Interview with an International - Noushin Norouzian and Timea Giordano

All the Gezelligness

20 April 2023

Two women from different countries, finding support and friendship while building businesses and social networks in the Maastricht Region. Timea Giordano is a certified soul purpose coach and a spiritual coach. Noushin Norouzian started her own line of Kombucha here in the heart of Maastricht.

Tell us more about yourselves. You are both international entrepreneurs in the Netherlands.

Noushin: I came to the Netherlands in 2018 and registered at the Kamer van Koophandel – KVK (Chamber of commerce) as a photographer because I was a style and fashion photographer in Belgium. However, during the pandemic and because of some difficulties on a personal level everything was put on ‘pause’.  By the end of the pandemic I started to brew this drink that I've been in love with for so many years: Kombucha (fermented tea). I’ve drunk it in all parts of the world – because I have lived in many countries – but I couldn’t find a kombucha in the Netherlands that tasted the way I like it. So I started brewing my favourite drink at home.

I offered it to friends and many of them told me they really liked it. That started the idea of selling my kombucha.

I had zero background with food, although I love to cook and I love ingredients. I went to Van Wijck to pitch my kombucha. I asked the manager if he would put it on the menu.  He said he would, but they were looking for a chef in the kitchen. I thought, maybe this can be a good test for developing my cooking skills in a commercial setting. So we made a two-way deal. My drink was put on the menu and I started working in the kitchen.

I started working there for 1-2 days a week, and have done so for the last year and a half. In the beginning it felt a bit like a paid internship. I learned so much working there. I passed the social hygiene exam (Stichting Vakbekwaamheid Horeca – SVH). Working in the hospitality trade also gave me a good network.

Now I am a proud entrepreneur with 9 flavours of delicious kombucha that are produced here in the heart of Maastricht – flavours that you can not find anywhere else in the world! The most exclusive kombucha you will find. I cooperate with a group of entrepreneurs called Stēap. They brought a very special flavour of tea to the Dutch market, Gauyusa tea from Ecuador and I am one of the first in Europe who is working with this tea. I made 3 unique flavours with it.

My drinks are sold in many cafés in the city and I also sell directly to my customers. There are yoga centres and sport centres that are big fans of it. SNS Expertise centre Maastricht (De Ruimte) is offering my drinks now at every event they hold. I still make it myself with high quality ingredients that you don’t find in your local grocery store. I purchase some of the premium ingredients from DL Fine food and drinks,  a wholesaler based in Amsterdam and Maastricht.

Noushin: Do you know Roderick Ramaekers? He is the distributor of Richards family products from France (Cafés Richard) and he is the owner of company Espressionisme, Coffee Artists Maastricht/Amsterdam. Through my network I even managed to get a place at his collective workspace in Maastricht . I learned a great deal about tea and coffee. I even tried to make a coffee kombucha.

I’m keeping the business very small but very real. Still producing everything myself. And I’m very proud of the product but also of my ever-growing network in the Maastricht hospitality community. People recognise me on the street as the ‘kombucha queen’. I have even customers from Belgium and Germany as well.

When did you start this?

Noushin: I started in March 2021 when we were at home (during the pandemic) and it got on the Van Wijck’s menu in May 2021. Although I took a very slow phase. I was perfecting and fine-tuning all my flavours for more than a year. I started with 3 main flavours, and gradually added more up to 9 final flavours at the moment.  

Noushin is my name, I’m Persian and in Persian Noushin means ‘sweet, delightful’. Noush is the verb of my name. It means ‘drinking something’, like your Santé. And cha is what tea is pronounced like and actually called in most Asian countries. So there you have it: Noush|Cha, drink your delightful tea. Not in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined I would make my own Kombucha and call it Noush|Cha, but it happened. And it feels as if it was meant to be.

Timea: She is loved, she is amazing and magnetic. And her drinks are so tasteful and true health. My daughter (15) drinks it like water.

How did you two meet?

Timea: We met through a mutual friend. But it is actually this entrepreneurial drive that got us together. Women coming from different countries and trying to make something valuable. It’s not always easy as an Expat.

Noushin: Now she is officially my precious coach too. And now I love her even more. I had been her friend for many years, meeting in cafés and so on and then I finally dared to ask her to be my coach. It’s been 3 months now and the amount of transformation I’ve been through in this small period of time is amazing.

Timea: The coaching experience brought us even closer. That happens with all of my clients I guess. I just love my clients. I know things about Noushin that she doesn’t even know herself. My niche is women, sensitive women and ambitious women. Although I find ambitious women such a vague definition. I come from a very masculine world, I have a lot of business management background. I have been working in and developing a lot of important leadership positions until I got into my own way of doing things.

I wanted to be more creative and innovative and those things weren’t really appreciated in the corporate world or any type of leadership position. At a sudden point I worked for NATO as a manager for a facility and I totally collapsed. Working in that military environment especially was the moment where I felt I really needed to step up for what I know and shift to the more compassionate side of leadership.

I believe that women are not really given the opportunity to really express how much genius there really is within us.  I used to train a lot of teams. I worked in network marketing for so many years as a trainer. Even though I got to a certain very high position in those network companies I immediately understood that my role was to coach and to lead. Something I have been doing since I was a very young girl.

I had my own dance company for 15 years besides all the businesses that I’ve run.

You’re a dancer as well? 

Timea: Actually I started once as a professional international dancer and instructor. I was the best dancer in 2005 in my home country Romania. Dance was my grounding space, the thing that actually kept me alive and coping with the world. Because I was very passionate I realised that you can be a dancer and a mum and run a six figure business at the same time. 

At a sudden point I met the most amazing man in my life, I moved countries. Dancing was not an option anymore. I got pregnant for the second time and we travelled a lot. But I did a lot of courses and certifications at that time to take my passion for dance into coaching.

As an ICF Certified Soul Purpose Coach & Spiritual Life Coach for ambitious sensitive women. I'm trained to use the combined transformational power and wisdom of holistic tools from both Western and Eastern traditions, including chakras, Ayurveda, emotional psychology, and somatics. I use soul purpose discovery methods to support you in finding and living a life of fulfillment and joy in alignment with your most authentic self.

So I’m a healer, I work with energy and I’m also a make-up artist by the way.

Noushin: That we have in common. I was also a make-up artist when I first moved to Belgium.

Noushin: I agree to what Timea said earlier about being a woman in a masculine world. I experienced this masculine vibe in the Horeca.  But you don’t always need that. I stopped working at van Wyck since November to fully focus on my own project. Since then I started focusing on myself as well. How am I going to grow? How do I want my business to grow?

Timea: This feminine energy is beautiful. It’s more than just being a woman because we all have it, even men. It’s all about giving and receiving and we need to learn how to balance this out. Women these days have been conditioned to live more in their masculine because we need to show that we’re equal to men. But it is not who we really are. I’m helping women to find their own feminine energy.

Nowadays so many men are also in their feminine more. This is not about being a woman or a man.

The last couple of years have been about finding my own voice as well. Like how do I even title myself? I love to talk about souls. But the soul can be so much (energy, god, a source).  I’ve been calling myself a soul purpose coach since 2018. How do you translate this? Two years ago I accidently bumped into an institution that is certifying soul purpose coaches. Besides all of the certifications I have in my portfolio this one is the biggest confirmation I ever received because now I am a certified coach: a soul purpose coach and a spiritual life coach.

I primarily work online with my clients because they come from all over the world. I organise daily retreats or weekends at beautiful locations in this area for clients that manage to travel to my location. But it is time to spread my wings a bit more locally as well.  I give workshops, that is why I am currently looking for an accommodation to organise these and to expand even more. Since I’m moving closer to Maastricht myself as well.  I’m also officially registered as a business owner for 2 years now at the Kamer van Koophandel (KVK).

How do you experience living in the Maastricht Region? Are we welcome enough?

Timea: We live in Nieuwstad at the moment but since our children have been going to the international school I’ve been sacrificing my life for almost 3 years now driving back and forth between Nieuwstad and Maastricht. Within a few more months we are moving to Maastricht. And I’m really looking forward to that. Our children can cycle to school or take the bus and integrate.

They speak Dutch fluently and also English, Romanian and Italian. I speak Hungarian too. My husband is from Italy. So we are a very multicultural family. That is one of the reasons why we enrolled our children at the international school.

Being different is always a reason to be pointed out and kids can be a bit mean sometimes. My daughter was bullied in school a lot. Since we moved our children to the International school things have totally shifted. And there was also the fact that I wasn’t able as a non-Dutch speaking parent to follow through all the Dutch explanations in school. I felt a bit lost when my daughter would ask me ‘Mum, did you see the email from our teacher?’ These teachers were friendly enough and by not speaking English they were forcing me to learn more Dutch but how was I ever going to help her at high school?

Noushin: My child is going to Montessori school in Maastricht. It is a Dutch school but you see a range of other international children. In my experience the schools in centre Maastricht are very international minded.

When you wanted to start your business in the Maastricht Region, being an entrepreneur already in other countries, where do you start?

Noushin: Starterscentrum, Marcel van Kasteren!

Living in the Maastricht Region. Let me give you a big compliment, and it is not about the Dutch weather as you can imagine, but your mind-set. The Dutch people are much more open than the people in Belgium where I lived for so many years. The openness already gives us as an expat some comfort.

And I know that in the northern part of the country the people are even more open. But I actually appreciate the Limburg vibe. You are more ‘rustig’ (relaxed), cosy and friendly. All the Gezelligness you have here. And just the location is fabulous. How close you are to Belgium and Germany. I have friends in both countries.

But the biggest compliment goes to how easy it is to become an entrepreneur. If you compare it to Belgium for instance where you have to pay a large amount of social security costs. That is a lot of money especially for a beginning entrepreneur who doesn’t know even if he is going to make money or not.

In the Netherlands after you register at the Kamer van Koophandel (KVK) you can just start your activity. I have a lot of passion about entrepreneurship. I come from an entrepreneur family. My great-granddad started a very famous business over 100 years ago. You can still find his Persian traditional sweet delicacy made of fresh nuts all over the world, it’s quite well-known.

So no difficulties whatsoever?

The difficult part is mostly the language. Another challenge is representing a new product to the Limburg culture.  And Kombucha as a product is not as well-known in this country so you need to explain a lot.  But I love the people here with all my heart and once they start trusting you and like your product then it is very rewarding. 

So I won’t say it is not challenging, that is definitely the case as an expat running a business, or as a woman running a business, or as a single mum running a business.

Timea you have already told us you have a different experience?

Timea: The biggest challenge for me is de Belastingdienst because they mostly communicate in Dutch. And finding a good accountant can be a hazard. In my home country an accountant runs the whole financial business. They know a few tips and tricks. They offer more guidance. That is something I don’t find here.

Noushin: I think it is the western mindset. They want you to be resourceful about everything yourself.  But as an Expat it can be a bit overwhelming. Especially when you are paying someone to help you out and you are not really getting the level of assistance that you expect.

Timea: And it is also the structure. How you build up a business here is different. There are so many websites here in English but only to a certain point. I think these challenges are normal for Expats but it can’t hurt to mention it again.

Noushin: I think sometimes it gets lost in translation. They try. At the Belastingdienst (Tax and Customs Administration) there is a special division you can call in English. But the information they gave me was not complete. Certain things they consider as a matter of course, something you should know, but you don’t know these things because you are from a different country.

Timea: It's not pointing fingers to anyone. The basics of doing business are the same everywhere in the world. But the rules are different everywhere.

As an advice to other International entrepreneurs. Knowing what you know now, how would you start?

Timea: I think asking more questions at the Kamer van Koophandel would be necessary. Because that is where you start. They did give me a folder with useful information. It was in Dutch, but I could translate it. And Blue Umbrella is a tip. They help you with Dutch taxes. I gave them authorization to receive the most important letters from de Belastingdienst for instance. They translate them for me.

Noushin: I think Starterscentrum is the best place to start. I can honestly say I had a good start because of their service. Before the pandemic they had these monthly events in Heerlen that I attended. It was in Dutch but I understood about 40 percent. And they were very informative. I would advise it to everyone. Even if the presentation is not always in English, go to the Starterscentrum events.

Luckily I am a very resourceful person. I asked for help and information, that way I got to know people from the community. Pop-up markets by the way are a very good way to introduce your products.

There is also the Young Entrepreneur Society. Both Timea and I visited a couple of their gatherings. Everything they organise, like theme sessions, are in English. But their audience is definitely a bit younger than we are. Lovely people though and really open minded in helping each other. And the fun thing is, many of them were Dutch. You feel that the younger generation is definitely open for a more international approach. Which is good.

So the Netherlands is definitely a great place to start a business, you have the rules and regulations, it’s not a big deal to start but it is lacking a bit in the informational and communication part.

Timea: Teach us how to be smart in business. It’s not that we don’t want to pay taxes, but we also want to grow.

Noushin: Exactly, if you know what to do with the margin coming in and how to scale up your business it will benefit the regional economy as well.​​

Is there a burgeoing entrepreneur in you? In this article we've listed several agencies you can turn to with your questions.

Read the interview with Lital and Einat From expat spouses to entrepreneurs 

Timea and Nousha.jpg
Timea Giordano and Noushin Norouzian
Noush|Cha Timea Giordano