SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.

 

SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.

READ THE STORIES

Bjorn Huysmans - Jacksonville, FL

Story Published in May 2016  | Interviews conducted in July 2015

Bjorn and his new family [“The Petra Clan”] welcomed me for a full week in July 2015 to document their lives. Each family member let me shadow them for a couple of days to really capture the essence of their Belgian American Life. This story is part of a multi-generational story. Please make sure to read all five stories!

SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.
SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.
The Start of his American Life

Bjorn is a fun and easy going man from Oud-Turnhout. He moved to Jacksonville, FL at the end of 2014 to be with Petra. They had met one summer before when Bjorn visited Florida with Petra’s second cousin. Bjorn supported Petra during her divorce. They started chatting together weekly, then almost daily. Petra started to visit him during her visits to Belgium and gradually, they became really close together.

A Test Period

Bjorn and Petra did not want to pursue  their relationship at first. They did not live on the same continent and they did not have the same lifestyle. Petra already had four children while Bjorn was a Bachelor. Yet very slowly, they realized that they didn’t want to be apart. So they decided to give their relationship a try.

 

In 2014, Bjorn took a leave of absence for six months to live with Petra and her family. “It flowed so well. We were stunned about how well Bjorn adapted to the family lifestyle! Bjorn really lived the single life in Belgium and had dinner at his parents’ almost every day. But everything felt in place so naturally. My children really liked him and accepted him almost immediatelyPetra marvels.

Getting a visa

When Bjorn found out how well he could fit in Petra’s life in Florida, he decided to relocate permanently in the United States. “Petra told me upfront that she could not sponsor me for a visa and I would need to get one on my own. That is when we started looking into applying for an investor visa.” Bjorn remembers. “Yet I had never owned nor managed a business and I had no idea if I could do it”. So Bjorn took a chance!

 

Bjorn and Petra weighted the options. The most important thing when you operate your own business is to love what you do. They knew that Bjorn needed an inspiring business idea that was also sustainable. They had their “aha moment” almost immediately: Bjorn had always loved driving. Actually, Bjorn loves the road so much that he plays driving emulators on his computer during his free time! “That is when we thought I could start a Limo Driving Service!” Bjorn smiles.

Fly Drive Rent

Bjorn and Petra started to read and study as much as they could about operating a business. They tested the demand for chauffeur services in St John, wrote a business plan and submitted it to the Department of Immigration. Bjorn got his Investor Visa in March 2015 and officially founded Fly Drive Rent. Fly Drive Rent bought its first vehicle as part of the initial investment required by the visa. “We wanted to offer a different fleet than the usual BMW or Mercedes cars that dominate our market. So we decided on the Audi A6” Bjorn says proudly. “You can drive it like a normal car but it shifts into a sports car at the push of a button. I LOVE it”. Bjorn showed me the acceleration potential of the Audi. I can testify that, in case of trouble, this car can teleport you to safety! I cannot say the same about the car-to-be-signed: my old Toyota takes more than 15 seconds to go from 40mph to 65mph!

A Week in Bjorn’s life

Bjorn is the owner and main chauffeur of Fly Drive Rent: needless to say that a week in his life is both very busy and diverse. Petra assists him in running the business, but Bjorn manages most of Fly Drive Rent’s front end. As providing Luxury Airport Transportation Service is at the core of the business, Bjorn can have unusual schedules. He often stays up till 2 am to get a client home from Jacksonville’s airport, goes to bed again, and then picks up another client at Saint Augustine’s airport at 6am. “I am sometimes surprised to be up and working certain days before my own relatives in Belgium” Bjorn jokes around.

 

Being in the airport transportation business requires being as punctual and precise as a Swiss clock. Flight arrival and departure times can change a lot, so Bjorn leaves the house an hour before the arrival time and follows the flight on a flight tracker to be accurate. When he is too early, he parks his car on the parking of the airport and watches a movie with the built-in movie equipment. He also makes sure to bring cold water and mint candies. “Luxury is not in gold materials, it is paying attention to every small detail that will make your client feel great despite an exhausting trip”.

 

Bjorn also goes to networking events to promote Fly Drive Rent. He is part of First Coast Business Builders in Jacksonville. First Coast is a networking group for entrepreneurs that support one another through presentations and B2B referrals. Bjorn gave them a presentation about Belgium and Fly Drive Rent while I was visiting. Bjorn and Petra made sure to bring home made Belgian waffles! They both really excel at being meticulous and adding small touches of kindness that go a very long way. By the way, everyone loved the waffles… and the presentation, of course!

A Working Vacation

Bjorn has always been a playful bon vivant. Operating a business is like taking care of a small child: you are never truly done. But Bjorn has no problem to pull out the plug to be in the present moment – maybe it is his Belgian Side.

 

Bjorn and Petra love to describe their lifestyle as a working vacation. “Some parts of our days are slow and there is nothing we can do about it, it comes from the industry we are in. So why worrying too much? We take advantage of the slower time during the day to have fun, enjoying a nice movie or cooking a nice meal. We take the time to live fully." Bjorn says before starting a water fight with Petra at the neighborhood pool. Spoiler: Petra hates water and had her revenge!

2016 Update

I visited Bjorn and his family in July 2015 while the business was a few months old. Last summer, Fly Drive Rent’s clientele had already flourished, but as of May 2016, it has been so successful that Bjorn and Petra are hiring new drivers and planning to extend their fleet!

 

Bjorn would love to acquire the Audi A8 (of course…); while Petra thinks a 15 passenger van would be a better asset for the company. Despite their easy going lifestyle, both Petra and Bjorn have been working really hard since the beginning of the year. Fortunately, as they now have only one child at home (Karlien) - as Nele & Maarten started college last August - they still clock in plenty of quality time for themselves!

Don’t miss out on the stories connected to Bjorn’s stories! Discover the documentaries on each member of the “Petra Clan”:

SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US. SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.
SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US. SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.
Support SignMyCar! Belgian Storytelling Tour

If you like this story and want to see more mini-documentaries on Belgians in America, please support SignMyCar! on our GoFundMe page!

SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.

Thank you to our sponsors!

Become a partner too!

© 2014 - 2017. Séverine Dehon Photography, LLC. All rights reserved.