Belgium, specifically Flanders, has a long tradition of self-employed people and small or medium-sized enterprises. Established more than 100 years ago, UNIZO (Organisation for the Self-Employed and SMEs) is the largest Flemish organisation for self-employed entrepreneurs and champions the interests of these entrepreneurs.
UNIZO has over 82,000 members including craftsmen, service providers, liberal professions, companies in the commerce and distribution (retail) sectors as well as 423 local branches (one in every municipality, managed by volunteers). Most of them are located in the northern and Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (region of Flanders and Brussels). We champion the interests of SMEs during every phase of the development of the company, whether prior to the establishment of the company or of a company that operates in the international market.
Here you can find a Powerpoint Presentation in English about UNIZO.
Small and large
UNIZO has 1,000 permanent employees and approx. 3,500 entrepreneurs who voluntarily commit to working for the organisation. Our 83 associated professional sectoral organisations are active in a.o. construction, agro-food, textiles, the metalworking industry, distribution…
UNIZO specifically targets self-employed entrepreneurs, who own and manage an SME (small to medium-sized enterprise with less than 50 employees). The majority of our members employs between 2 and 10 employees.)
Defending your interests
Our mission is two-fold: representing and defending the interests of entrepreneurs at all decision-making levels on the one hand - while influencing decision-making, legislation and taking part in social negotiations -, and in society on the other hand. Read more about this here.
But UNIZO is much more than that: the organisation provides information, advice, training and specialised services in social, business, tax, legal, environmental/security and industrial relations areas. Members can make use of certain paying services such as accountancy, social secretariat, insurance company, occupational health service, assistance in request permits etc.
The organisation informs members of important changes in the world of entrepreneurs through its trade magazine, newsletters and guides. In 1997 UNIZO also developed KMOnet, a b2b portal for UNIZO members where they can request information and use the virtual office.
Training is also an essential part of UNIZO's mission. Every year local branches organise hundreds of activities tailored to meet members' needs, with regard to sectoral knowledge, starting up a company, raising awareness, etc.
Another important aspect of UNIZO's mission is networking of entrepreneurs (during meetings, in training sessions or in commercial activities). UNIZO encourages these contacts through its local branches, which set up diverse activities, where members can meet. These include OVO projects, SME Contact sessions etc. as well as the Day of the Customer, local fairs, etc.
Big in Belgium
Although UNIZO mainly targets entrepreneurs in Flanders and Brussels, it defends their interests at federal Belgian, European and even international level. UNIZO members are represented by delegations in, among other things, commissions, industrial relations consultations and advisory bodies, at local, provincial, regional, federal and European level for the various business sectors (agriculture, industry, construction, distribution, the professions and the service industry).
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DAG VAN DE KLANT
Every year UNIZO organises the UNIZO Customer Day: an excellent opportunity for customers to discover enterprising Flanders and for entrepreneurs to thank their customers for their loyalty.
The objective of this event is to emphasize the social-economic and social interest of self-employed entrepreneurs in Flanders. SMEs usually treat their customers to a flower or some chocolates in lieu of thanks.
When starting up a business as a young entrepreneur, there’s a lot to learn. You often have more questions than answers. Sometimes the success of your business will even depend on the speed with which you find these answers. The UNIZO godparent project assists young entrepreneurs in finding these answers.
Ten times a year UNIZO organises small workshops with up to 20 participants, which bring together experienced entrepreneurs and young start-ups. An experienced entrepreneur is appointed as your godparent. At the beginning of each session an expert will provide a short explanation about an issue such as financing, IT, how to deal with customers, coaching of staff etc. Afterwards you can discuss everyday practical issues with your colleagues-entrepreneurs or ask your godparent or coordinator for advice. Every meeting ends with a reception, thus providing an additional networking opportunity.
The most important benefits are:
1. you avoid pitfalls and learn how to deal with obstacles
2. you receive information that is applicable to your company
3. you make business contacts
Z.O. Magazine is the SME business magazine that is published by UNIZO. The magazine comes out every fortnight on Fridays. With a verified circulation of 91,656 copies Z.O. Magazine is by far the largest specialised SME Magazine in Belgium. The UNIZO editorial team provides the content.
Z.O. Magazine is the most profitable medium that is aimed at self-employed managers in Flanders, both regarding coverage and selectivity. According to the last Press Range Study carried out by CIM (Centre for Information about the Media), Z.O. Magazine has an average of 108,100 readers per edition and 209,200 readers in total. About 72.4 percent of its core target group is loyal readers and 86 percent read the magazine often to always.
Z.O. Magazine covers 19.6 percent of all executives in Belgium and 30.4 percent of all owners, partners and managers of SMEs in Flanders. After four inserts in Z.O. Magazine one even covers 42 percent of this target group.