‘’Say what you do, and do what you say..’’
Interview with Tamar van Heesewijk
A while ago, Tamar van Heesewijk joined us for an interview. As usual, her demeanour was calm, slightly reserved and confident. We tried to coax her into revealing some dirt, but she remained unflappable. Dear reader, welcome to this Corekees unicum: the first interview with none other than Founder and CFO Tamar!
Tamar, welcome! How are you? Are you as nervous as I am…?
‘I’m feeling very anxious, but not as nervous as you, of course” The corners of Tamar’s mouth curl up, and it’s clear that a plan is unfolding in her head… ”You know I’m challenging to interview, right? I’m not one for full sentences, so you’ll have to make something of that.” I promise her that I’ll work something out.
Let’s start with your youth. Tell me, who are your parents?
‘My dad was born in Brazil after his parents emigrated there. When he was twelve, he came back to the Netherlands and then he went to study in Delft, the city where I grew up and my dad still lives today. In Delft, he met my mother, Sietske. And then, well… I have two older brothers (Niels and Marius), and I followed suit a little while later’ At the utterance of this last sentence, Tamar bursts out laughing.
What were you like as a child and teenager?
‘I was quite a shy child but very busy. I was spent a lot of time outdoors: always playing soccer, I was very active. I guess I was a pretty decent teenager too. Not too cheeky, I guess my parents were lucky wih me. At the same time I wasn’t too boring either. Let’s say I was an exemplary child, but with a cheeky edge…’
How cheeky, then? What’s the worst thing you did as an adolescent?
‘Um… I stole a pair of bowling shoes once. I think that’s the worst thing I did. The next day my mom took them back to the bowling alley.’
A few years after this rebellious act, Tamar went to college. Tell me, how was that?
”Yes, i studies Business Economics, at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I felt attracted to things with sports. I considered joining the army because they do a lot of sports there. I also looking into physiotherapy but finally opted for Economics because it was such a broad subject. Also, both my brothers studies Economics too. After my Bachelor, I did a Masters in Financial Economics.
Why did you choose that Master’s programme?
‘I enjoy focusing on Microeconomics, companies’ ins and outs, and their finances. Within that field, you also have Accounting, of course, but I considered that to be too focused on the past. I’d rather look at the future. With that in mind Financial Economics was the best choice for me’
After an internship at NIBC, you ended up in a Management Traineeship at KPMG. What did you do there, and what was it like?
I did several things; Transaction Services and (IT) Audit mostly. Eventually, I chose Corporate Finance. Once again that was something that looked to the future, which made it a logical step for me.’
And KPMG as a company?
‘Iit is more than just a job. It’s hard work, but you learn to become very efficient. I used to exercise at 6 a.m. and then work until late at night. It was hard work, but fun.’
For many people, a corporate career at KPMG is the perfect picture. What made you part with that to begin a startup?
‘At first, I couldn’t imagine leaving at all, I thought, ”no, why would I do that?’’ But then I started thinking about it. And the longer I thought about it the more I liked the idea. The (Corekees; red) product just really suits me. I would never just sell trees, but the financial product behind it, I like that. And the fact that we’re doing something good for the world, that’s really important to me, too.’
Did you feel this social contribution in your previous work too?
‘Not so much. Sometimes I even thought: ‘what I’m doing now is a bit useless.’ I made Excel models for companies that I didn’t have any feeling or affinity with. Now I make models for a company that I support: Corekees.’
How do your surroundings react to your decision to quit your job and focus on Corekees?
‘When I told Jeroen (Weimer, formed KPMG partner wheom Tamar worked for) about it, he was very enthusiastic. He was really supportive and proud. He had plans to leave KPMG and start his own company too, and eventually, he did. Fortunately, I still speak to him regularly because he is also on our Board of Advisors. My parents did say something along the lines of: “Are you sure?’’ But they also saw that this suits me much better, so they were very supportive too.’ ’
Was Corekees always called Corekees?
‘No. At first it was Green Fuel Investments. We had thought of setting up a limited liability company, but that name lacked a story. Corekees is much than just an investment company. That’s why Nick and I started thinking about a good name and then we quickly came up with Corekees. Our grandfather’s name was Cornelius and his friends and family called him Cor or Kees. We then put an ‘e’ in between to make it sound appealing to an international audience…’
Brilliant backstory! What do you enjoy most about your work at Corekees? And what do you like least?
‘The best thing about my job is the alternation between thoughtful work: analysis, figures, legal matters, and being very operationally busy. That I can make my own decisions is what I like about it. What I like the least is the responsibility. Everything I do affects the company.
Alot more than at KPMG for instance. In terms of determining the direction, it’s nice, but then again, there’s the responsibility… Sometimes that responsibility just weighs me down…’ Tamar laughs exuberantly, ‘Haha, no, just kidding! I can compartmentalize very well, and I don’t take my work home with me.’
You and Nick are good friends, right?
‘Yeah, we always have been. Especially since our college days. We both liked to party; that connects naturally. The same goes for travelling. I lived in Lisbon for six months during my studies. That ws llong before Corekees, and Nick visited me there often.’
Is it challenging to run a company together with a good friend?
‘Sometimes it’s hard because we know each other so well that we know everything about each other. At the same time, that’s also an advantage…’ Tamar falls silent for a moment and visibly thinks about an answer ‘It has 90% advantages and 10% disadvantages! For example, in every conversation we have with third parties, we always know exactly what the other person is thinking. We don’t need words, we just instinctively feel each other out.’
What is your biggest lesson from these past four years?
‘Always think in solutions! Of course, that sounds cliché, but as an entrepreneur, you just come across a lot of problems and you always have to think of ways to solve them. So many problems come at you, it’s insane, really!’
Speaking of clichés, what do you see as the biggest challenge for the future of Corekees?
‘The biggest challenge is conveying to others what we see so clearly. The potential that we see, because we have so much information about Project Pongamia and because we visit the site and nursery often, it’s a challenge to convey that to our investors. It’s hard to get people to believe in our concept. Investors often say it sounds too good to be true. We get that, but if everyone keeps saying that, we won’t get anywhere. I would so love to convince more people of what we see.’
What would you do differently if you were allowed to start all over with Corekees?
‘There must be something, but I can’t really think of anything right now. Can I get back to this later? When I think it through, I can only conclude that everything in the past three and a half years served a purpose.”
Ok, and in three and a half years from now, what will Corekees look like then?
‘Then we’ll be a platform. We’ll have multiple projects for people to choose from and we’ll have already paid out returns to most investors. Also, our team will operate like a well oiled machine. I want to have everthing we currently outsource to be in-house. Our own IT, our own marketers, our own content creators. And I want to travel a lot to visit our projects: wherever they may be.’
That sounds good! What will remain the same?
‘Nick and me. And how we interact with people. And the atmosphere of course: working hard when we work, but also doing lots of fun things. Our goal will also remains the same: to enable people to make money by doing something good for the world. And that we’re trustworthy. That we actually do what we promise. That’s important to us: We say what we do, and we do what we say.’
How do you measure your own success? And how do you measure Corekees success? Are those tied together?
‘I measure Corekees success by the number of bonds sold. That’s our biggest quantitative measure. I very deliberately say bonds sold and not trees planted, because in the future we are going to offer many more products than just these trees. We will continue to issue bonds, but in time for many more sustainable projects than now. I personally will be successful if I’ll continue to enjoy going to work every day. That is still the case: I never think, ‘’I don’t feel like it today’’…’
You and Nick are quite opposites of each other, right? Nick is extrovert, and you’re a bit introverted…
‘Yes, but that works very well. Nick talks a lot, and likes to talk I don’t like to talk that much, so I talk a little less. It’s actually very well balanced. We come across like opposites, but how we are in life is actually very similar: we never give, neither in sports nor in work and we always see the positive side in things! We simply complement each other very well. Nick is often quite confident. I myself am very good at observing. I see everything, very few things elude me! Tamar laughs jokingly afterwards she remains silent for a minute and then said resolutely: we really complement each other very well.’
What are you looking forward to the most?
That we will have more projects! I am really looking forward to that…”
So are we Tamar! Thank you for your time, this was it again.
”Really, are we done already? Oh, this was actually quite fun…”
Do you have questions for Tamar that were not covered in this interview? Or would you like to know more about the finances behind our projects or have general questions about Corekees? Then please feel free to contact Tamar yourself. Our CFO thinks she’s not a big talker, but she can gab endlessly about Corekees and our projects.