"Among Women, We Talk the Same Language"
Womade Brussels is the first women's coworking space in the capital. It offers women an inspiring place to work, a friendly network and very good coffee. Its founder, Alba Pregja, turned to Crédal "for human contact".
On Womade Brussels' Facebook page, Alba Pregja quotes American entrepreneur Sam Altman: "[To avoid burnout], one [thing] that almost always works is to find work you like doing with people you enjoy spending a lot of time with." This advice sets the tone: Womade is, above all, about taking care of the work atmosphere and social contacts. From coffee to sofas, from Instagram posts to deep discussion, Alba has left nothing to chance. Because her project is also the result of a personal quest.
Womade is, above all, about taking care of the work atmosphere and social contacts. From coffee to sofas, from Instagram posts to deep discussion, Alba has left nothing to chance. Because her project is also the result of a personal quest.
It all started a few years earlier with an idea: Alba believes that classical art galleries too often look like dens for white men, from which one can feel excluded. She thought about the idea of opening a more open and democratic place, dedicated to young artists. But setting up such a project requires training, advice, and encouragement. Alba does not have an entrepreneur in her close entourage; she feels there are many obstacles. "I felt lonely. The guys were telling me: it's okay, go ahead, you ask yourself too many questions."
While looking for support, Alba met women who were going through the same doubts. And that's when it all clicked: "We speak the same language". The world of work, professional networks or the creation of companies are still marked by a masculine - sometimes macho - culture. In this context, female entrepreneurs, independents, and project leaders have a lot to gain by supporting each other. For Alba, what was missing was a place dedicated to them, where they could feel "at home". "It's not just a fad. We need to see the emergence of women's networks." The final trigger was the birth of her daughter and the feeling that, at some point, you have to align your actions with the discourses you build as a parent: "I said to myself: now we have to do it. I resigned my job and started the project."
A European movement
There are already about fifty female coworking spaces in Europe - including one in Antwerp. The concept meets a real demand and Alba did not struggle to convince the traditional banks to support it. The challenge for the woman who has always dreamed of being an interior architect was, rather, to find a place that would live up to her desires. No question of ending up in an office with grey carpeting and pale neon lights. Alba ended up finding a maison de maître with moldings and wood flooring, right in the middle of last spring's confinement. But instead of contacting her bankers again, she turned to Crédal. "Because it's a project with a societal impact. And that the contact was incomparable. I benefited from a sympathetic ear. I felt that they weren't just interested in profit. I came to Crédal for a loan, but I continued for the support and the attentiveness."
Alba finally found a maison de maître with moldings and wooden flooring, right in the middle of last spring's confinement.
With a total budget of 60.000 euros, Alba chose the furnishing and decoration of her coworking space, as if it were a house, with an additional space for shootings or recording podcasts. Womade Brussels opened its doors last September and already counts a dozen members, including a social media guru, a podcaster and an interior designer. "Ideas are already being exchanged," says Alba. She hopes to break even with coworking, but it is the rental of rooms and the organization of events that should enable her to generate profit - as soon as the Covid context is more favorable. Until then, she is excited to have already found the job she likes and the people she with who she likes to spend her time.
CÉLINE GAUTIER, Journalist
This text was first published in the October - December 2020 Edition of Entrepreneurs and Their Success Stories in Crédialogue