Interview with Fosbury & Sons
“Let's put a smile on the face of business”
Stijn Geeraets and Maarten Van Gool, founders Fosbury & Sons
In the WATT Tower in Antwerp, LIFE has created a unique new type of office together with Fosbury & Sons. You will find about 400 workplaces spread over an impressive area of 5.600m². Digital nomads but also large companies such as Nike and Efteling ensure a fascinating cross-fertilisation and a brand new way of (collaborating).
How exactly did the idea for such a unique office as Fosbury & Sons come about?
Stijn — ‘I worked as a product designer, but my interests went far beyond product design: art, music, travel, film, connecting people… I wanted to bring together all things I was passionate about. On top of that, I was feeling enormously frustrated with my work-life balance, the whole 9 to 5 mentality, the daily commute and the often chilly atmosphere in offices. ‘Is this it?’, I often thought.’
‘Fueled by this frustration, I started a study. The figures I came across on burn- and bore-out, time spent sitting in traffic and absenteeism were hallucinatory. And so I started brainstorming about a whole new working environment.’
Maarten — ‘I had just started an events operation in a brand new business complex with catering facilities (De Hoorn) in an old Stella Artois site in Leuven. At a baby shower, Stijn and I ran into each other after . We used to room together and this time, too, we immediately clicked. Stijn told me his ideas and the synergy was immediately palpable. Two weeks later, we made sketches and a presentation of what we wanted to achieve in Antwerp in terms of a new place to work and live.’
“With Fosbury & Sons we are redesigning the working environment with the aim of achieving a better work-life balance and quality of life. Think of a warm homely atmosphere with the allure of a design hotel.”
Where and when exactly did Life come into that story?
Maarten — ‘With our sketches, ideas and presentation, we knocked on the doors of various authorities, including the City of Antwerp. We got a tip that the old Electrabel tower in the Albert Park had been sold and that LIFE had big plans for it.’
Stijn — ‘When we later walked into LIFE, we immediately felt there might be a click. Their office had the atmosphere that we had in mind for Fosbury & Sons. Serge Hannecart was also already convinced that traditional office walls had to disappear. He was immediately enthusiastic and suddenly everything became concrete. Interior architects Going East were completely on the same page in terms of vision and after one year of rebuilding and hard work, our dream finally became a reality. At the end of 2016, Fosbury & Sons opened in the WATT tower in Antwerp.’
What exactly is the unique concept you guys propagate and the added value compared to other co-working places?
Stijn — ‘Authenticity, humanity and a warm yet highly professional co-working atmosphere are key features of Fosbury & Sons. All this with the look and feel of a modern luxury hotel without being too polished. Members have access 24/7 and can therefore decide when to work. Everything is taken care of: reception, packages, receiving clients and so on. There are separate meeting rooms, a bar and a restaurant where Coffeelabs provides a daily fresh menu. Safety is also very important to us; by working with memberships, you can simply leave your mobile phone or laptop unattended. In a regular coffee bar, it’s not advisable.’
Maarten — ‘A special added value is the new network you build. We are open to all kinds of companies and entrepreneurs. Photographers, web designers, tax consultants, graphic designers, communication agencies, but also companies like Nike, Efteling, Vivaldis and Dyson have an office here. It is precisely by bringing different types of businesses together that we can create a platform for creativity and new insights. That cross-pollination is worth its weight in gold.’
‘The interior, the restaurant and the various activities we organise create an informal atmosphere where you can expand your network quickly, naturally and in a fun way. Working together in the same building also creates a bond of trust more rapidly. You are literally among your (potential) clients. This even ensures that an office here pays off for many people and lifts their business to a higher level in various areas.’
“The office is dead, long live the office.”
F&S has already celebrated its first anniversary. How do you look back on it and what are the important moments?
Stijn – ‘It has been a real adventure. It feels very special to live our dream in reality and to see people interacting here on a daily basis. For me, it is mainly the small, almost intangible things that make a big difference. Members who just happen to get talking and later work together on a project. It’s that kind of connection that gets me excited.’
Maarten – ‘There are also moments as when companies like Audi, Samsung, Sennheiser, Dyson and Lannoo contacted us to work together. For example, we now have Audi A4 cars available for members who have meetings elsewhere. And we recently started working with Café Costume on a tailoring service. Once a month, you can have your measurements taken and choose fabrics for a tailor-made suit. A unique concept that’s catching on.’
Stijn – ‘Meanwhile, there is also a collaboration going on with The Office Group in London. This allows our members to visit five London office buildings for free during their stay there. Members from London can in turn join us.’
What does the future hold for you two?
Stijn — ‘In Antwerp, we are working on the space on the second and third floors of the WATT tower. In total, there will be about 1.000 m² of additional space with room for offices for larger companies of about 30 to 40 people, an extra bar and sports studios. We want to build even more consciously on that optimal work-life balance in a beautiful environment.’
Maarten — ‘Also in Brussels, we are currently renovating a special building in a prime location in La Hulpe. It is a quirky building by architect Constantin Brodzki. Interior designers Going East are in the process of realising their designs. It will be worth the effort, the atmosphere will be completely different from that in Antwerp. In addition, there are two more Brussels projects to come. We are also exploring cities like Ghent and Mechelen, and we are having conversations abroad. The Hague, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona… We want to put Fosbury & Sons on the international map.’