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Carl van der Putten

Carl van der Putten studied Economics and specialized in Marketing. He graduated in 1988. Carl left his career at Procter & Gamble to become an entrepreneur and is CEO of JJ Footwear.

"Tilburg University has played a big role in my development. I learned that teamwork and leadership means to motivate others to do what you expect."

Why did you decide to study at Tilburg University?

“In high school I did not know what I wanted to study. I liked the economic subjects, so the choice for economics was obvious. After visiting the open days at Tilburg University, Nyenrode Business University and Erasmus University Rotterdam, I chose Tilburg. Partly because of the small campus I immediately felt at home.”

Who was your favorite professor and why?
“Professor Kolnaar, who taught general economics, was one of my favorite teachers. He was also a member of the Social Economic Council (SER) and an interesting man. He didn’t follow the books closely but spoke about current and relevant topics during his lectures. Will Reijnders, now a professor at TiasNimbas Business School, is also on my list of favorite professors. He taught retail marketing, an interesting combination of marketing and economic psychology which relates closely to the consumer. And I will never forget Adjunct Professor Ted Kumpe who worked at Philips and taught technical business organization. Organizational and production methods in different continents were taught. Because my job is a combination of marketing and technical business organization, this was very useful.”

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your student time?
“Together with classmates we founded the Marketing Association and organized conferences and lectures. The lecture about the success of Playboy caused a lot of commotion amongst the female students. The most memorable moment for me was surely the application process for the business course at Shell. I was selected for several other business courses but I also wanted to impress Shell. So I went to this interview not in my best suit, but in green pants and a green plaid jacket. I surely made an impression but it did not lead to success: I did not fit in the corporate culture…”

“Tilburg University is a very inspiring environment, with a lot of knowledge and skills available.”

What has your career been like?
“During my study period I went from general economics to business economics to marketing and also followed courses in the area of economic psychology. After graduating in 1988, I got an appointment at the marketing department at Procter & Gamble. At this multinational I had a nice career path mapped out, but in 1992 I decided to take over my father's shoe business, which was not doing so well at the time. He had always been there for us and I wanted him to enjoy a carefree retirement. I had always been drawn by entrepreneurship but this was purely an emotional decision. The business had developed with its customers, an aging consumer group not offering much future perspective, the market was small and the prices were under pressure. In 1996 I was able to take over a shoe factory eight times as big and until 2002, we produced in the Netherlands. With the arrival of the euro, the collapse of the Twin Towers and the declining economy, a number of difficult years began. I was more occupied with financial and legal matters and negotiation with banks than with production and marketing. Those aspects of entrepreneurship are not included in any study program. Fortunately in 1999, boots were back in fashion and in 2003 we introduced the concept of 'boots with different widths' A unique product that is breaking through in the international market.”

What are your future ambitions?
“For JJ Footwear I hope to position this concept worldwide and also make it a well-known brand in the United States. Personally, I would like to become financially independent so I can have time to share my experience and knowledge and assist starting entrepreneurs.”

What role did Tilburg University play in your life and how has it influenced your career?
“During my studies I had the opportunity to be very entrepreneurial. I was a board member of Integrand, I did internships, and founded the Marketing Association. As a student you can ask everything and there are no limits. Students from Tilburg University were and are still known for not having a big mouth, but having more content; that says something about the education provided. Tilburg University has played a big role in my life. I learned that teamwork and leadership means to motivate others to do what you expect.”

Does Tilburg University still play a role in your life? If so, in what way?

“I still have regular contact with Professor Reijnders and was member of the Advisory Board of Asset I Marketing for ten years. I think Tilburg University is a very inspiring environment, with a lot of knowledge and skills available. The region would like to make more use of this and there are several plans being developed, so that will certainly happen.”