Willy Naessens

EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Class of 2024, Belgium
Founder and Chairman of Willy Naessens Group

Share the joy of Willy Naessens’s winning moment at Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Belgium.

For English subtitles, click on the CC (closed captions) icon in the bottom right corner of the video.

Willy Naessens transformed his farming roots to multinational success within diverse vertical industries.

Willy Naessens is the son of a miller, and he worked on his father’s farm and attended school until he was 14. He began his career breeding chickens, and one day, a farmer asked Willy if he knew anyone who could build a coop for him. That was the start of a business conglomerate that today includes 55 companies and employs more than 2,500 people.  

Founded in 1962, the Willy Naessens Group acts as a family office managing four core business lines alongside its real estate and private equity investment portfolio. Build, Concrete, and Pools specialize in the construction of industrial and agricultural premises, logistics and distribution centers, offices and commercial spaces, and swimming pools, and Food focuses on food distribution and the production of ready-made meals. 

Willy strongly believes in the strategic importance of vertical integration, and the Willy Naessens Group controls the entire value chain of each business line in-house. The group has diversified by leveraging its business know-how in seven countries, and it is committed to innovation and research with a focus on sustainability, circularity and digitalization.  

The presence of three active generations creates a unique family culture and DNA that inform the Willy Naessens Group’s corporate governance model and its focus on long-term value creation. As a result, the group is managed with the strength and dynamism of an agile small business but within a professional support framework that rivals that of a large public company. 

The biggest assets of a company are not the machines, not the buildings, not the IP — they in fact are your employees.