Owner Merel Disselkoen (1976) is an enterprising woman and founder of Townshipsmile. A wife to a wonderful husband and a mother to their four children.  She has a great passion for Africa, nature and everything that is pure. As a finalist for the FOTY Awards 2018 she made the following 1-minute pitch.

Main lesson
Being able to say on your deathbed that you have lived life to the fullest and that you have made your life special, not only for yourself, but also for others.

If you can dream it, you can do it!

Finest career moment
Seeing with my own eyes that Maria, a lovely lady who teaches and coaches the team that produces the African style bracelets we sold before, had finished her house, paid with the money she earned with the bracelet production.

Most beautiful mother-moment
The spontaneous kisses from my children, just in an unexpected moment,… priceless.

My guilty pleasure
Eating a big bar of chocolate, preferably at once … 🙂

I wish I was better at
More moments of doing nothing, I’m always busy.

What did my mother taught me
Hugging and independence.

What gives me energy?
Running with Spijker, our dog.

Sunday morning ritual
Sunday breakfast with my family, warm croissants, fresh orange juice, eggs from our own chickens and to take all the time in the world, having breakfast around the table. Thereafter, a good walk in the woods together as a family.

Cruyff Court in South Africa
‘In 2004 and 2005 she was asked by the Ndlovu Care Group and Johan Cruyff Foundation to live and work in South Africa to coordinate the construction of
a large sports complex, including the first Cruyff Court in township Elandsdoorn in South Africa.

‘Africa felt like my second home and I met many people with talents that they could not use because of lack of money and opportunities.’

Dream job
Back in the Netherlands she got a good job at the KRO (Dutch television) but after a couple of years she decided to follow her heart and write her own detailed dream job down. This resulted in the start of Townshipsmile with which she successfully sold jewelry, bags and laptop sleeves from South Africa to both the retail sector and end users. Merel builds a bridge between people here and people there and uses the talents of the people in Africa. Their pride, age-old craftsmanship and personal story is unprecedentedly beautiful.

Gradually the collection has shifted to Exclusive African home decorations. With this, Merel provides Interior Designers, stylists and private individuals with African eye catchers and thus serves a more exclusive target group. “The interesting thing is that I deal with many more different cultures and artisans then before and that I don’t have to think in large quantities but allow myself to buy a unique pieces that I run into, so to speak.” A few times a year she travels to beautiful Africa, in search of the undiscovered treasures of this magical continent.

More than 30 trips to Africa
‘My knowledge and entrepreneurship didn’t come from a study or some books, but grew from my heart and my passion for Africa.
During the more than 30 trips I have made to Africa, I have made important and special contacts and gained experience that is of great value for Townshipsmile.

If I can believe others, I radiate a certain authenticity, honesty and genuine interest. And that’s how it feels inside. I like to find the adventure, solo but also with my beautiful family. I see or seek opportunities and I know how to deal with people from nobility or from the workplace; just being myself; spontaneous, interested and sometimes clumsy and awkward.

For outsiders it may seem that many things come to me just like that and that everything goes naturally. Nothing is less true, but I understand their feeling. You will never hear me complain about too little sleep, the bad weather or that something is too much trouble for me. Simply because I find complaint so futile and it doesn’t help me further.

Entrepreneurial spirit
I have inherited the entrepreneurial spirit from home. My mother was a born entrepreneur as founder and owner of a successful wholesale in wooden gift items. Within my own company, besides the import of African interior design I also give shape to my strong need to make a difference to this world by giving lectures during network meetings with the following pay off:

If I can dream it, I can do it!

I believe in this saying. It has brought me where I am now in life, as a mother, wife and businesswoman. ‘