Business award despite setbacks?

Rick and Esmée's company in Veldhoven
Photo credit: Studio040

Rick and Esmée van Loon from Veldhoven have been jointly nominated for the title ‘Veelbelovend ondernemer van het Jaar’ (‘promising entrepreneur of the year’). Brother and sister are owners of the company KIVO Petfood. A successful company that has become big in natural dog food. Yet five years ago there seemed to be a big hitch.

After all, Rick suffered a spinal cord injury in a motocross accident roughly a year after he took over the company from his father. “After that, of course, I was pretty banged up. First in intensive care and then in the rehabilitation centre. In the end, this lasted about eight weeks. All that time the ‘boss’ wasn’t there”.

Extra annoying was the fact that Rick had most of the management business in his head and there was little or nothing on paper when it came to the day-to-day operations. “Nobody else knew about it, so this was kind of awkward. Especially also for Esmée, who suddenly had it all on her plate”.


“After the initial shock was over, I sat down for a while like, ‘Shit! How am I going to fix this’. After all, I had only been with the company for a short time, so I wasn’t aware of everything yet. Certainly not the things that Rick normally took care of. I had to do his work on top of mine and this did cause me some headaches”.

Esmée received help from her father in this regard and was soon able to talk to Rick. He says: “They came to visit me in the hospital. Of course to see how I was doing, but certainly also with a bunch of papers, to ask how how certain things needed to be handled. In the end it worked out well”.

Organisational structure

Because Rick could no longer be physically present in the factory all the time, new software was purchased and more things were automated. He can now coordinate ongoing matters more from behind his desk. In addition, the organisational structure was changed.
“We used to have a fairly flat organisation, with Esmée and I as management and below that all the employees. We have now changed that. We now have more of a pyramid, with two executives below us, a few managers and the people in the workplace”.

Working on the company

And this has been successful! At first, KIVO Petfood employed about ten people, but now the number has grown to thirty. Esmée: “Instead of Rick being busy with things in the company, he started working more on the company. For example, what can we do with digitisation and automation?”

“But also describing all work processes and the organisation of the company as well as working more data-driven, has contributed to the growth we have experienced in recent years”, Esmée continues. “Admittedly by necessity, due to Rick’s paraplegia, but good for the company”.

Put into perspective

And fortunately, Rick can now put everything into perspective. “It could have been very different, because it was serious. We should be glad we’re still here”. Esmée: “So let’s count our blessings!”

It will be known in September whether Rick and Esmee actually win the local entrepreneur award.

Source: Studio040

Translated by: Bob

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