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Carlos, Colombia

During corona times I was barely able to keep my shop running. I sell and repair second-hand bicycles in Leiden. Most of my clients are students but there was a period when they seemed to be absent. Those were hard times for me. Now I'm thinking about hiring someone to help me, because things are going well again.

I arrived in the Netherlands when I was eleven years old. My mother had separated from my father and wanted to leave Colombia. She was looking for a better future for us. Through my grandmother's company, which exported leather, we had contacts in Europe. That's how we ended up in Dordrecht. There I started in a transition class of group eight.

I learned Dutch quickly and did well at school, but five years later something changed. My grades got worse because there were problems at home with my stepfather. I longed for my own father and my homeland. So, I moved back alone and started helping my father in his business. We did that for two years. We were a good father and son couple, but not very good colleagues.

When I was 18, I landed in the Netherlands for the second time. To finish school, I ended up in a class full of troubled youngsters. After about three months I was one myself. You start making friends and just get sucked in. My mentor realized that this was not like me and said: “Why don't you become a bicycle mechanic? That’s always useful, even if you don't make it your profession.”

That man was my salvation. I was fond of technology, so I decided to give it a go. I switched to adult education. Shortly after graduating, I first worked at a bicycle shop, but soon started my own business in Vlaardingen. That was my real learning curve. It was hard work and not everything went well, but that first store was the reason that things are going so well now. All the mistakes I made in the beginning, they don't happen to me anymore.

I never go on vacation. I think that's a waste of my time. What are you supposed to do there? Nothing, right? I prefer to work. My big dream is to leave my kids with a big business for when I'm gone. I'm only 35, so I still have some time.


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