ls we are talking about young entrepreneurs, we are of course talking about Max de Hertogh. Back in 2014 (when he was 13!), Max started cutting his friends' hair in his bathroom. Now? Now he cuts half of all men in Oostvoorne.
But, besides his barbershop "Cuts by Max", he also runs his own clothing brand (Storm Inc.) and before this, for school, he also ran a fish delivery service with classmates. And to complete the story, he was the marketing intern at Rinkel from September 2021 until January 2022!
Luckily for Oostvoorners, he also keeps time to cut in the evenings and weekends in addition to his internship. We take you through Max's life story as a young entrepreneur!
Max. You are now 20 and already have 2 businesses. How did entrepreneurship start with you?
Actually, the interest has been there since childhood. My grandparents had a car company which my father later took over. So as a young boy, I got a lot from entrepreneurship.
I was always interested in personal grooming and when I was 13 I was also interested in cutting and shaving. That's when I started cutting friends for fun. It really wasn't serious back then, I would cut them for free in the bathroom or charge at most €5 per cut.
Although it wasn't much, I soon realised that earning money this way was very handy. Eventually that grew into "Cuts by Max" and I swapped the bathroom for the garage, which I completely converted.
From then on, I basically always worked for myself. I did work in dishwashing for 2 more weeks, but I eventually found that wasn't everything and stopped there to focus fully on my barbershop.
My clothing brand Storm Inc was born out of an idea a friend and I had in high school. We both always had a passion for clothes and fashion and said to each other, "We should really start something together in the fashion industry!". During classes, we were already sketching out clothing designs. Yet nothing ever really came of it until early 2021.
So we started Storm Inc and five months later we launched the first collection, which almost completely sold out. We are already working on the next collection.
OK, let's start with your barbershop. Because you're a barber, but you haven't done any official barbering training. How did you completely master hairdressing?
Yes, I taught myself everything by watching YouTube videos and practising a lot. It really came by trial and error: haircutting looks easy, but it definitely isn't.
Fortunately, I never completely ruined anyone's hairstyle, I actually always knew what to do. Sometimes it just took me a really long time to make sure it at least looked acceptable. Sometimes even 2 hours for sides, haha.
My friends made me practise on them because I didn't charge for it. All my friends preferred to get haircuts every 2 weeks but their parents got money for haircuts once a month. So they went to their own barber every month and came to me every 2 weeks to trim the sides.
This was all before I asked for real money for it. Often I did it for free, or asked €5 at most, because I was still practising. Then it became €5, €10 and so I raised the prices further as I got better.
So you've been active as a barber for 7(!) years?
Yes, although of course it was anything but serious when I started at 13. It all grew that way. I think you can classify the last 4-5 years as serious. By then I had largely mastered it and could earn a nice penny.
I have always had complete freedom to earn my own money and found something that I also really enjoy. Now, for the first time in years, I have an employer again, here at Rinkel.
It used to be strange though; my friends all had jobs at, for example, the Albert Heijn supermarket. They always had to ask for time off when we wanted to do something. I could just give myself time off. That flexibility has always been very useful.
Is that freedom also what appeals to you so much about entrepreneurship?
Yes, the flexibility anyway. But it is also a disadvantage. People always say that the main advantage is that you can decide when to work and when not to work. But often it doesn't work out that way. At least, not for me.
Because I can decide when I work, I generally work more. If someone calls me to ask if I can still cut their hair, I quickly go on for an extra hour while I'm already cutting until 10.30 pm.
So you quickly take on too much again, because you do it all for yourself and all the extra work is directly reflected in your wallet.
Sometimes you have to make choices and keep an eye on yourself. But that is also difficult because I really enjoy everything I do. So it doesn't immediately feel like work.
I think that's the most important thing for me. I have the flexibility and control. Plus, I also really enjoy it. I decide what I do and what I don't do; things you don't have if you work in catering or supermarkets, for example.
Have you also considered going into paid employment?
Yes, I did. I also worked in dishwashing on a blue Monday. But I didn't like that at all, so I finished it pretty quickly.
Then I was faced with a choice: either I'm going to expand my profession as a hairdresser and make sure I get better, or I'm going to fill the shelves at the Albert Heijn supermarket.
That choice was quickly made.
And how do you like being in employment with us as a marketing intern at Rinkel?
Fortunately, it's different here from washing dishes! I'm obviously here to learn as much as possible during my time as an intern. That's precisely why it's a good way to see everything from a different perspective, instead of always being an entrepreneur.
And so I have a direct tutor, who I can also go to with questions. That is different from trying to learn everything from YouTube, for example.
But it is different in terms of work. Sitting still is not necessarily my thing and sometimes I am more tired after an eight-hour working day at Rinkel than when I spend a full day cutting.
So it takes some getting used to, but it's also nice for variety and definitely a good experience to have in the future, with my own venture(s).
Can you also tell us a bit about your clothing brand? You set that up in February 2021 you said.
Yes, in February 2021, we wrote a first draft for our clothing brand. Of course, you then start at the very beginning: why are you doing it? What kind of items do you want to sell? What is your message? And then you look for a supplier, designers, et cetera.
Bit by bit, you then progress further and further towards the first collection.
In August 2021, we launched the first collection. We had some delays, unfortunately, but it's a really fun process. It is very satisfying when your first collection sells well right away.
For Storm Inc, we have the advantage of being our own target group. This made it easier for us to decide whether something should be included in the collection or not. We could always ask ourselves whether we would wear it ourselves. Was that not the case? Then it was not included.
After the first collection, we also asked a lot of feedback from customers: What about it? What can we adjust or improve for the next collection? How does it sit after a wash? This is how we make the next collection even better.
It is perhaps a trickier process than barbering. Of course, you're also stuck with logistics and external parties. How was that?
As a barber, the most important thing is to cut well. That is of course very difficult, but little by little you get better and better.
With a clothing brand, it really works differently. You have to have everything fixed before you can put something on the market. That's quite a challenge. In February 2021, we thought we could launch in June/July, which ended up being August.
After all, you run into things that don't go as fast, or people who don't keep appointments. But there are also things you just haven't taken into account yet, such as a photo shoot.
So it is a challenge to set up your own clothing brand, but we learn valuable lessons from it.
So the problems are actually mostly external, if I understand correctly. How do you deal with that?
Yes, it is difficult. But still, you just have to keep going; make choices and accept that not everything can always go well at once.
We have had a few occasions when suppliers did not keep their promises, or delivered a few weeks late. Then you ask yourself what you can do. Can you find a better supplier in the meantime? So you are forced to put things off because of these unforeseen circumstances.
In that context, we also had to re-evaluate our clothing: what do we stand for, what do we want to convey? From that, we said: we mainly want to put out very good quality clothes at an affordable price.
Then we made the choice not to compromise on quality and therefore accept a delay. What we definitely wanted to avoid was releasing clothes we didn't fully support.
As a result, our timing was a little less, because our first collection was mainly t-shirts and shorts and we finally launched in August. So the first summer months were already behind us. But, we did have a collection we were incredibly proud of. And are!
You only have one chance to introduce people to your brand. That was our approach too. We were even told that people had not expected the quality to be so good for the price we were selling it for. So it has been worth the delay, again.
Have you now sought other suppliers for the second collection?
Yes, we have. But maintaining quality is still our approach. We recently received samples (test garments) from a new supplier that were of very good quality. Plus, the contact with the supplier was also good and it was delivered quickly. So for the second collection, things are looking good!
Storm Inc, your clothing brand, you only do that with your friend from high school? Or are there other people involved?
Yes, we actually do this entirely between the two of us and both have an equal share.
We do employ a freelancer who works eight hours a week for us on the graphics part. We have plenty of ideas and she then sets it up so that suppliers and printers can print the design right away.
She also does the social media for us and thus all the graphics. The advantage is that she already has experience in the fashion industry, so we can also spar with her about concepts. That's very handy.
Storm Inc started quite small, so we don't have any loans and funding or other outside money. Of course, you are still talking about thousands of euros, but it is feasible to set up on your own. We both worked hard and are still working alongside, so we had the money to take this step.
Now we've had the first collection and we've added some more, to make the brand bigger and bigger. With every collection, we want to make the brand bigger. We also deposit a fixed amount every month, so we can constantly put that into our brand.
This way, you can also free up budgets to invest more in marketing, for instance.
With the profit we then make from clothes sold and the money we add, we can keep working on our brand, so that eventually you don't have to put in your own money.
The budget, together with the collection you sell, gets bigger and bigger this way. So we can launch more items, sell better and better quality and advertise more on Google and social media.
So you outsource the graphics part. What has been the thinking behind outsourcing exactly this part of your clothing brand at such an early stage?
My boyfriend and I are full of good ideas, but neither of us are very graphic minded. Photoshop and Illustrator and so on are beyond us. So it was kind of an easy decision for us to outsource exactly that part.
And it works well for us, too. Everyone has their strengths. We know how to put our ideas into words and she translates that into graphics. She understands the style we want and also comes up with adjustments or ideas herself.
What do you find most difficult about entrepreneurship?
It's so easy to lose yourself in it. That happens to me personally very quickly; I like everything so much and want to do so much that I find it harder to keep the focus on one thing.
That's where I find I have to make choices: you can't do everything at once and being in two places at once is completely impossible. In the end, this did make me choose to cut less because of internship, but also because I need to keep enough time for Storm Inc.
So really the hardest thing in my eyes is maintaining work-life balance, because you have so much control. You're soon working seven days a week. Fortunately, I'm getting better at making or keeping time for the fun stuff too.
How do you combine your clothing brand, your barbershop and your internship? And you also go to the gym in the morning: how do you do it?
It is indeed difficult to combine sometimes, haha. I have as many hours in a day as anyone else.
At 6:00/6:30 I'm at the gym and then I go straight to my internship, where I work until 17:00. Hurry home and eat, then cut from 19:00 to 23:00.
With school it's basically the same. Sports before school, to school, then haircutting. On Saturdays, I often go to the gym in the morning and work on Storm all day.
And how do you do that with reports you have to do, for example? Of course, you often do those in your own time, after school.
In the first year, I had a lot of time anyway. I always had two days off a week from school, so I could cut a lot. And the days I did have to go to school, I kept the evenings free to work on school assignments.
Of course, with corona, it was also the case that I could not cut completely, or at all, which left me with even more time for school.
The advantage of taking classes at home, though, was that everything could be planned in a quicker sequence. I no longer had to travel, which saved a lot of time for me. Time I could spend on school, or on cutting.
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
I think I am especially proud that I was so independent and self-reliant from a very young age. Maybe even more so actually that I was doing something I loved from a very young age.
Everyone was always complaining about work and school and everything else they didn't like in daily life. Because everything I did was fun and I also made money doing it.
The life of an entrepreneur is definitely not about roses, you do have more responsibilities than when you work for a boss. Of course, I bale and don't always feel like it either. For instance, when everyone is at the beach and I'm cutting all day.
But, of course, there are much more fun sides to my entrepreneurship.
Is there a particular lesson or tip you would like to give to other young entrepreneurs?
You always have to motivate yourself, so choose something or do something you like. If you are not motivated, you will give up quickly and make things very difficult for yourself. That's the most important thing I think.
Make sure you have that passion!
Do you have any plans to expand your barbershop further?
Yes definitely. I have two more years of school now and then I'm done. Then I'm going to cut more anyway and build up Storm Inc further. So that I can build my barbershop and clothing brand both and so see which grows the fastest.
My ultimate goal, though, is to open my own barbershop.
But besides a barbershop and clothing shop, there are other ideas I want to set up. Together with the friend I set up Storm Inc with, sometimes ideas come along that we want to try out like shops or restaurants. We want to have tried everything.
I just want to expand my barbershop and clothing brand first for now, because I know there is potential in those. For the long term, there might be more ventures on the horizon.
Is there anyone who really inspires you as an entrepreneur?
Yes, definitely my grandparents and my father.
My grandparents started in a time when there was nothing, right after World War II. They started a business with the little bit of savings they had and always worked hard. They always made the most of it and constantly invested in the business. In other words: believe in your business (and yourself) and go for it! Make the best of it and always do your best.
But Jeroen, owner of Rinkel, also turned out to be an example for me. He entrepreneurialises in a whole new way and is always looking for growth opportunities, which I think is very good. I understand that you can be satisfied with Rinkel's large customer base now. But you are also always hungry for something new: new customers and new opportunities. I see that with him as well.
You are not yet using Rinkel yourself, but in what respect, now that you know how our product works, would you use it yourself for your businesses?
For me, it is important that I can decide for myself when I can and cannot be reached while maintaining professionalism. Professionalism of course with a regional number for my barbershop and a 085 number for Storm.
The opening hours feature is also ideal for me. That way I no longer get calls at 11pm, or messages on my private WhatsApp about why I am not responding to their business enquiry quickly enough.
I just don't have it yet because right now I want to focus completely on my internship. After that, I will continue to build my barbershop and clothing brand and definitely become a client!
Marketing intern at Rinkel
Max de Hertogh
Born in 2001
Started barbering in 2014
Had a fish delivery service in 2019
Launched Storm Inc in 2021