Read the dream of Patrick
What was your dream when you were little?
From a very early age on, I knew I wanted see the world. I was never very fond of school, studying and books. I was the type of student that rather spent his days at school standing and dancing on the school desks instead of sitting quietly down behind them. I was an active child, always feeling the uncontrollable urge to go on adventures to learn.
At the same time, also from an early age on, I knew that I was only going to become really happy with beautiful family. It worked out perfectly fine. Early in my career, I got the chance to work and live in Paris and London, where every day is a cultural adventure. Right now I’m the happiest Belgian in New York, raising a family, having a beautiful wife and daughter. I couldn’t have imagined it any better than this.
How has your dream evolved?
I started off by studying marketing in Belgium. I continued studying in Paris and was immediately offered a job after my internship at the French bank Société Générale. In a matter of months, I became the head of marketing for the Benelux region. In fact, this early and right here I had already attained my goal in life: on the international trading hall in Paris, I was among people of the whole world. I was working for the home country but from an international environment in an international city.
As quickly as my career took off, it came to an abrupt end. When the financial markets started showing the first cracks I lost my job. This was the perfect opportunity and the perfect time for me to head back to school. At Vlerick, I took the Consumer Marketing Masterclass because I knew and felt that there were some serious gaps in the marketing know-how I had acquired at school and on the job. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes, especially the interaction with my fellow students. Among them were the marketing managers of both Delvaux and Makro, passionate people I learnt a great deal from. The classes taught me the lingo of international consumer marketing. But more than anything else, they revealed how marketing is being carried out all over the world. I gained an international and global perspective.
Soon after, I noticed a vacancy in the newspaper De Tijd for a diamond trader, a function that I knew would satisfy my hunger for the world. Though I was qualified - I had taken the necessary courses - I didn’t land the job. But this episode gave me the inspiration to build the first on-line diamond trading platform, combining everything I knew about diamonds and marketing. This initiative did land me a job. It was a job for which for which I traveled around the world. Of course there is the obvious link between New York and Antwerp, but places like Las Vegas and Hong Kong were also on my list of hot spots.
On one of those travels I met an American woman, I fell in love and started thinking of a niche. What if I could start the first New York city guide service for Belgians by Belgians? This was about seven years ago. In 2014, I officially founded my company BE NY and wrote a guide book on the city which was published by Lannoo and quickly became a best seller. Thanks to my work for production companies as a fixer and locations scout - I worked with teams for the programs Vlaanderen Vakantieland, Boer zkt Vrouw, Wauters vs Waes, Wereldsteden, De Vetste Vakantie to name but a few - my clientele now consists of clients such as the Flemish government, UNIZO and VOKA, as well as many company executives who come on private trips.
What do you do now?
I offer New York City to Belgians, guided around by Belgians. I manage a team of freelancers that show the city in the language of travellers, with the cultural knowledge and background of the travellers. These freelancers make up a team of knowledgeable guides, all of them have completed the necessary training to be officially recognized by the City of New York as city guides.
How do you see your future?
My family is first on my list of priorities. My first baby Marie is such a success that I’m already longing for the next. Family expansion is on my mind. Business-wise, in the future I want to focus more on the corporate world. I want to organize more company trips and professional business incentives. I am planning on inspirational tours for executives and retail experience tours. I know this city well, and I look at it in a way that I have learnt at Vlerick. Next: my first book has made it to bestseller status and is translated in four languages. I am now in the midst of preparing the sequel.
I am also planning on expanding the brand BE NY. More products should be added to the brand. For instance, I am developing specific BE NY maps to offer a more specific and better experience to the audience. But my ultimate dream involves - as each Fleming’s dream - brick. I would like to start the first BE NY bed and breakfast in New York.
And as we speak, my wife is starting a blog www.BENY.be/blog - as a true New Yorker, she is becoming a blogster mom. On her blog there will be daily tips and advice on what to go see, where to eat, what to discover. It speaks for itself that I am also involved in this project.
Has Vlerick contributed to realising your dream?
I am now part of the Vlerick alumni community. The name and reputation of the school adds credibilty to your own. Being an alumnus and mentioning the school facilitates reaching your goals.
Do you have any particular fond memories of the year at Vlerick?
On a more personal note, I remember well that when taking the masterclass, I still had an apartment in Paris. On some days I drove from Paris to Brussels on my motorcycle. That sounds absurd, but it already showed how I thought about borders and distances, I don’t really acknowledge them.
But content-wise, I have the fondest memories of Gino Van Ossel and Guillaume Van Der Stighelen’s classes. Their view on storytelling was at the same time captivating and inspiring. They succeeded in brilliantly summarizing and articulating changes and trends. In general, tutors spoke with passion. It is that exact same passion with which I speak to my clients and staff about NY.
What is the key message you want people to take away from your personal story?
This sounds cliché, but still: never give up on your dreams. Follow them, chase them. Nothing’s more beautiful than dreaming and then realizing the dreams. I am living off my dream job, one that I invented myself, I have the everyday satisfaction of walking around in this outrageously cool world city. Think international. I could never have realized all this within the borders of my home country.
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