Netherlands | Social entrepreneurship

Vanhulley broadened and strengthened its organization

9 February 2024 10:00

At sewing studio Vanhulley, women with a distance to the labor market make the most beautiful new products from existing materials. Every Vanhulley is made with love and guts. A social enterprise is often founded to make a social difference. We take you along in their approach of doing business.

Vrouwen aan het werk in een naaiatelier


years in existence


women reached in 10 years


women start the apprenticeship program annually

The challenge

Vanhulley is a sewing studio. At its two branches, this social enterprise offers one-year apprenticeships to women in Groningen and Goirle. These women have a strong desire to participate in society, but have remained on the sidelines for reasons of mental health issues, or a language barrier. They have no professional qualifications and have been unable to find paid employment.

The solution

Together with the municipality of Groningen, Vanhulley offers apprenticeships to about 25 women annually. They (re)discover their talents, become language proficient, gain experience and skills, build their social network and receive an education. The women finish with a certificate, a plan for next steps and a good dose of confidence. Afterwards, they also work towards a stronger position in society and more opportunities on the job market.

Rabo Foundation’s role

Eleven years ago, Vanhulley began making new boxer shorts out of old shirts. With financial support from Rabo Foundation, the company shifted its focus to the business market in 2018. The move secured increased continuity and as VanHulley broadened its product range, turnover became scalable and more stable.

In a decade, VanHulley grew from a startup into a scaleup, necessitating a number of organizational changes. Job profiles and an HR cycle emerged. A core team was formed to determine strategy for the apprenticeship program and product sales. And founder Jolijn Creutzberg shifted her focus outwards and onto the further development of the company.

Vanhulley also made changes to key positions. And, on the advice of a consultant, had to let a number of employees go. A difficult step, but one that was necessary for growth. Thanks to digitization and automation of processes, Vanhulley now works more efficiently – providing more peace of mind, time, energy and financial savings. The social enterprise is thus prepared for the future and ready to make even more impact.

Jolijn: ‘This kind of external help is extremely important. A coach is able to look at different aspects of your organization with fresh eyes. My tip for other entrepreneurs: as founder, try to distance yourself and let go.’

Continuing to build on solid foundations

‘We see many startups growing,’ says Nynke Struik, Program Manager Netherlands at Rabo Foundation. ‘And growth poses new questions, as it did at VanHulley. For 2024, we have reserved even more budget to help entrepreneurs take their companies to the next phase, for instance through coaching on issues such as finance, processes and HR. We like to see entrepreneurs continue to build on solid foundations.’

Vrouw in naaiatelier

The products manufactured by sewing studio vanHulley are for sale online. On the website you can also read their story and read all about the program.