Behind the scenes, the preparation started about a year ago. But now it's happening: family business JASA goes to the USA! After 33 years operating in the Netherlands, with international clients, JASA's USA adventure is a milestone to remember.
JASA inc. was founded on the 28th of March 2018. That's exactly 33 years after the foundation of the Dutch JASA in 1985 and on Sandra Pannekeet’s birthday. On Sunday 28th of October Joost Somford, Sandra Somford-Pannekeet and their children boarded a plane to move to Richmond Virginia, to start the American branch of the packaging company.
Why family business JASA chose to move to Richmond
After a good evaluation, JASA concluded that Richmond was their ideal location. "It's a perfect place to live," Sandra explains. "The infrastructure is excellent and so are the schools. The people living there are well educated, so it's a good place to find employees."
Richmond was known for its tobacco industry. Nowadays, the tobacco industry has dried out in that region. However, the packing industry that spun from that is still vast, and there are a lot of packaging companies in the area. "There are also a lot of Dutch companies in the region," Sandra says. "When we were over in the summer, we spoke to a lot of companies to gain information and tips. On top of that, Richmond is on the East coast, which makes communication with the Netherlands easier."
In the Summer Joost, Sandra and the children went to America for a few weeks to explore their new home. After that, their conclusion was that Richmond was a great city. "It's a warm city, with lovely people. We feel very welcome which only affirms our decision to move to Richmond", Joost says.
Family business JASA starts a new chapter in America
When it comes to packaging innovations, Europe is still the front-runner. However, the innovations in the United States are rising as well, and they are working hard to modernize and improve their factories. JASA sees this as an opportunity to bring their products to the States directly.
"We already have business in America and have had that for years," Sandra explains. "We have three dealers that sell our vertical packaging machines. We will keep supporting these dealers. Two of those were present at a large packaging exhibition in October in America and Joost, and Wim flew out to America to support the dealers."
The step to set up the American branch was a good reason to enter the Oranje Handelsmissefonds competition, which JASA won. Together with ten other Dutch companies, they will get a year of extra support and guidance while setting up their American business.
"It feels like a very natural next step to go to America," Sandra says. "I think it's very special to continue the company in this way and to build something new in America. Of course, there is a lot of support, guidance, and knowledge to help us coming from the Netherlands and that gives us a lot of confidence and faith. But it's still an exciting new chapter. On top of that, it helps that we can say that we're a family business, that opens a lot of doors in America."
"The decision to go to America was made very quickly," Sandra says. "Because we're going ourselves and the machines are shipped from the Netherlands we could keep the investment low and have complete control over the American branch." On top of that, the size of the American market added more interest to the investment and the decision to go to America. "At the moment a lot is happening in America when it comes to automation," Sandra explains. "There's a lot of innovation and modernization happening, so this was the perfect time for us to go to America. Our R&D department stays in the Netherlands for now, that means all our innovations will keep coming from Europe."
A Dutch family business in America
"At first we were going to start working from a home office and look for an office building later," Sandra explains. "But we decided that we wanted to start right from the beginning. So we decided to rent a building after all. We're going to start as a sales office, and there will be demo machines in the office." At the moment Joost and Sandra are looking at an office and warehouse on Whitepine Road in Chesterfield, Richmond, VA.
In the Netherlands, people are used to flat organizations where communication is very open and direct. You can say anything to each other and everyone is allowed their opinion. In the USA this is structured in a hierarchical manner. "I think it's a strength bringing this Dutch mentality to America," Sandra says. "We have a very open, honest and direct way of communicating with each other. Combined with the fact that JASA is a family business, it's a combination people would love to work for and with."
It's a different way of running a company in America that they think a lot of people can appreciate and it's something Sandra and Joost are looking forward to: "We're looking forward to this new adventure, for ourselves and for JASA.