There is a reason why many young talents stay in Tilburg. To work or do business, often after their studies. In this series we find out why they stick around and how they rank the city.
This time: partners in love & business Kelly Miao and Remco Blaauw. She grew up in a hospitality family in Eindhoven, studied Psychology at Tilburg University and worked - for a short while - as an HR professional. His roots are in Rheden (in the heart of the Veluwe) and while searching for the most creative communications studies in the Netherlands he ended up at Fontys Tilburg. With their diplomas in their pocket, the couple actually wanted a bit more adventure. So they stepped into the entrepreneurial life together and since September 2019 they run their own restaurant on the Heuvelring: XU Noodle Bar.
The interior of XU is quite Instagrammable, but for the photo shoot we dived into a slick studio. To create that authentic XU-feel, we asked the entrepreneurial couple to bring along some items from their restaurant: Chinese antiques and other unique items that Kelly picks up via Instagram and at thrift stores to give the business a feel. Ok, enough intro text. Time to rank Tilburg!
Remco: "You really have all kinds of people here. In general the Tilburger is a combination of the village and the city. That makes for a pleasant, easy-going atmosphere. With XU we have built a name for ourselves in the city surprisingly quickly. We see many regular customers coming back every week. I didn't expect that to happen so quickly. We've built a nice relationship with those people because they just kept ordering even during the corona lockdowns."
Kelly: "There are even people who order three or four times a week! Our first six months were very hectic but fun. We were working 70 to 80 hours a week at the time. Looking back, it was a great period, better than during the lockdowns. Before that we still had a lot of contact with people. Super fun."
"In general, the Tilburger is a combination of the village and the city."
STARTUP CLIMATE: 8.5
Kelly: "When I first studied here, I thought Tilburg was boring. A bit of a 'mwoh' feeling, haha. Of course I also had a close relationship with Eindhoven, where I grew up. Now that I live and do business here I often think 'wow, so much has changed! There are so many nice things in Tilburg that you don't have in Eindhoven. And I think there is a lot of solidarity here, also between entrepreneurs. We don't see each other as competitors but as supporters. I find that really special and I have the feeling that you won't see it that way in Eindhoven. We sometimes talk to other restaurant owners in the city and they are genuinely interested in us and our business. Then we have a nice conversation in which they ask how things are going. It's very chill, just open and honest and from the heart. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I know that they are there for me in word and deed. But it feels really good to notice that the Tilburg entrepreneurs are also there for each other."
Remco: "When I see how entrepreneurs are helping each other during the pandemic and what initiatives there are for example for young people and from the art sector, I think there is a lot of love in this city. And the love between Kelly and me? I would like to give our love sometimes a very high grade and sometimes a very low grade, hahaha. It's not always pleasant to be in a relationship and to work together. We do have fights on the work floor sometimes, but that's the same with 'normal' colleagues. I'm very calm and relaxed and I'll see how things go. Kelly would rather have everything under control and in the right direction."
Kelly: "Remco is often like 'it will all work out' while I am more in need of control. And sometimes that clashes, yes. But I also learn from that. When we got the idea to start a business together, we really looked each other in the eye for a while. It was a serious step, of course, and we had to be sure that we would be a match for each other. XU could either drive us apart as a couple or bring us closer together. Fortunately, it turned out to be the second! Together we are making something beautiful out of it."
"There is a lot of solidarity here between entrepreneurs. In fact, we don't see each other as competitors but support each other."
Kelly: "Tilburg is a city on the move and is becoming more and more attractive. The municipality but also the residents here are open to new things and new concepts. I am especially a fan of the Spoorzone with, among other things, the LocHal. As an Eindhoven native it reminds me of Strijp-S, very cool. When I was a student the Polly on Wednesdays was a regular place. Karaoke with the Boys From You Know, great! But the Meimarkt and all the festivals in the Leijpark, for example, are also great fun."
Remco: "Especially as a student you can experience something every day in Tilburg, if you want to. I would have liked it if the Spoorpark had already been there when I was a student. That's really an asset to the city. You know what's funny? When I was a student here I always said 'when I'm finished I'll leave'. Well, I did leave but I came back just as quickly. For a long time Tilburg felt to me like a disjointed whole. Now it feels finished."
"Tilburg is a city on the move and is becoming more and more attractive."
Kelly: "Remco and I live on the Spoorlaan, a nice place. The housing market is rather tense, so it was difficult to find an affordable rental property. I'm glad we succeeded, and that we also live just a ten-minute walk from the center. Over the years I started to see Tilburg also as a beautiful city. At first glance, there are really a lot of ugly pieces, especially a bit further outside the center. The Dwaalgebied and the Piushaven - real hidden gems - are pre-eminently areas that you only discover when you live here. You just have to look a bit further and be a bit more curious. Even if you stay after your studies by the way. There are so many possibilities and opportunities to be grasped. If only you are open to it."
Remco: "I couldn't agree more. In Tilburg you can use all your creativity and join or sign up for anything. It is an open city where people will not look at you funny if you want to start something. Tilburg is the place where you can become whatever you want."