The Hague International Centre launched its partnership programme in 2019 and we now work with more than 90 partners who share the same goal of helping internationals get a good start in The Hague region. For our first Partner Spotlight section, we met with Josien Deknatel and Nayton Craig virtually, to talk about partnership and cooperation, and how their businesses have adapted to covid.
Josien is the Founder and Managing Director of Kickstart School, and Nayton Craig is Sales Manager at Corporate Housing Factory. Both organisations have been partners of The Hague International Centre since the start of our partnership programme. They have a lot of experience working with expats and internationals, and were happy to share their stories.
Could you share with our readers about what you do?
Nayton: We help companies find quality housing for their employees when they first arrive. We have a building in a former Shell office at Oostduinlaan which was completed in December 2019. We offer serviced apartments, which are basically fully furnished apartments with some hotel facilities, for short to long term stay.
Josien: We also help internationals who arrive here in the Netherlands, but unlike with Nayton, they usually approach us to learn a language after they have settled-in. We offer Dutch, English, and Chinese courses from A0 to C1 level. Our Dutch courses were very popular, but since there are fewer expat arrivals, we are seeing less students in the beginner courses. However, expats who have already settled-in in the Netherlands seem keener to improve their Dutch language skills than before.
This summer, we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary, and I hope we will be able to celebrate in person then.
Why did you partner with The Hague International Centre?
Nayton: I met with Maureen Overdevest (currently Unit Manager of The Hague International Centre) a few years back and the concept of helping internationals in the region to have a good start really aligned with our vision and what we do. For Corporate Housing Factory, it was a win-win situation and a programme we wanted to be a part of.
Josien: Three years ago, I was looking for a professional platform to build awareness for Kickstart School, and partnering with The Hague International Centre felt like the right choice. Because you are part of the Municipality of The Hague, you are an impartial party who also wants the best for The Hague, and we wanted to be associated with that.
How have you adapted to the pandemic?
Josien: One of our Chinese language teachers made me aware of the necessity to switch over to online learning early on. We benefitted from her timely insight into the situation. I immediately ordered some equipment and made a plan to go digital. Within one weekend we were able to set-up our classrooms and started online classes immediately. Later, we changed our schedules and adapted the way our classes work to tailor to the changing needs of our students.
We have also started renting out some of our classrooms to help with the costs.
Nayton: As a lot of our clients are business travellers, we started a dialogue with our corporate clients to try to understand the situation then – what their concerns were, and how we can help. We also adapted our cleaning policy and reservation processes; and implemented virtual check-in, and technological improvements.
We are also receiving a lot more questions because of covid and that is where the personal touch comes in. We were able to use the time saved from automating our processes to provide more personal attention for our clients.
What should other partners know about your services?
Josien: Because we are a relatively small language school and our prices are quite competitive, there is a misconception that low price equates to low quality. For Kickstart School, this is not the case. We received our Cedeo certification in April 2019, which is a quality certification for training courses recognised by HR professionals. And I personally take ownership in ensuring our courses always meet our standards.
Nayton: “Serviced apartments” is a relatively new option in Europe when it comes to accommodation. Our organisation fills the gap between hotels and long stay apartments, but this model is rather novel in the Netherlands even though this concept has been around in Asia and the US for years. Serviced apartments are ideal for stays of more than a week, especially for corporate clients with specific quality and safety standards.
Your offices are quite close to each other. Do you see ways to cooperate?
Nayton: When our guests first arrive, language courses might not be at the top of their list of things to-do, but as soon as they are settled-in, we do try to help them make the most of their stay with us. We promote different types of services in our blogs, and we can certainly help to promote Kickstart School that way.
Josien: I understand, and I believe that students need to be ready to learn a new language as it is quite a big time-investment. And as a newcomer, you need to get to your main priorities first. But when the time is right, we see that learning Dutch can be a “safety net” for the accompanying partner who may not be working (yet). A course can provide some structure in their new lives here and present opportunities to network.
Do you want to explore an opportunity to cooperate with Josien or Nayton? Reach out to them:
If you would like to be featured in our Partner Spotlight, please send us an email!