In 1969, the year man first set foot on the moon, Teun Stolze started a company that provided household maintenance in the field of electrical engineering. After three years, Bram van den Ende became his first employee, and Bram and grower's son Teun started working in the horticulture sector. Teun Stolze: "In the beginning, we had to work a lot of hours. In 1972, Bram became the first employee, and many were to follow. The garage soon was no longer big enough, and a work place was built in the garden behind the house."
Company founder Teun Stolze
Bram: "We performed electrical engineering work in the greenhouses, and automation was added later (with Priva). The horticulture industry looked very different back then. The air was manually controlled, and when the temperatures dropped, the heater was turned on. Because of this heater, it was discovered that CO2 is beneficial to the crop." Besides electrical engineering, water technique was added to it, and later the era of the climate computer arrived.
Bram van den Ende
Riding the wave
The fiftieth anniversary of Stolze is something to celebrate, and a good moment to look back at the - as Bram calls it - wave moment in the horticulture. "I remember going to work without making price agreements. You provided a service, and just sent the bill afterwards. Later we started making quotes - and got more competition. For a long time, price was the issue. On the one hand, price is still an important factor, but on the other hand, organization and quality take precedence."
During the past fifty years, the sector has had its share of problems, but there was a lot of solidarity during the tough years. Bram: "Although the times were difficult financially, we understood that when a client called that his climate computer broke down, there was no money for a new one. Sometimes, I installed a second hand computer in the greenhouse without requiring immediate payment of the grower. This helped him a lot, and without knowing, we had a success formula. The tide can turn quickly, because a few years later, this grower was bought out, and Stolze could do the installation work in the new company. It was - funnily enough - a great time because you are challenged, as an entrepreneur, to hold yourself together."
Bram: "I have done a lot of business with my heart." When asked about the highlights in all those years, he thinks deeply: "It is like climbing a slope. Only when you look back, you see how much you have climbed. I think it is remarkable that the people working in this company have been involved in the company for so long. No matter what their job - technicians, financial people, warehouse employees - we make each other stronger."
Bram, 64 now, is scaling back and will soon, with pain in his heart, say goodbye to the company. "The company is doing well, and it is a good moment to say goodbye during the current peak."
Carel van Ruijven: "We have grown along with our customers and suppliers. We have realized the greatest project by listening to the customer and finding the right technical solution. We have also experienced beautiful developments in process automation, production of switch panels, strings,and complete water units.
"I've been growing along with the organization since 1991, and together we have managed to realize a lot of technical challenges. It is great to see what we have been able to achieve working well together, and with both feet on the ground."
Niels van den Ende
Doing business with heart and head
Niels van den Ende also knows the company very well. "From the time I could walk, I've been with Stolze. I used to go along with my father (Bram van den Ende) to play in the work place. When I was sixteen, I started working in the company, together with friends, family, and good colleagues. Stolze is the common thread throughout my life. In the last three years I have joined the top, and help steer this 'giant ship', which has been and will be a huge challenge in the coming time.
"I am most proud of the people, both customers and staff. We have a good team of people providing the right solution for our customers. We have a lot of customers who do not doubt the quality supplied by Stolze, and have faith in us. Particularly in these busy times, we are able to properly manage/realize the projects and carry out the service. 'The people make the company' is an expression, and it is no different for us."
First project abroad
In the 1980s, they started with export projects. Theo Stolze, son of Teun Stolze, has been working with Stolze for over 30 years, and is responsible for the export department. He remembers their first project in Germany very well, which was a large project. Theo: "After that, everything went very fast, and now the export is half of the company's turnover. We now work with regular partners abroad (Germany, Mexico, Azerbaijan, America, and Canada) which can locally provide service to our customers, a good foundation for the future."