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Greenhouse celebrates National Women’s Day in style
9 November 2021 | All locations
In Belgium, we don’t only celebrate Armistice on 11 November, but also – for the 49th year in a row – National Women’s Day. The goal? To highlight the sense of solidarity among women. This year, too, we’re talking about the power of female entrepreneurship.
We asked three Greenhouse co-workers about their experiences as female entrepreneurs. Curious what these powerhouses had to say? Feel free to read along…
Good morning, dear co-workers, would you like to introduce yourselves?
Veresjka: Hi, I’m the founder of Unique Identity, a consultancy that focuses on people experience (candidate & employee experience), employer branding, recruitment and selection. Today’s heated job market makes it difficult to attract and retain qualified employees – and that’s exactly where I step in.More about Unique Identity
Why did you choose a life of an entrepreneur?
Veresjka: It’s a classic, but for a reason: the freedom you get as an entrepreneur is priceless. And I’m not just talking about choosing your own working hours. For me, it’s about defining your own strategy and vision, implementing values and designing workflows. But being able to say ‘enough for today’ on a Friday afternoon is also an advantage, of course! (laughs)
‘Nobody’s imposing anything on me, I have complete freedom, and I don’t have to deal with the pain points in the labour market – except to try and fix them.’
Lesley: I grew up in an self-employed family, so I had a very realistic idea of what it meant to be self-employed. I knew that not everything is bright and sunny, but I also saw how much my parents enjoyed their job – despite certain struggles. I also felt that by the time I was 40, it was getting harder to accept certain management decisions – and I got Wouter’s wonderful product thrown into my lap. Well… then it was not difficult to choose.
‘I got a beautiful product thrown into my lap and immediately saw that this was a huge opportunity. That was all I needed.’
Frederika: In 2003, I found myself in collective dismissal, after ten years in paid employment. Before my dismissal, the idea of becoming self-employed had been quietly brewing, but I did not dare to take the step. But after my dismissal, I couldn’t help but question things…
‘It had always been slumbering, but I needed a little push. After that, it was clear: this is me and this is what I want.’
What was your biggest fear before the take-off?
Veresjka: Often people become entrepreneurs because they learned it from their parent. I don’t have that at all – I’m the first in the family – and it is sometimes challenging not to have a safety net. In addition, ‘doing it on your own’ is also quite tough at times – and sometimes it still bugs me that I don’t have a partner to check things out with.
Lesley: Gosh. We know from research that entrepreneurs tend to minimise risks and are often too optimistic. I can relate to that (laughs). I actually didn’t hesitate – and just jumped once I had tested the product for the first time.
Frederika: I’m rather risk-averse. So the financial uncertainty worried me a bit. I found it very difficult to determine how to get a fair salary, how to keep everything in line in the long run, how to sell your rate, what to do if you’re ill and can’t work, … Fortunately, there are good training courses and information sessions on this subject – which proved indispensable for me to find the necessary tools!
What was your most beautiful professional moment?
Veresjka: For me, it is really the little things: a candidate who thanks me enthusiastically, a client who keeps coming back, my personal circle who compliments me… The reason why I started was always to make other people happy and satisfied. When I can see that one on one, that is the biggest success for me.
‘People have become tougher on the market. The moment I see a customer warm up to me, see them become more enthusiastic and regain their humanity.’
Lesley: Whereas at the start of our company in 2014 we were still often shouting in the wilderness, I now notice that organisations are becoming more aware of the added value of evidence-based analytics in their approach to Talent Management. Especially in a job market that is overheated as it is now, making informed decisions regarding talent is an absolute necessity.
‘After the corona crisis, we saw a boost in the interest of organisations in our services. It took a long time, but that moment was priceless.’
Frederika: For me too, it is not just one moment, but several. When I receive positive feedback, for example, or when a client gives me a new assignment. Those are the moments that confirm me in my decision to become self-employed. In addition, my very first client is still there, which also gives me great satisfaction and validation.
‘My very first customer, from when I started in 2003, is still there. Such long-term cooperation – and the accompanying feeling of appreciation – is worth its weight in gold.”
Who’s your role model?
Veresjka: I never really had any role models, not even as a teenager. You meet so many people in your life and they all teach you something. It would be a shame to have to select just one, while there are dozens of people who have inspired me – in all sorts of ways…
Lesley: My dad, an entrepreneur from the analogue period, gave me the final push to jump. He didn’t really understand what we were doing (laughs), but enthusiastically advised me to just go for it. Priceless!
Frederika: On the entrepreneurial side, my father’s parents. My grandmother had a shoe shop and my grandfather delivered shoes – and all that while caring for twelve children. That really reassured me: if they could manage it… then I could manage it too. (laughs)
What did entrepreneurship teach you on a personal level?
Veresjka: It’s stronger than us – and a natural reflex – but stop looking at the success of others. Don’t compare yourself with competitors, but remember what you stand for and how hard you worked for it.
‘Stop looking at the success of others.’
Lesley: That you can do much more than you think. You have to understand what you are doing, what you have to do, what you are missing – and what you still need. You learn so much, also in terms of seeing and seizing opportunities, and daring to approach people. I would say: ‘if you are not a daring person, then entrepreneurship is not for you’.
‘If you don’t dare, you don’t win.’
Frederika: The importance and indispensability of self-care. Make sure you are kind enough to yourself, dare to set limits and take a day off regularly. As a self-employed person, you often have the tendency to put the customer first and yourself second. There is nothing wrong with going all out, but allow yourself the necessary relaxation, because you really deserve it.
‘Be kind to yourself, dare to set limits and take a day off once in a while. You deserve that.’
How do you experience being a woman in a rather masculine entrepreneurial landscape?
Veresjka: In my sector, HR, the difference is not so striking – but when I work at Greenhouse Mechelen, I do notice that there are almost exclusively men there. Personally, this does not bother me, but I do notice that men are often taken more seriously. Women are more likely to be labelled as ‘soft’ and ‘fluffy’, while we are equally capable of running in the (same!) entrepreneurial world.
Lesley: The HR business is rather a female business anyway, so I can’t say that I feel ‘treated differently’. Of course, I do notice the difference between my working method and that of my colleague Wouter: where he’s more inclined to take risks and make leaps, I would sometimes rather think about it a bit more.
Frederika: This is not really noticeable in my sector either – although in Greenhouse I do see the difference. I don’t really know why, I find generalising and assuming rather dangerous… but I do wonder how you take maternity leave as a young self-employed woman, for example. I was already a mother when I took the plunge, but I find it hard to imagine what I would have done as a mother who had just given birth and was self-employed. That’s another point of work for the government, I think…
What is your golden tip for doubters?
Veresjka: Prepare yourself not only mentally, but also administratively and financially. Dare to make the financial picture – and ask advice from entrepreneurs in your area and network. And can you work part-time? Then start first as a self-employed person in a secondary occupation – to find out if and how it suits you.
‘If possible, get a taste of entrepreneurship through a secondary profession before jumping in for the full 100%.’
Lesley: First of all, make sure you are not doing it alone – and surround yourself with complementary people who support you. In addition, make time free to work on your business: think about strategy, make a selection of tools, … Be sure that you are not only busy operationally, but also have a view on the future and the bigger picture.
‘Make sure that you can free up enough time to work on your business – and not just in it. That difference is insane.’
Frederika: Just try it, find assignments you like to do, find clients you like to work with and surround yourself with other entrepreneurs in whom you believe and who believe in you. Dare to make choices and never think ‘I must do this now’. Because if something doesn’t suit you, why would you keep doing it? That’s just the bit of freedom that we as entrepreneurs find so important…
‘Just try it, dare to make choices and stay true to your own values.’
Why did you choose co-working – and more specifically, Greenhouse?
Veresjka: Greenhouse really appealed to me because there are three hubs that you can choose between. That’s super cool to meet my candidates flexibly, but still professionally. I myself make use of the day passes, which fits in perfectly with my flexible working weeks: I choose whether or not to go, whether to book a meeting room, and so on. The freedom of Greenhouse, combined with the chance to make social contacts with the other co-workers every day, is what I really love! You can have a chat with anyone here and there is a great vibe. Sometimes it gives me the feeling that I still have colleagues! (laughs)Have a chat with Veresjka in Greenhouse Mechelen
Lesley: Co-working seemed to us the ideal choice as a start-up with limited budgets. So our main reason was definitely practical, but we soon learned about the social benefits: you meet people every day who are struggling with the same issues and who you can learn from. In addition, the location of the hub in Brussels is fantastic, which is convenient for our customers.Get to know Lesley in Greenhouse BXL
Frederika: Co-working helps me to have a much clearer distinction between work and private life. I find the Greenhouse hub in Antwerp a stimulating environment that keeps me young. There is a positive working atmosphere and the infrastructure is also excellent, with plenty of daylight and ergonomic furniture. With my Greenhouse subscription, I not only take care of my mental well-being, but also of my physical health. And that brings us back to the self-care we talked about earlier! (laughs)Meet Frederika in Greenhouse Antwerp
More about our co-working spaces?
Curious about the place(s) where these entrepreneurs work – or looking for a flexible workplace yourself in Antwerp, Brussels or Mechelen? Don’t hesitate to contact us: we will gladly tell you what you want to know – and, if you want, we will give you a grand tour of the hub(s) of your choice. Ready to become entrepreneur of the year? We can’t wait to meet you…