Dutch couple and business partners Joost Jong and Joyce van Ombergen-Jong first moved to Spain in 2008, intending to teach their native language to the locals. After the financial crisis hit, their plans changed and eventually they set up JongLeren.es, which helps (mainly) Dutch students to find internships in the Malaga area.
One branch of the JongLeren.es company is Malaga Business Bootcamp (MBB), a two-week programme in which groups of young Dutch students are tasked with helping Malaga businesses to develop and thrive whilst taking an intensive Spanish language course. About 150 students take part in the boot camp every year.
Last Friday saw the final presentations from the most recent iteration of MBB, wherein the groups laid their business plans out in detail and discussed the real impacts they had made upon local establishments.
One group, paired with Apartamentos Cervantes' bike rental shop, created an attention-grabbing new logo for their client, along with a frequently asked questions sheet with translations between Spanish and English, to aid communication between the shop's owner and his many foreign clients.
Another bike rental company, QQ Bikes, were presented with a slick new Instagram profile and advice on how to access the Dutch market more effectively.
Many of the local business owners attended the presentations, which took place at the Malaga business school, which is based in the Tabacalera, and praised the students for their help. It was soon made clear that this programme is not simply to improve the Dutch students' CV; it creates a mutually beneficial relationship. "We live in Malaga and we want to contribute to it," says Joyce during an interview with SUR in English. "Business owners get so much out of [the programme], an Instagram account, a new logo. Advice that they would normally have to pay for."
Over the past ten years, the couple have built up a strong network of local business contacts, so finding people for the students to work with is no challenge. Often, they needn't even ask, claims Joost: "We have a slowly growing list of entrepreneurs that want to participate."
The couple agree that the city of Malaga in particular is fertile ground for new business. "It's growing and it's innovative," explains Joyce. "There are lots of co-working spaces and startups in the area, whose leaders want to talk to students and pick their brains. They are young minds with new perspectives."
The MBB programme doesn't simply teach practical business skills, it allows European students to live away from home, cook for themselves and learn about a different culture. "There is less stress and expectation here than in Holland," says Joost. The couple estimate that about 80 per cent of the boot camp students return to Malaga within two years, be it for work or for holidays. "Students connect with the area."
The next step for the ever-expanding JongLeren.es is larger international participation. Though their student base is majority Dutch, MBB is conducted in English and is open to both students and non-students, worldwide. In fact, one participant at Friday's presentations was from Malaga itself.