Photo above: Founder and Dopper owner Merijn Everaarts

Suddenly they were everywhere. On the table in meetings, in schools and on the train. Those distinctive water bottles. They’re an overnight global sensation. Thanks to inspired vision and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ international networks, Dopper is taking the world by storm. Drop by drop.

The man behind Dopper, Merijn Everaarts, remembers exactly how the seed was planted. 'I saw a television documentary about the plastic soup polluting our oceans. I was shocked and wanted to do something. I talked to people, held brainstorming sessions and made plans. We decided to organise a competition, asking designers to come up with a sustainable alternative to PET bottles. The design had to be practical and attractive. It had to be something people wanted to use. That’s how we came up with Dopper.'

'We want to motivate people and make them more aware of the link betweeen rubbish and water'

An engaging story and strong product

Dutch businesses that make it big internationally create new economic opportunities for our country. So entrepreneurs with an engaging story and strong product can count on support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ international network. Embassies, consulates-general and Netherlands Business Support Offices (NBSO) can help with positioning on the local market, supporting new and established businesses alike, whatever their size.

Serving both interests

For Merijn Everaarts, the Ministry’s helping hand became a productive partnership, serving both the Netherlands’ interests and Dopper’s. ‘Dopper is the sustainable alternative to those countless disposable plastic bottles that end up in the ocean every day. We want to motivate people and make them more aware of the link between rubbish and water. We realised that our vision reflected many of the Ministry’s international themes. Especially responsible water management, which is something the Netherlands excels at. Dutch companies are applying their knowledge and experience to help countries and regions the world over.'

'Our bottle is also a great example of Dutch design, a recognised and much-loved global brand. And it’s another theme Dopper and the Ministry have in common. When I first speak with new foreign contacts about Dopper, it’s always about two aspects. We start by talking about the sustainable idea behind the bottle. But our contacts are always interested in the design, too. So it’s the perfect opportunity for us to emphasise the quality of Dutch design.'

'I had this perception of the government that only helped major multinationals like Shell and Unilever. I was totally wrong'

Eye-catching campaigns

'We want to engage people through Dopper and make them aware of their wasteful behaviour. A standard, run-of-the-mill approach doesn’t work. That’s why we decided to win the hearts of new cities and countries with eye-catching campaigns. In San Francisco we made a huge wave out of rejected plastic bottles. People could stand in it and have their photo taken. We organised other high-profile activities as part of the same campaign, all with the help of the Consulate-General in San Francisco. We got a lot of attention from the press. ABC News did an in-depth piece on Dopper and the danger to the environment of PET bottles. 500ml PET bottles are now banned in National Parks in California, and a ban on street kiosks selling them is about to come into effect. That’s an amazing success story.'

As a small business owner

'We’re taking a similar approach in other countries, making waves and grabbing attention with eye-catching campaigns. We have our own Dopper representatives in every country, telling our product’s story and organising campaigns. Having people on the ground is really important and a key factor in our success. But you also need people there to open doors for you, access networks and contact the right people. That’s why I got talking with Dutch consulates and embassies.'

'I was sceptical to start with. I had this perception of the government as a slow, unwieldy organisation that only helped major multinationals like Shell and Unilever. I was totally wrong. My ideas changed completely when I met the people at the embassies and consulates. You’d expect an entrepreneur to be committed to their own business and plans – but so are they. In country after country they helped me – a small business owner – with their local knowledge, advice and contacts. Very actively. And effectively. For example, I met my distributors and manufacturers through them.'

'Another good example is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. We knew that it was instrumental to get on good terms with the Tourism Office there. If you’re not, you won’t get a permit to organise public events. As an unknown business, our chances didn’t look good. But it makes a real difference if you have people from the consulate behind you. We got the permit, thanks to the efforts of the consulate in Rio. It enabled us to take the next step.'

From dream to international business

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ international network provides entrepreneurs with up-to-date information about countries, markets and organisations, putting businesses in contact with the right people – local government, service providers and suppliers. The network provides access to funding and promotes the interests of Dutch business abroad. Dutch embassies and consulates are at the heart of this network. Netherlands Business Support Offices (NBSO) have been set up in regions where there are particularly good opportunities for Dutch businesses, but no embassies or consulates. In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) and the Chamber of Commerce can also advise you.