Steinar Henskes had a ho-hum job selling cellphone subscriptions at a call center when it hit him. “I realized I wanted to be responsible for my own success and make my own dreams a reality instead of the dreams of my boss,” the 24-year-old Dutchman says.
Henskes left the call center to launch a distribution company for laser technology. There he learned that birds perceive certain types of laser lights differently than humans do; birds see them as a physical danger. “When the laser beams are moved toward them, they get scared and fly away,” says Henskes, a student at VU University Amsterdam. “I saw a big opportunity to develop my own products. So I researched the ultimate laser beams to repel birds, filed three patents on the technology and launched our first products.”
In 2012, Henskes sold his distribution company and founded Bird Control Group, which provides solutions to keep birds a safe distance from commercial activities. The company’s products are being used in 69 countries worldwide—including airports in Amsterdam and London—and were recognized by the World Wildlife Fund for their innovation, effectiveness and animal-friendliness.
In April, Henskes competed against 2,000 students from 38 countries at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s (EO) Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, held each year in Washington, D.C.
Henskes won the competition, $20,000 and access to the EO’s worldwide network of more than 10,000 business owners to help him continue his entrepreneurial endeavors. “The award symbolizes the next step we are taking as a business: scaling our presence in the U.S.,” Henskes says. The company plans to establish an office in Boston by the end of 2015. “I am currently living my dream—having a significant international business that impacts the world in a positive way.”
Henskes offers this advice to other student entrepreneurs: “If you haven’t already started a business, just do it! Even if it fails miserably, you will earn invaluable experience. If you already started, look for mentors and peers who are more experienced than you are. In order to overcome the challenges you’ll face, it is crucial you discuss it with experienced mentors.”