It was exactly 11 years ago that Firma van Buiten started up in temporary anti-squatting accommodation on Jacoba van Beierenlaan in Delft. The social enterprise offering workplace training has grown tremendously in recent years. The time is now ripe for a new location, and one has been found in the southern part of the TU Delft Campus. Femke Kleijweg who founded the company with her sister Anne is looking forward to the move. “We want to be South’s living room.”

Kleijweg reflects on how Firma van Buiten started. “Anne and I were fairly young and impetuous when our adventure began. We started small, with the idea of setting up an ideal workplace training programme. Firma van Buiten provides training and work for people who have barriers to the workplace. They are a diverse group: people on benefits or with a personal care budget, people who receive young persons’ disablement assistance (Wajong), but also those on social rehabilitation programmes. We call them ‘participants’; by taking part in our workplace training they learn to work and are helped to integrate into employment. Although we had experience working in the hospitality industry, catering was new for us. We started by providing lunches for 10 people; that became 50, 150, … As assignments became bigger, the company became more professional. It’s good for our participants that we can offer them better and better jobs.”

The accommodation on Jacoba van Beierenlaan started to become less ideal for Firma van Buiten. Kliejweg gestures to the area around her. “We’re a bit tucked away here. So we went looking for another location. When we came across the TU Delft Campus, we immediately spotted opportunities: not only to connect the campus with the city, but also for our participants. They never visit TU Delft.”

“ I hope that we can be the connecting factor by offering good service, hospitality and delicious food in a fabulous place.”

Femke Kleijweg

Eigenaar

 Sharing concrete plans

It’s not enough to just have a place and an idea: they also needed a suitable building. The sisters found an ally in Henk Middelkoop, a TU Delft alumnus and architect at Kokon Architectuur & Stedenbouw. Femke explains that the firm of architects became involved in the design at an early stage: “We got to know Henk through Jong Management. When Anne and I went to talk about our plans there, Henk immediately said that Kokon would like to help us. That meant we could quickly share concrete designs with TU Delft.” Kleijweg emphasises the importance of a good design. “We were keen to work with recycled materials and circular construction as far as possible. When you mention recycled materials, people often think about old containers and scrap timber. But circular construction is obviously much more than that. Kokon’s designs helped tremendously when we were explaining that.”

Gigantic kitchen

Visibility is very important to Firma van Buiten. That is why its new premises have a spacious, light and airy hall in the centre with huge glass walls at the front and back. Visitors have a good view of the entire kitchen and all the participants. Kleijweg tells about it enthusiastically: “You’ll soon be able to see, taste and hear exactly what our people have to offer. Our kitchen is gigantic compared to other hospitality venues. But that enables us to train new participants, supply hospitality venues on site and do our catering jobs.”

The centre of the building will have a bar, reception desk and a take-away counter for anyone who would like to come and buy a sandwich, cup of coffee or a tasty treat. The right wing of the building comprises three conference rooms for meetings and presentations. The rest of the building is filled with support facilities such as a laundrette, toilets, offices and a staff room.

A meeting place for all our neighbours

People working in the southern part of the campus have already responded very enthusiastically. Kleijweg hopes that the building can become a meeting place for all their ‘neighbours’ in the area. “There isn’t anywhere like that at the moment. We’ve certainly had good contact with our neighbours already,’ says Kleijweg. “We’ve had fantastic contact with HollandPTC. They had a utility room with equipment they weren’t using. We were able to take it over and in exchange, we organised a staff barbecue. We have already arranged catering for Applikon; we recently had talks with Deltares and Exact and we are regular visitors to YES!Delft. It would be awesome if participants from Firma van Buiten could do hospitality/catering internships, or other internships, at one of these companies or at TU Delft sometime in the future.”

South’s living room

Firma van Buiten will be leasing the building for at least 10 years. This gives them prospects, but challenges too. The company’s work, participants and business model are continually changing, says Kleijweg. “We have to keep making adjustments. We’re obviously looking forward to all the developments in the area. The arrival of new buildings such as NEXT, the theatre, other new offices… More and more people will be visiting the area or coming to work here. I hope that we can be the connecting factor – South’s living room – by offering good service, hospitality and delicious food in a fabulous place.”

The new location in a nutshell

  • Design: Q1 2020
  • Construction: Starts Q2 2021
  • Completion: Q4 2021
  • In use: Q1 2022
  • 500 m2 GFA
  • 40 training and employment places
  • Circular
  • Social enterprise
  • Three different conference rooms
  • Take-away
  • Catering and events
  • Adjoins Heertjeslaan and Thijsseweg

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