SBE alum and owner of Damen Gifts Ronald Damen (Drs., Finance, 1991-1996) sells promotional products for companies, institutions and foundations, and recently had the opportunity to work with Maastricht University, providing Dutch-spirited orange sunglasses to exchange students during SBE Info Day. Damen spoke with us about founding his company and his advice for current SBE students for how to make the best of their Maastricht experience.
Can you tell us about your business, what services you provide and to what clients?
Our company is 95% business-to-business. Our contacts are marketing and communication specialists, ad agencies and sales managers. We sell products with a logo printed on the item. For example, textiles, pens, promotional papers and gifts. Our sales market is the Netherlands and particularly the south and east part of the country. We source our products in Europe and the Far East. Most promotional products are produced in China.
After completing your studies at SBE, did you know you wanted to start your own business? And how did you decide what kind of business?
After completing my studies, I started working at a multinational. After some years in the financial department, I found I was more and more interested in sales. I was given an opportunity to work in my current industry in 2005. I worked as a sales manager and sales director for three different companies, and have never regretted making the move. After working with a partner for ten years, I decided to start my own company, Damen Gifts, in 2015. The business is going very well now.
You recently worked with Maastricht University to provide orange sunglasses for SBE Info Day. How did this come about, and what was it like to work with your former school and faculty?
I have some contacts with friends who still work for Maastricht University. They thought some of our products would be interesting as a ‘welcome’ for the students. I was very delighted and of course happy to do business with my former university, especially with the faculty.
What are your fondest memories of your time at Maastricht, and what advice might you have for current students for getting the most out of their experience?
I had a fantastic student life in the ’90s. Maastricht is a great city for living and studying. It’s not that big, so you can get to know a lot of students and have personal contact with the faculty. I remember the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992–the establishment of the European Union. But I also remember the great parties on the Veronica boat. Maastricht was and still is the port for Europe. So use that port if you can. Germany, Belgium, France, Luxemburg and the Netherlands are right at your door. Get to know companies and organisations based in the area. Take that experience and use it for your future career.