The female internet superhero strikes back? Story of The Next Women

A big welcome to Beth Griffin who’ll be interviewing a wide range of startups and entrepreneurs for SmallBizPod over the coming months. Her first encounter is with a publishing entrepreneur she knows well: Simone Brummelhuis of The Next Women.

By
13th March 2009 at 10:20 am

In the present chilly economic climate, it’s great to see an enterprise that celebrates the internet startup, bolstering the resolve of those who have set their sights on building a business online.

In October 2008, just as the economic downturn was kicking in, Simone Brummelhuis and Linde Wolters launched The Next Women – a business magazine for female internet heroes.

Simone Brummelhuis founder of The Next Women

Simone Brummelhuis founder of The Next Women

Having completed two law degrees at the University of Amsterdam, and received a scholarship to study for a Masters in Law at Columbia University, Simone became a lawyer with Dutch firm Loyens & Loeff.

Eight years later and with itchy feet, she spent her evenings setting up publishing company Brummelbooks, while burning both ends of the career candle to provide legal advice during daylight hours.

Today, she remains co-owner of the Dutch Zagat IENS which she later developed with Iens Boswijk into the no.1 user generated content publisher of restaurant guides in The Netherlands.

In 2006 she relocated to London and after two years of refining the business model, in which they renewed the website, added services, took the IT in-house and made a new sales plan, they appointed a new CEO, with a technical and marketing background who could take the company to its second phase.

It’s interesting to sense the level of disquiet in Brummelhuis when she discusses the replacement of a founder with a CEO.

It’s not she feels it shouldn’t be done, but on a personal level she simply cannot decide which option she truly believes is the best for a business.

She values the passion and drive for a product or service that a co-founder brings to the table, and yet can see the value in replacing the founder with someone who can see the business as just that, free from personal attachment.

She is, however, clear on one point and that is you can’t generalise. With every business comes a different product or a different service and a different founder and a different set of circumstances. To advise one way or another would be a tall order. It’s a problem many companies wrestle with.

In 2005 and prior to her London move, Brummelhuis bought Europeanmuseumguide.com to integrate with IENS aiming to create the Dutch Yelp. Although this has not taken off it remains a long term goal which she hopes to evolve with a new partner.

Her next idea was simple and born from a desire to prove thenextweb wrong – consider the adage: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. During a meeting with them it was mentioned they felt there was a lack of quality women in the tech world worth inviting to their conference.

Adamant this was not the case, Simone agreed to a series of articles profiling these very women. By virtue of the articles she’d written much of her market research was complete, and after a chance encounter in the British Library with Linde Wolters, a journalist and fellow Netherlander, The Next Women was born

The Next Women - a publishing startup celebrating the female internet hero

The Next Women - a publishing startup that sets out to celebrate and inspire the female internet hero

The site is not an act of empowerment, but an opportunity to make women on the net ‘Notable and Quotable’. Indeed they would like their readership to include a male contingent.

Five months on and the site has some promising credentials – winners of the Challenger Prize in Holland, first prize as Marketing Pioneers at the PEP (Pioneer Elevator Pitch) Talks in Amsterdam and partnerships with Astia and Mudhut.

Nevertheless they are starkly aware of a need to pinpoint an exact direction for the magazine. They hope to broaden the subject matter beyond the web, while raising funds and running events.

Their number one task, however, is to roll out a sleek new design for the site that will lay to rest navigation issues that until now have made it somewhat cumbersome to use and search.

Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to success for The Next Women – and by her own admission the very thing Simone is trying to remedy – is the lack of a network of contacts to help drive her business. For this Simone and Linde see no solution other than to collaborate, partner and network until there are no more London meetups to attend.

Linde Wolters - journalist and blogger

Linde Wolters - journalist and blogger

With traffic to the site still lower than hoped for, Simone and Linde want to stay abreast of the news making their site current and high profile on the web. In conjunction with softer subjects they hope to build a concept for all to enjoy – young and old, online and offline, female and male.

If they can get the site sorted, the concept refined and much needed funding in place, I can’t help but wonder whether The Next Women’s long term success will rely on focus and their ability to create passionate users and readers to help speed organic growth.

Having worked with them both, I’m sure this is a challenge that Simone and Linde are ready to meet.

Beth Griffin

With a degree in civil engineering Beth started life as a structural engineer for Arup. Looking for a change in direction, she became editor & blogger for startup website London Amigo before joining The Next Women team as a writer. Initially planning to cover her first love, cycling, she's discovered a new passion for writing about startups and entrepreneurship. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk/blog

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  1. Zuza says:

    I had a chance to meet Simone in of the meetups in London. She seemed confident, organized, unafraid and encouraging. With her passion and drive I’m sure she’ll succeed with her website. I wish her all the best, she’s doing really good job for women in business.

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