Constance is joyful, curious, and tenacious. As an entrepreneur, investor, wife, and mom, she fulfills various roles with love and devotion. She grew up in an entrepreneurial family and followed her parents as an entrepreneur at the age of 19. After several successful businesses, she decided it was time for another step: creating a positive impact on the world. She knows what her added value is and why she is doing it.
We invited Constance for an interview after hearing her passionate talk at Fempower Your Growth 2021. Her passion for EarthToday, the company that protects square meters of nature, and her story about being a female entrepreneur and investor were inspirational. It made us want to know more about her story and drive: what sets her soul on fire.
Who are you without your business card?
I’m the same person with and without my business card. I live instead of work. Over time the differences between work and life have become smaller. When I started my first business at the age of 19, I lived with two personalities. At home, I was emotional and gentle. In the office, I was accurate and tough. Now these two identities have become one. The DNA of EarthToday supports this. We ask ourselves, our colleagues, and clients to bring their whole selves to the table in all colours and shapes. You can be the self you want to be, for a day or for eternity. You are central in our organisation.
What influenced this shift?
I’m from an entrepreneurial family that built big international organisations. Our attitude was always about creating something bigger and financially better. It was about the revenue and profits. Over the years, I’ve learned that I want more. I’ve learned that I’d like to show multiple sides of myself as an entrepreneur. It has been a process of personal development and daring to unlock my own potential. For me, it took a few personal life events. My sister-in-law’s passing completely changed my perspective on life.
I also think the changing societal sentiment helped in this process; being aware of the impact and consequences of our choices for the planet. To look beyond the glitter and glamour of mansions, yachts, sports cars and champagne. Our society has lived through different crises, and we now understand the mistakes we made whilst building our current economic systems. There is a raise of awareness, among people and businesses, that planet earth is the most important stakeholder we have to take into account. Multiple aspects of nature and humanity are becoming top priority, without business in my perspective. I’m grateful to live now. There is a lot of positive change happening and I am very hopeful for the future.
Do you also see this shift to purpose and impact driven in your social circle?
Sure. People in my circle talk about giving rather than taking. They are shifting to forms of minimalism. My eldest son knows exactly how it works. Whenever we walk through Vondelpark, he picks up trash and throws it in the bin. Because that’s what you do.
On an emotional level, I see more individuals looking for human connection also, when the other person is completely different than themselves. I experience more room for expression and emotions on a personal and professional level, the level of awareness on who we are and who we want to become is higher at a younger age.
All these stories and experiences live and are shared amongst each other. We shift towards a new trend. I’m aware that we are not there yet. I could also easily present an argument to counter my positivity. What you give attention grows and we need to focus on the progress we’ve already made.
What are you committed to at the moment?
With EarthToday we want to raise global awareness on the importance of our planet. We share information about what’s happening on ‘earth today’, and we protect square meters of nature. We've worked on a model in which actual square meters of surface and ocean are protected by local nature protection organisations. We collaborate with the 15 most renowned organisations worldwide, who are united in the Union of Nature. Whenever one square meter is protected for 1,20 euro, these conservationists must protect at least one new square meter within one quarter. Together we have already protected over 1.7 million square meters on planet earth. With the facilitation of information, the protection of surface area and the onboarding of partner companies, we are raising more awareness about the state of the planet. We want to share the responsibility and ownership of nature protection. Together we can create lasting, positive impact. Everyone that is protecting square meters will receive a unique certificate of protection, registered to their name. They will be informed about the land they are protecting and the developments. We are a company by all and for all.
Who inspired you to take this step with Earth Today?
The initiator of EarthToday, Kees Zegers, is a very good friend of mine and my wife. In 2014, he left for an inner journey on a sailboat at sea. He said: I’ll be back whenever I’ve found the pot with gold at the end of the rainbow. He got an idea. If you experience a barrier or problem that others also experience, it is best to distribute the problem over the number of people involved. Because everyone can take the responsibility to solve the problem. Kees asked: what if we can distribute the issue of the earth deteriorating over the 9 billion people living on this planet? What if each person can protect one square meter of nature? Then we have a solution. Together we can protect 9 billion square meters of nature; protecting half of the earth’s surface. That was his idea. When he told me, I was up in the sky.
The moment I knew there was momentum to build further on Kees’ idea, I dropped everything. I trusted him 100%. I know that trust in yourself, in others and in business makes one feel like they can take on the world. This trust develops into an enormous ball of energy that makes things happen. That is something that Kees taught me years ago when he said: “the highest currency is trust.”
What makes you happy?
The most amazing thing is that work doesn’t feel like work, it’s life. Together with funders, angel investors, partners, and nature conservationists we create a propulsive motion. Follow the Sun. Collaborating on this purpose makes me feel fortunate. Everyone feels proud to be part of our movement. That makes the fire in my soul burn. I do not have to put on a mask. I can bring my whole self to the table. The collective intention and trust I see with everyone involved in EarthToday is what I want for all.
Many people don’t know where to begin with creating a positive impact. What would you advise to those that work in a company different from EarthToday?
I think the drive and potential for doing good is in everyone. My advice would be to think about the possibility of doing things different in your company. Is it possible to think three steps ahead and shift your ways of working? Is the answer no? Quit immediately. I guarantee that organisations without a purpose at heart will be out of business within ten years. Two reasons: new talent doesn’t want to work for a company without purpose and clients or customers don’t want to do business with them.
What if you can think three steps ahead? What is your advice?
Involve others. Create a circle with inspiring, energized, and driven individuals within your organisation and be the most amazing ball of energy that everyone wants to be part of. It is super attractive to work on cool things and with marvelous individuals. If you make sure everyone can bring themselves to the table, you create responsibility and ownership for the purpose. Your colleagues will want to join the movement you created.
Can you share a moment when you showed human courage?
Since I’m 19, I’ve been together with an amazing woman, my wife Jacobine. We have two great kids. We are a very strong family. A few years ago, we felt a change in our relationship was necessary. I figure that it was a moment most people would separate. We didn’t. After a very difficult period for both of us, we decided to not separate as a family, only romantically. We live in the same house. Our family and kids are top priority. At the same time there is space for our own personal romantic relationship. I realise this is a very personal story, but it is my story of human courage.
It was extremely difficult to cope with the opinions and advice from others. It was a trade-off in which we both could lose everything. We took the risk, we stood up for what we wanted. It took courage. Looking back, I’m proud of us, of where we are now, as individuals and as a family. We are strong. We are a team. We have grown in love.
What would you like to say to little Constance?
You are beautiful and sweet. You are welcome to be yourself completely.