Titia van der Mark has worked in several different fields in her lifetime, but nothing beats running her own business – Livvitt BV – where she gets to pool her life and work experiences together for one super package. She gives insight into her world in this week’s Hot Seat.
Tell me about yourself; who is Titia van der Mark?
I am an entrepreneur that is spontaneous and creative. I hate the norm and I’m always looking to do things out of the box. I want to help the community and make a difference for Sint Maarten, and I will do so without being in politics. I swear I am going to make it happen.
How did you come to become an entrepreneur?
Born entrepreneurs just know it. From young, I felt restless in school. I wanted to do more and felt I was wasting time. I tried to be a housewife and that too did not suit my persona. Working for a boss was okay, but also not great – I had authority issues because I saw things my way and wanted to execute it as I saw fit. This, of course, did not work. Owning my own business was always a given, but I had a late start as I had to go through those stages of life. It happened when I reached back on Sint Maarten five years ago and started to work for Prime (Distributors). That was where I found my passion and acquired my first very wise business mentor which has led me to where I am today.
What type of business is Livvitt BV?
Livvitt does luxury signage, marketing, advertising, graphics and events. Livvitt caters to large and small businesses alike. Our foundation is based on customer loyalty from both sides of the spectrum, so once we have committed to handling your request for service, we will deliver no matter what. From a stamp to a branded umbrella, receipt books to banners, poster and flyers to a building rendition, we do it all for them.
What type of jobs did you do before Livvitt?
I worked at American Airlines; here I learned that timing is crucial. Divi Little Bay; I learned the value in good customer service and had the freedom to implement my ideas. The Daily Herald; I learned about advertising, but also was the creator of “In the Hot Seat”. However, the original name was “Sint Maarten check me out”. In Holland, I worked for an events company and learned the ropes of organising, executing and marketing events. Most memorable job was with Europol – I worked for the Serious Crime Department; here I learned intercultural management and helped in organizing European Member States Meetings to combat organised crime. Prime is where I found myself. This is where my love for brand marketing really took off.
How did you come up with the idea for this business?
Connecting the dots backwards: Everything Livvitt does currently is a result of past job experiences. The signage part of the company was a take over from a former company called Sxm Signs.
What was your goal from the start; and is it being achieved?
I wanted to be the first company on the island that a business could go to, to handle all their requests and as a VIP. It took a while for me to get there, as signage took up most of my time. And now, yes, I have finally achieved my goal. It is sometimes still shaky here-and-there with minor mistakes as with any business; but by 2020, Livvitt will be operating at full capacity, within all our services.
Where can we find some of the signs that Livvitt has created?
Carrefour, Roxxy Beach, Lotus, Rhythm & Booze, in Maho at Royal Islander Beach Club and Le Terrace, Sherwin Williams, Market Garden, Commodore Suites, Hospital and the Airport just to name a few.
What is unique about Livvitt?
Because of our marketing background, we view your business needs from that aspect and therefore the advice given is relevant and quite different to others. As you can see, we are not just another sign company; not only do we offer a full range of other services to elevate your brand, we offer so much more than other companies can offer. We actually have no competitors on island.
To what do you attribute the success of Livvitt?
Livvitt is a local company run by locals. We have families working within the company which make our customers’ experience very personal. We go the extra mile for our clients.
What is a typical day like for you at Livvitt?
We have weeks of everything going great. We also have weeks of things going wrong. The clients have no clue. It is very hectic and problem solving is often required, which I certainly have mastered.
What is your secret for moving your client from “regular” to “loyal”?
It’s the family affair. They trust us and we trust them. If they are not happy with something, we speak about it like adults and we correct it. We don’t stop until it is right and they are satisfied. We brainstorm to higher heights together.
How has being the owner of Livvitt made you a better person?
It has not been easy. It has made me into a much stronger person. Better things are coming ahead in the future as Livvitt is planning to give back to the community. Doing this new project for the youth of Sint Maarten along with the sports facilities is going to give me a real sense of purpose, thus achieving all what I feel I was destined to do.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Making my clients happy; bringing the customers’ ideas to life. Putting the smiles on peoples’ faces is priceless.
Most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?
That was a three-day event on Kim Sha Beach. My two besties and I organised that event. It took two-and-a-half days to set it up. The organisation and marketing were beyond anything we have ever done before. Results were truly magical.
How would you like people to remember you and your company?
A company that has a heart for our people; that gives back to the community; that’s Sint Maarten owned. Tis we own thing! We have our hearts in the right place; it’s a company that has the answers to all your business needs.
Besides money, what is your favourite way to reward your workers?
To be honest, we have not done much of this and I really should be doing so much more for them. They are great. We have been going non-stop since Irma. I do force them to go on a vacation – Lol.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Handling our first project abroad – which was Carrefour Curaçao. Furthermore, we have hit every big project deadline on time.
What is the most outrageous request a client has ever made?
Haha… I had to make a 3d Front light F#@K Sixty sign.
If you could be anything else other than an entrepreneur, what would you be and why?
A lifelong back packer and travel the world. In business, you take life way too seriously. You tend to keep going and forget to make time to enjoy life. I love to travel, but have not done much of that in the past four years.
What keeps you busy outside of Livvitt?
My lovely daughters, family BBQ’s and I love to dine out.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Just chilling at home on the couch watching a movie; I make sure my home is my sanctuary.
What advice would you give to someone now starting out in a business?
Get mentally prepared for the challenge. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. You will get obstacles, it means you need to take another look and maybe change your approach. Or it’s time to fix the problem. Read or watch Think Rich Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. You will save lots of time trying to figure out the remedy that works. It’s all about energy. Filter your friends or whoever is negative out of your life. This you will do a few times during your venture. Meditate! Surround yourself with likeminded people. Find an experienced business mentor. Trust your vision and follow the process. Listen to the universe. It speaks! Listen to your own gut. Don’t listen to everyone’s advice. Don’t ever give up without a fight.