What does it mean to make it in the north? This is part of a series of portraits of local people, organisations, and companies working to further internationalise Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. This time we spoke to Ahmed Kamel, owner of pneumatic foam pillow company Alkamel, based in Emmen.
By Redmar Bosma
Ahmed’s company is based in Emmen, and makes and sells pneumatic pillows and cushions that are sold online and to hotel clients, under the name Medivisc. Though based in the Drents economic powerhouse, he grew up in Cairo in Egypt, and previously worked in Dubai. So, what brought him to the Netherlands?
“It is purely business, out there [in Dubai]. But here it is important that two people feel good about each-other on a personal level, and connect over a cup of tea a few times.” This more interconnected approach to business has meant that Alkamel is going from strength to strength: “I made a great deal with Hotel Ten Cate in Emmen. They tried my product and were very enthusiastic about it, so then made a big order. Soon, my pillows will be in every room!’
But what, exactly, is so unique about Alkamel’s product? Ahmed explains: “pneumatic foam has all of the benefits of memory foam, but with no draw-backs. I did a lot of research on using foam in pillows, and there is still a lot of improvement to be had in the sector: pillows often get too hot, become flat quickly due to being too soft, or are just uncomfortable. And, the foam often contains harmful chemicals.” Alkamel’s pillows and cushions, on the other hand, use pneumatic foam.
And being in Drenthe doesn’t harm Alkamel’s supply chain, either, as Ahmed says: “I have the machine that creates the foam in Emmen- and all the other materials, including the packaging, are made in the Netherlands.” It’s a fertile market too: “People want quality and that is what I focus on: in Egypt, for example, mass-produced products are bought more. There is another standard of living in the Netherlands.”
This isn’t Ahmed’s first business venture, either. In both Egypt and Dubai he also exhibited an entrepreneurial streak: “I have always been an entrepreneur, so I know how to start something up. Prior to this I worked with chemicals that are used in, amongst other things, nutrition and cosmetic products.”
Though a seasoned entrepreneur, Ahmed also enlisted Zero to One in Emmen to assist with his new business. “I have regular contact with people there: they are in the same situation as me. It’s nice to talk about the problems other entrepreneurs find, and to share our experiences.”
And the future? “Alkamel is growing bit by bit, so I will probably need staff later! Of course, it takes time to build a market, but I’m making progress.”
For more information about innovative start-ups in the Northern Netherlands, or to read about more companies such as Alkamel, and to find jobs in new and established companies, head to www.makeitinthenorth.nl