In this roundup, StartupAmsterdam shines a light on our ecosystem’s most inspiring role models and their stories. We invited women from the startup community’s #FoundersFridays to answer three questions:

Micky Chen

Meet Micky Chen, a practical, energetic and purpose-driven co-founder of Minite. Founded in 2020, Minite connects companies with highly skilled students through its innovative platform. 

What is your biggest achievement so far?

With Minite, we've built a strong community of top student talent that is growing rapidly. We recently closed an investment round, which allows us to connect more top student talent with inspiring startups and scaleups. We're being supported by big names such as The Student Hotel Collab, Erasmus Enterprise, Miro, and the Erasmus University Rotterdam. I'm a huge fan of collaborations and partnerships because I believe that a community is built by multiple people, not just one person or company.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs? 

Always try to collaborate if you can - you're much stronger together! Be open to advice and feedback, keep listening and talking to your customers/end-users. Don't dwell on the negatives: learn and grow from them. Give credit where credit is due and acknowledge that successes are always the result of a collaborative effort. 

What are your sources of inspiration?  

My amazing team (the Miniteers) and the Minite High-Flyers (student freelancers) are my most significant source of inspiration! They inspire me to do more, be better, and think bigger every day. We're building Minite together, and I love how everyone actively contributes to our shared mission of unlocking every ambitious student's full potential and helping companies grow in the process.

Marieke van Iperen

Meet Marieke van Iperen, CEO and co-founder of Settly. Founded in 2019, Settly is a digital relocation solution that enables companies to attract and retain international talent, saving valuable time and boosting the employee experience.

What is your biggest achievement so far? 

Having an idea is one thing; executing it without outside funding is another, but the thing I'm actually most proud of is the fact that I'm surrounded by a diverse team of talented people and our value-driven culture. Each team member brings a unique perspective and challenges me and our business every day to be the best version of ourselves. What we believe in is what we say and what we do. 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

This depends on the company goal and growth stage. Looking back at the roller coaster of these last years, the most important thing for me was to never compromise on intrinsic motivation and why I was building a company. For me, values, employee engagement, and client happiness are more important than growth. For others, it might be different. As long as you stay close and true to yourself, the rest will come.

What are your sources of inspiration?  

Alongside the amazing people around me, and travelling, the primary inspiration source has nothing to do with business. I’ve read Confucius over and over because it resonates with me. Every time I read his work, a new insight hits me, and his practices are what I try to incorporate into my personal and business life.  

Layla Li

Meet Layla Li, co-founder of KOSA AI. Founded in 2020, KOSA’s automated responsible AI system helps businesses evaluate and mitigate bias in their Artificial Intelligence systems.

What is your biggest achievement so far? 

Many milestones mark our personal and professional lives, first major contract/awards, starting your own business, buying your first house, the list goes on. While these achievements are more easily recognizable, I think my most significant achievement is a tenacious mentality: Never getting lazy and keeping pushing for the change I want to see every day. 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

For those who are still considering the leap, I would probably quote “Friends”. “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”

What are your sources of inspiration? 

I always try to have something to look forward to every day. A task that I enjoy. A trip I’m planning. A loved one I’m meeting. This keeps me motivated. 

Bibi Schmidt

Meet Bibi Schmidt, the positive, curious and perseverant founder of Blue Feniks. Founded in 2020, the company has created innovative software to provide safe and inclusive work environments.

What is your biggest achievement so far? 

Our biggest achievement so far has been crafting and launching a user-centric solution for safe and inclusive work environments during a period of great social and economic insecurity. It wasn’t always easy navigating amidst the several lockdowns, keeping your spirit up, but after some smaller pilots, together with specialists in their specific branches, we can proudly announce our first big customer; a forward-thinking company in plastic recycling who, like us, is committed to the sustainable development goals in more than one way. 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Keep a positive mind and attitude. It is essential to have grit and starting up a company is a lot of work. But keep a healthy balance, stay in touch with friends, reach out if you need help. And don’t forget to have fun along the way. Celebrating small successes is super important to keep your team’s spirits up.

What are your sources of inspiration?

My friends and family are super important to me. Both for personal growth and laughs. Next to that, I am really happy to be part of the Women in AI network, which has proven to be a positive and engaged community of professionals. Walks in nature and drinks in the city with friends. Lively conversations. Traveling to new locations and exploring new people, knowledge, and experiences. There is nothing better than sharing happiness together.

Willemijn Schneyder-Valbracht

Meet Willemijn Schneyder-Valbracht, co-founder of SwipeGuide. Launched in 2016, SwipeGuide aims to change how we work and learn in a manufacturing environment.

What is your biggest achievement so far? 

Looking back at the past two years with the impact of COVID, first bootstrapping then growing again, one achievement stands out the most: Our team and our organizational culture. The passion with which all our Swipees dedicate themselves to growing the company and growing our culture is impressive. That will have a long-lasting impact on our entire ecosystem.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Today's expectation of leadership is a reflection of the patriarchy. Don’t let that distract you. Leadership is about your ability to find people’s untapped potential within, create meaningful relationships, and your ability to learn. Cut out the noise, trust your gut, own it, and just go.

What are your sources of inspiration?

As a curious person, I do so many things! But I will share my current five things only for today... Unless you have a week :) My balance and inspiration come from spending time in nature running, swimming and sailing. While I run in the dunes to recharge, I listen to The Reboot podcast and The Guilty Feminist. My night-time reading is Value(s): Building a Better World for All by Mark Carney. And online at work, I connect with peers on Reforge and Pavilion. 

Kirsty Sharman

Meet Kirsty Sharman, a Get. It. Done. founder of Referral Factory. Founded at the end of 2019, Referral Factory offers companies the ability to build their own referral programmes in just a few minutes - no coding required.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

Bootstrapping Referral Factory with my team, from $0 to $25k MRR in one year (2021). It was a wild ride, and the journey helped our team build great relationships, which means I now have the privilege of working with a team that feels like family every day - which is rare and makes me feel incredibly lucky! 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Success comes to those who keep showing up and giving 110%, day after day, week after week, year after year. It's not a sexy headline, but consistency and focus over a long period of time are going to be your best chance of success. Keep going 🚀

What are your sources of inspiration?

I spend a fair amount of time on Twitter following marketeers, entrepreneurs, investors, and politicians. I find it fascinating how the whole world fits together. I also love YouTube content by @MicroAquire and the macro-level insights given by @RayDalio on Instagram. I spend my months travelling between Amsterdam, Yerevan, and Cape Town, where we have our offices - the energy from each team keeps me hustling and I love it! 

Nancy Shenouda

Meet Nancy Shenouda, an energetic, adventurous and passionate co-founder of Tradesnest. Founded in 2020, Tradesnest’s B2B platform connects you directly with trusted distributors and retailers in your target market.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

A few years back, I probably would have answered this question by telling you that I have explored the world, living in 7 countries on three continents, learning to speak five languages, and achieving all of that coming from a modest home. My life has taken quite a sharp turn recently in the world of entrepreneurship, and I would without a single ounce of a doubt answer this question now by saying that I have brought Tradesnest from the ground up with little financial support to where it is today. This all started with the idea that came up while working for a small company after my years working for Unilever and L’Oréal, where it became clear that the playing field was not fair for the little guys. We started on our journey to help small and medium businesses access markets around the world. Tradesnest is growing fast. We are getting more and more recognition and are now a team of 5 with 130 brands and distributors covering over 60 countries.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

You have to be passionate about the problem you want to solve and not your solution! As your business evolves, you will get to meet people with different opinions, ideas, and backgrounds that will like or not your solution. For example, the problem Tradesnest is solving may not be obvious for someone not in our business. You need to stay focused on solving the problem, get feedback and keep moving forward while adapting your solution. It makes it so much easier to find the right investors that understand the pain you are solving.

What are your sources of inspiration?

I am a people’s person. My work involves meeting tons of people with exciting stories and ideas that keep inspiring me to do what I love and keep pushing forward our mission to help SME’s grow faster and more efficiently on a global level. My inspiration comes from the innovative brands and distributors that I speak to daily from all parts of the world.

Melissa Wijngaarden

Meet Melissa Wijngaarden, a driven, optimistic and reliable co-founder of Project CeCe. Founded in 2017, Project CeCe fights for fair fashion by making it easier to shop consciously.

What is your biggest achievement so far? 

I'm proud of many people using our website and buying from our partners rather than putting their money in the pockets of polluting and exploiting fashion companies. By convincing more and more people to shop through our platform, we ensure that web shops with sustainability at their core can survive and thrive. We have now united over 350 sustainable partners on our website and have visitors from all over Europe! Each in their way has a more significant positive impact on the fashion industry.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

You can't do more than your best. Entrepreneurship can be challenging, and many things are out of your control. The only thing within your control? How you react to something. If you make sure that you at least did everything within your power, it'll give (some) peace of mind.

What are your sources of inspiration?

First of all, my founder team. Not only are they brilliant and inspiring women, but they also can relate to all the ups and downs involved in running a business and always have great advice on how to handle things. They're the best at giving practical inspiration and inspiring by example without being aware of it. Second, I've joined Founderland, a community for tech founders, and it's been so refreshing; I'm used to entrepreneurs only sharing their successes, but with this group, everyone openly shares their struggles, and there's so much to learn from that! Lastly, I come from a family with incredibly resilient people, if I'm stuck in a situation and feel down about it, I like to think about what they would do, and it helps me tackle the problem head on.