Dutch companies on launching a two-month office and gallery space, and inviting friends to get involved
It was over a summer beer that Marcel Alexander Wiebenga and Thale Sonnemans first toyed with the plan of some kind of temporary presence in Germany.
Sizzer, the Amsterdam music company of which Marcel is a partner, business development director and music supervisor for, already have a strong foothold in the German market - the largest proportion of their work comes from Germany in fact. Halal on the other hand are a Dutch production company looking to make inroads into Germany.
“We weren’t going to open an office here because we don’t have enough work to justify that yet. And short trips just weren’t quite cutting it anymore,” says Thale, a junior sales representative at Halal.
And so was born Wir Sind Die Holländer, a two-month temporary office (they’re adamant not to refer to it as a ‘pop-up’) come show room in the heart of Berlin’s Mitte district. The name translates from German to “We Are The Dutch” and has roots in an amusing Dutch song of the same name by a band called Toppers. It’s popular with Dutch football fans after wins on German soil. “It’s a horrible, silly song,” says Marcel, “but that’s the whole point behind this, to be a little bit tongue in cheek and informal. It should not look like work even though we are actually working super hard.”
Part of that ploy to not appear too serious is a series of events they’re running each week. They’ve invited a bunch of friends from Holland (with the exception of a few non-Dutch companies) to take over the show room and showcase their businesses. “We have the space, we have beer, we have DJ sets and we will bring the creative community - the rest is up to them,” says Marcel.
The past two weeks have seen Dutch skate and punk store Independent Outlet and Berlin charity Falling Whistles, which is campaigning for peace in Congo, use the space. Tonight (27th April) it’s the turn of the Kallenbach Gallery before nights with The Mill, who will be showcasing their VR offering, Order & Red Light Radio, and Byborre, a wearable tech clothing company, before a big closing party on May 25th. (If you’re interested in attending any of the events, head over to the Facebook page.)
It’s intriguing that most of the weekly events have little to do with the advertising industry - but that’s all part of the idea of not taking this venture too seriously. Inviting different sectors into Wir Sind Die Holländer also exposes the Sizzer and Halal teams to a wider range of people which also opens up more opportunities. “It’s obviously good to be close to clients and prospective clients but it’s also a really good way for us to scout talent and composers,” says Marcel. “And the same with us for directors and photographers,” adds Thale.
What’s more, they’ve received support from places they never expected. Van Moof, a Dutch bicycle company that produces smart bikes which unlock via an app and track thieves (and that I’ve been totally swooning over since seeing them in the office yesterday) donated a set of bikes for the teams to use while in Berlin. A young lady trying to start a business here in Berlin selling that sweet, sticky Dutch snack the stroopwafel has donated a bunch in exchange for some social media loving. And to top it all off, the Dutch embassy is keen to help it in some way too.
“They really like the way we’ve approached venturing into this market,” says Thale. “They’ve never seen it before.”
With knowledge of that interest in mind, I’m keen to know about the future of Wir Sind Die Holländer, of which both Thale and Marcel are understandably tight-lipped about.
“People like the space and the idea, so we’ll see,” muses Thale.