'I enjoy Zwolle and want to give something back to the city'

Willem Uitentuis is a Zwolle native

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Talk to Willem Uitentuis about Zwolle, and one plan after another for the city comes up. This Zwolle native is the walking example of thinking in terms of opportunities. With his company NOZEBRA, he searches for innovation and brings people with innovative ideas together. "I enjoy Zwolle and its people immensely, this city has so much potential," he said.

Photo: BulletRay

"I was born in Koog aan de Zaan. When I was eleven years old, we moved to Zwolle. My father went to work at the Sikkens factory here. I hated that news. Zwolle was the other side of the world for me. I had never been further than the Veluwe. The day of the move is still on my mind. All my friends waved me goodbye. Zwolle took a lot of getting used to. Everything was different at school, people spoke a different language and I missed my friends. Still, I acclimated fairly quickly. And 49 years later I am completely intertwined with the city.

Rule bitch

That also has to do with my character. I make contact easily and am service-oriented. Not for nothing did I study at the Hotel School. I am a born control freak. I got that from my father. When he was 89, he still organized a rollator tour. I have also organized events myself for many years, including in the IJsselhallen. I love dreams and organizing them. That also fits very much with the Zwolle of today. In this city, especially nowadays, you can bring about innovations. You can really make strides together here.

Rethinking

I try to contribute to this with NOZEBRA. These days, among other things, I come up with creative concepts for real estate. I love the fact that I usually work in Zwolle. Precisely because I feel very much at home here, I want to give something back. I hope to leave something behind that is lasting, that will benefit Zwolle in the long term. This is partly why I embrace the sustainability goals of the United Nations [SDGs]. So more cooperation close to home, connecting and a lot of thinking around. That is also the idea behind my company name: NO ZEBRA the time of straight lines and black and white thinking is over.

Circular

The concepts in which I am involved are very diverse. With regional manufacturers of carpet and curtains, among other things, I am working on a circular project. The idea is simple: those companies have a lot of residual streams that are now being destroyed. On the other hand, many households have no money for upholstery in their homes. That scares you, also in Zwolle. Therefore, together with partners from the city, we are developing a plan, with which we can furnish homes with the residues of the manufacturers. Good for the people and good for the environment, actually very logical.

Photo: BulletRay
Photo: BulletRay

Solutions

With other parties, I think about the housing problem. Also in Zwolle the waiting lists are enormous. We develop temporary circular housing and look for suitable locations for it. These could be locations that will be rezoned in five or ten years, for example. Until then you can offer people housing. The functions of buildings are increasingly intertwined anyway. Why not create temporary housing in vacant stables, halls and offices? We really need to start thinking outside the traditional box even more.

Raw edges

I get inspiration from the way young people think. They seek each other out and forge collaborations that are not immediately obvious. They think creatively about contemporary challenges such as climate and circularity. This creates new ways of living and creating together. That is why it is important to give young people a stage where they can develop their talents. Zwolle is certainly open to that. You should not be afraid of innovation. Let it happen. Even raw edges eventually make a city more beautiful and fun."

The 3 favorite spots of Willem Uitentuis

  • "With a beer on the bench at café In De Buurt on Luttekestraat. I like to sit there. Everyone is welcome there and allowed to be who they are. Sometimes it's just cozy, sometimes the conversations are beautiful and special."
  • "Wandering around ZWINC on the former Philips site. For me one of the most inspiring locations in the city. ZWINC offers young technical talent a stage and opportunities to make Zwolle even greener, smarter, better and more beautiful with innovative startups."
  • With a cup of coffee on the steps at the Third Bredehoek, overlooking the [Thorbeckegracht](location://46527 """). I dream there and I keep office there. I can really land there. I feel like a Zwolle resident there and feel the history of the property and the city here. Pure love. "

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