hub heroes

Portraits of a city’s success stories

We team up with hub.brussels, Brussels’ Business Support Agency, and shine a light on 50 of the Region’s start-up success stories driving the capital city’s economic landscape forward. From the eco-conscious manufacturer to the technology-enabled post-production imprint, our 50-strong selection of portraits and interviews plays testament to the Region’s dense and dynamic culture of entrepreneurship.

Wonderloop

Wonderloop

Héléna Van Aelst

What would be your two-minute elevator pitch?

Wonderloop is your new cosy, eco-friendly and ethical slow fashion boutique in the heart of Brussels. We offer casual chic fashion and accessories for both men and women. You’ll find a unique selection of brands and designers that are environmentally and socially responsible. From the choice of fabrics to production conditions, all of our items respect people and the planet.

List three factors that make Brussels’ entrepreneurship landscape unique.

  • It’s hard to compare it with other cities or countries, but I have the impression that Brussels boasts many structures which provide support to innovators and their ideas.
  • As an entrepreneur you must ask yourself, “Who are my customers?” It’s a difficult question to ask, and even more so in Brussels. Should we target locals, or tourists? What languages do our customers speak?
  • You’ll find Brussels’ friendly atmosphere in its entrepreneurial landscape: people are easy to approach and always eager to support your project, which of course is encouraging.

What are the three biggest challenges you faced when starting up your business?

  • Running a fashion shop without any background in fashion nor business. I had to learn a lot on the job!
  • Supervising all aspects of Wonderloop, from accountancy to communication, all while running a shop of course! It can be challenging to identify what the pressing priorities are, but it’s also thrilling to multitask.
  • Learning to switch off: starting a business is like having a demanding baby that requires 24/7 supervision. It’s easy to stress over it from the second you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, which is mentally exhausting. I’m getting better at not bringing work back home though, and at enjoying my free time completely instead.

As an entrepreneur you must ask yourself, “Who are my customers?”. It’s a difficult question to ask, even more so in Brussels.

How did you benefit from hub.brussels’ expertise in the conception of your business?

In April 2017, I joined the selective greenlab.brussels programme to develop Wonderloop’s plan further and meet people with whom I could work with. That’s how I met Selene, Wonderloop’s very first employee! Over the course of six months, greenlab.brussels’ experts guided us in defining the project and encouraged us to test it out on a small scale before opening the shop, which we did successfully. A year later, after finding a potential venue for Wonderloop, we checked with hub.brussels’ retail expert if it was indeed the right location for our concept. We also received very helpful advice on leasing and renting. Finally, Wonderloop’s launch was possible thanks to hub.brussels’ OpenSoon grant, which covered the first 10 months of the shop’s rent. This financial aid was an incredible boost, so I’m so grateful we received it!

List three pieces of advice you would give to the budding entrepreneur.

  • Don’t be shy to talk about your project to everyone all the time while you’re still developing your idea! Listen to the questions and comments you get in return, as it’ll prove to be very precious information for defining your project.
  • Once your idea becomes more precise, test it out on a small scale.
  • Find a good team and delegate tasks. No one can do everything alone successfully, and once your project takes off and everything gets crazy, you’ll want to have strong, reliable people that are already familiar with your project by your side!
Rue de Flandre 35 Vlaamsesteenweg (1000)
wonderloop.be

Do you want to make a difference like Héléna?

Contact hub.brussels!