right?
Mari [00:02:49] And from Moscow yes. And you know like also lots of fancy going out and high heels. Yes. So for many years, I worked there as a digital marketer and most of the time I spent basically behind the computer with the assumption that people is not really my thing and communication as well.
Julia [00:03:13] But it's funny knowing what you do now ... but we will go through it later.
Mari [00:03:17] Yes exactly. Because I'm really a super fan of what's happening right now because like there's so much knowledge around about how to work with your assumptions and judgments. And people really start to think 'OK, why do I think that way?' And I thought that people are not really my thing but I just felt I was looking for a change, for more meaning in what I do, for more flow in my work and for more joy. So this desire led me at some point to take several educational courses. And one of them as I said, was with my husband. And it seems that would be the point where I move to Amsterdam, but at the time my life also took a little bit of loop because I should have moved to Spain afterwards, and take some kind of study winemaking there.
Mari [00:04:19] I thought that would be my second degree, I was first a journalist but then I wanted to study winemaking. But kind of Spanish manana decided differently, So it was a really kind of dramatic story there... And at the last moment when I already decided to immigrate, to move to a European country and I rented out the apartment, I quit my job, so everything was ready for me to move on, Florian told me about an Alternative Business School. And I actually enrolled and it was like so amazing because it took me three or four days to apply and to get accepted. So it took me more than half of a year and hard efforts to actually get to a Spanish university, whilst in Amsterdam, everything happened like in a flow, in less than a week.
Julia [00:05:14] Maybe, maybe because it's like it was supposed to happen this way or...
Mari [00:05:18] Yes, like a good story, like after several plot twists. I'm actually here, in a place where I belong.
Julia [00:05:25] Yeah exactly. That's why it was so easy. Well, how was it to adapt to Amsterdam? Was it hard for you? Or did you feel at the right place, as you say now, instantly?
Mari [00:05:36] I think I feel quite blessed in that and very, very grateful. I would say I had a rather smooth transition thanks to my dedicated Dutch husband, he shared with me, in a funny way, older like cultural aspects. And thanks to my environment on the first stage, I started at an International Business School, with people from Brazil, from Germany, From Denmark. So right away I felt the vibrant mix of Amsterdam with the young blood, with a mix of nationalities, and lots of creativity and innovations. So for me, immigration wasn't really the isolation in the first place, because helping hands were pretty much everywhere.
Julia [00:06:26] OK, that is really good. And did you like Amsterdam right away, or it took you some time to fall in love with the city?
Mari [00:06:34] It's actually quite funny as well because I thought that I would live in Barcelona and I would like warmth, sunny days, beaches. Yes. But the first time I was in Amsterdam in October in the worst possible weather ever I think because it was like drizzling rain, really windy, sometimes hail, the strong winds that go kind of blows to the bones. And I was like walking along the canals and thinking such a blessing, I really like it.
Julia [00:07:08] That's really funny. Yes... Yes. You probably just felt internally comfortable with all, and that made you feel happy never mind the rain.
Mari [00:07:17] Good point. I never actually thought about that. But yes, that's a good one, I guess. Yeah, comfort, atmosphere, everything in Amsterdam just gave me this feeling of, OK, you're home, yeah.
Julia [00:07:36] Happiness, comfort, yeah the right place, because I think when you're in the right place, you actually feel like you belong here too. So yeah OK. So recently I found out that you actually started a website called Authentic Dutch brands, right?
Mari [00:07:52] Right.
Julia [00:07:53] You started it. It's actually funny because I met you like two years after I've been using it. I remember from my work I would be using this website to find brands and to approach them. And then like a few days ago I found out that you actually made it. That's actually quite interesting.
Mari [00:08:13] Oh that is great! You're part of the audience!
Julia [00:08:17] Yeah, haha!
Mari [00:08:17] Thank you for doing that!
Julia [00:08:17] And I would never think that it's actually a non-Dutch person doing that. Actually quite amazing.
Mari [00:08:22] That was quite a challenge. Yeah. So I think I will also tell the story. After I finished this Social Entrepreneurship Education in Amsterdam, I started this project. And basically what I did is, I helped local brands to introduce themselves for the international market, for experts and tourists, because you know that Dutch people really like this concept of 'go local'. So I didn't have to tell them about local brands because they really know it well, but for the international audience, I just wanted to show all the variety, all the creativity and innovation, and all the social aspects that Dutch brands really like have a good approach with. And on this website platform, I created like a big catalog of Dutch brands and also made a series of interviews with founders, with the creators. And it was actually lots of fun. And still, the Dutch creators are truly amazing, so I'm still following lots of brands on social media and admire their branding, their positioning, their storytelling...
Julia [00:09:37] Yes, they are really nice. I remember you had a lot, like dozens of brands, and they were really, they were very nice. Many of them...
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