Since 2010 Sandrine Van Den Oudenhoven has been at the head of Job4U2, a business that helps the spouses or partners of expatriates who have arrived in Switzerland to pursue their career either by finding work, setting up their own company, or changing direction. Following a Master’s degree in engineering at Reims in France, a solid background in supply chain, sales, project management and purchasing and above all a lot of travelling, she finally chose Bevaix where she would manage her company and live with her husband and two daughters. Portrait of a vibrant entrepreneur.
How did you discover Neuchâtel?
My first contact was a sightseeing tour in 2000. I had just moved from Paris to Lausanne and I had the opportunity of spending a day in Neuchâtel. I met my husband and we went to live in Brussels for four years. Then he had a professional opportunity in Switzerland and we moved to Bienne near his work. It was then that I set up my business and coincidentally my first clients were from Neuchâtel. The Neuchâtel sector has been the most reactive to my services, perhaps because I felt at home there. In the end, my professional and personal network was created mainly in Neuchâtel. We wanted to buy a house and return to the French-speaking part of Switzerland and it came naturally to choose Bevaix as we missed the Swiss French culture and we liked the place.
Do you have an early memory of the canton that stands out?
I still fondly remember a first business meeting on the terrace of the Silex in Hauterive. It was so beautiful. I felt that my office was in some ways on the lakeside. It quickly became my main place for professional meetings.
What made you decide to set up a company ?
I gave thought to the overall situation with regard to my professional situation after having my children and having travelled and lived in many countries. That directed my interest towards the HR aspect and the job market. I then met a professional in Italy whose job was to coach spouses or partners upon arrival. That really resonated with my career-path, my interest and my skills. I wanted to retrain and be able to offer this kind of support in Switzerland. Work is the first vector of social contact, and is therefore of fundamental importance when moving. My company started in 2010, and we are now 6 coaches and have accompanied more than 500 people in their life change.
Is it easy to set up a company in Switzerland?
As far as I know, along with the Netherlands, Switzerland is the European country where access to entrepreneurship is the easiest.
What is the hardest part of the set-up process?
When I set up my company, I came from the « corporate » world where professional relationships are very contractual. I had to revise my approach to adapt to the local culture. For example, in Switzerland, you do not have a confidentiality agreement signed at the first meeting. Trust is built up in an informal way as the relationship develops.
What do you appreciate the most in the canton of Neuchâtel?
The quality of life, the outdoors, nature and the friendliness in the small villages. We have urban environments which are high quality and which meet the needs in terms of cultural, shopping, going out and leisure activities. At the same time there is immediate access to a very diverse nature. Mobility is also an important point. Having lived in large cities both in Switzerland and abroad, I find that mobility is easy here. Everything is close at hand.