Discover the dream of Jürgen

Jürgen Degrande - Co-founder Edgard & Cooper

Childhood dreams

It’s rather hard to look back 25 years and pinpoint the dreams I had at the time − though, if you’d ask my parents, they’d probably say my childhood dream was two-fold. At first, I dreamt of becoming a police officer and prevent bad people from doing wrong things to protect the weaker. Secondly, I have always wanted to travel, explore new horizons and push the boundaries (yeah…pretty stubborn kid). Growing up, luckily, in a hard-working household, I was confronted with the hard work of my parents to support their 2 sons − and I truly believe that, to this very day, those values given by my parents have shown me what it takes to be meaningful in this world. As a tough 16-year-old, I recall telling my father I would never in my life work as hard as he did. But obviously that didn’t happen − I’m a workaholic!

I recently told this story on the train to an English-speaking MBA peer, and the old lady in front of us – who happened to be American – understood what I was saying and appreciated the fact that there are young people out there who truly appreciate the chances given by their parents. I walked her out and kept on chatting with her for a half an hour!

I dropped the idea of becoming a police officer when I was 16 years old, but I never stopped pushing my limits in terms of new adventures, travelling around the world or stepping out of my comfort zone as much as possible.

Dreams evolve

I studied Marketing, as it is a broad direction to take with plenty of opportunities afterwards. My Erasmus student-exchange programme in France was the eye-opening experience. I was one of the few students going abroad, but the life experience gained at that time of my life was so much more worthwhile than sitting in school. Hardly recovered from that, 2 weeks later I left Belgium again to become a hotel animator in Greece, meeting plenty of new people from all over the world. Afterwards, I worked as much as possible as a bartender to save up money to enable me to see the world. I dare say there are many places I still want to see in the world − although, as I moved to the U.S.A. 5 years ago, I believe I’ve accomplished the dream of wanting to travel and see the world. If I would sum up the plane tickets I bought on a weekly basis for the last 5 years, I’d probably be able to purchase a plane!

With a lot of respect and thankfulness, I greet the founders of GreenPan. They gave me a one-way ticket to New York in 2010, with the mission of launching a disruptive technology within the Housewares industry in U.S. retail. What an amazing learning and maturing experience! At the time I was 26 years old, and I believe that many of my peers dream of spending 5 years in Manhattan NYC. I fell in love with New York and I still am today (I might move back there someday), though over the years I also realized that personal happiness is more important than living on Park Avenue. My main motivators in life are love, progress and the ability to challenge the status quo. I came back to Belgium because I met a wonderful person who I am still with today and decided it was time to work on some of my skills through a Vlerick MBA. Today, I am still enrolled in the Full-Time MBA − although, with the help of the faculty, I will have a flexible learning path moving forward so that I can focus better on the new venture I am creating together with two partners. 

Edgard & Cooper

Probably one week after I moved back from New York, I met two guys who happened to be working on an idea that I immediately fell in love with. If you ask what my dream is today, I’d answer that my dream is to be impactful and meaningful in life and to our society. Edgard & Cooper feeds that dream by starting my own venture and improving an industry through a disruptive technology. At Edgard & Cooper we are launching a fresh product within the pet food industry. A product that improves the health of our pets. We recently won an innovation award at the largest pet food show in the Benelux. Our team was delighted!

My ambition today is to build Edgard & Cooper globally and reach as many consumers as possible that want to improve the health of their pets. My ambition is also to show the world that things can be done in a better, more natural way, and it doesn’t even have to be more expensive. Look at GreenPan... I want to show the world that consumers need to become smarter before they purchase a product and educate them about their decisions.

Vlerick

Jürgen DegrandeThere are many ways that Vlerick contributed to my situation today. But by far the most important is that Vlerick took me out of my comfortable apartment on Park Avenue in NYC. I truly believe that, without the MBA at Vlerick, I wouldn’t have come back to Belgium and would probably not have started my own company. Four months into the programme, I believe that the financial courses have helped me a lot in better understanding equity positions in a company and in giving me broader insights into a company’s financial position. Doing an MBA is also a humbling experience, as you end up with some pretty smart people around you, which makes you realize that you still have a lot to learn on a daily basis. Thank you, Vlerick! 

Some good advice?

I often feel too young to give advice to others − but if I could talk to myself 15 years ago, I would probably tell myself to always listen to the little voice inside my head. I have had great results when I’ve followed my gut feeling, and each time I decided to challenge the status quo and became uncomfortable, something magical happened. Don’t get me wrong: I love my mother, but if I would have listened to everything she said, I would still be living near the church in Gullegem and definitely not be an Entrepreneur. Probably a police officer...

I would tell myself that every company, every idea, every good thing in the world was created by people like you and me (I know, sounds like Steve Jobs). I would encourage myself to believe in my capabilities and never allow someone else to put me down. I would tell myself that love is the basis of everything − even today, I believe I don’t show enough love to the people who care about me. So, plenty of working points! Last but not least: I would tell myself to work hard to realize your dreams!

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