How it all started? From a dream, to a project...and eventually a business, WOMADE.
Two years ago I decided to jump into the unknown and follow wherever my gut feeling would take me. It took me awhile to say goodbye to my steady monthly income and the people I loved working with (some of them became and still are my best friends and one is the godmother of my daughter, Ella) — it was definitely the hardest, scariest and yet the best choice of my life.
In fact, one day I woke up and decided it was time. I decided that I couldn't take the future for granted and postpone my dreams for "later", for "when I'm ready", for "a better timing"...I realise there is no "perfect timing" to follow one"s dreams. It was the day I realised my fears would never go away, and I can't be "fearless", such thing does not exist. Fear is normal, genuine, human. What wasn't normal was living through it, making life decisions with the famous "what if" in mind.
"What if I fall...well, what if you fly darling?" That was it. I decided to decide, to take the risk, to perhaps fall...but then get back up again. Isn't how we actually learn to walk? By falling, getting back up again, falling again, and so on.
Actually, my initial idea was to create a concept store. Being passionate about art, I used to spend a lot of time visiting art galleries but I always felt like an unwelcome visitor; to me, it looked like those spaces where reserved to rich, white man and women in expensive clothes looking at paintings from artists with always the same background. I wanted to create a space where I could display artworks from different artists, switching themes every couple of months, and so the idea of the concept store was born.
I started dedicating every moment of free time I had to this project and I was mostly doing it while sitting in cafes in Brussels. However, in addition to the fact that it was getting very expensive, I didn’t like being by myself all day. I wanted to share my ideas with other entrepreneurs and I thought a good way to do that would be to try a co-working space. Unfortunately, at that time, I couldn’t find one that fit my needs: they all felt like big offices, where meeting people still wasn’t natural. After trying out different spaces for a while, I realised I was craving for something that hadn’t been created yet: a quiet and comfortable space where I could meet with and talk to other women. At that time I didn’t know that female co-working space where starting to spread, but after some research I found out that I wasn’t the first person to get an idea like this one. Women where carving out their own spaces all over the world, even though it was still a very niche idea.
Why all female?
“Something happens when you’re just between women and it’s very difficult to put into words, it’s a feeling.”
This is what I answer when I'm asked "Why did you decide to make it all female?"
Because of the synergy. And because Sisterhood works.
But also because, still today, being a female entrepreneur and freelancer is being part of minority. And as all minorities, we need a space for us, we need representation!
The struggles I had as a child, always feeling like I was in competition with other girls, made me avoid women for a big part of my life. It took me some time to realise that we have been turned against each other by a society that, for centuries, compared us based on our beauty and ability to find a husband. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and WOMADE is also a way to prove anyone who thinks this way wrong. It is a way to heal from the suffering I experienced in my childhood, a way to prove that sisterhood does exist and that magic does happen when we are among us in a safe space.
Finding the *perfect* space
Finding the perfect space felt like a looooong "Finding Nemo" movie. I've visited so many places during one year and a half that I could had become a real estate agent. There was always something missing: the natural light, the beauty, the inspiration, the budget...
But the, there it was, on June 2nd 2020, in the middle of a pandemic and two lockdowns, I met with the magic space, and it was love at first sight.
Designing & giving life to the space
It might sound cliché, but I was immediately inspired by the beauty of space, and I had a very clear vision on how I wanted to give life to the space the moment I walked in. I guess, wanting to initially study interior design and not being able to, was a kind of "revenge" and great pleasure after years of frustration and regrets.
What was a challenge, nevertheless, was having only one month to design thinking, finding and ordering the furniture...in one month, moreover in August 2020 (do I really need to elaborate why?). Why only in one month you say? Because I visited on June 2nd, convinced the banks to follow me by June 30th, signed the lease on July 24 , and having to immediately pay my rent...I clearly didn't have much time to wander.
Some pictures of the process...
And WOMADE as it is today (sometimes I feel like 'can someone pinch me please?!')
What I've learned over the past year
Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is not taking the risk or not trying (again).
I don't have all the answers, and that's ok, I don't have to.
Not everyone likes you (or is going to like you), just as you don't like everyone.
What other people think (of me), it none of my business.
Staying focused is not ignoring what's happening around me, it's forgetting why I've started.
To give my best, I need to rest.
It never gets comfortable, and that's ok. It means I'm keep growing, still.
You can't go wrong by living authentically, with passion.
, and everything will fall into place.
3 quotes that have always helped me
I love quotes, and I love self-development books. It's why I wanted to have a landing library at WOMADE. During my last 6 years, I've came across many good books that helped me grow and become who I am today. So here are three of them (it was hard to choose them):
"No one queues up for a flat rollercoaster."
"Fake it till you make it."
"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
A special thank you to...
Thank you to all the beautiful and noisy cafés that made me go look for a quiet place to work...
Thank you to all the coworking spaces that didn't fit my solopreneur needs and made me crave a place like WOMADE...
Thank you to all the inspiring women I met and made me feel less alone and want to be surrounded by them and their energy every day...
Thank you to all the women that hurt me in the past and made me want to prove myself, my daughter and the world that sisterhood exists and works...
Thank you to the man behind WOMADE, the father of my daughter, my best friend, the person who unconditionally believed in me since day one...
Thank you to the first #womades who joined me in this crazy journey, you're the founding members and you'll forever have a special place in my heart...
Thank YOU for reading this article, for your curiosity, for your support.
Want to learn more about my journey?
Online Article: "A conversation with the founder of WOMADE, female co-working space in Brussels" — We Love Brussels
Press Article: "Womade, le coworking bruxellois où on bosse entre femmes" — FLAIR
Cover Interview: « Entre femmes, on parle le même langage » — Crédialogue
IGTV: Le Temps d'un Café, par Alouane Design