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Portraits of a city’s success stories

We team up with, 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.

Le Phare du Kanaal

Le Phare du Kanaal

Hanna Bonnier & Julien Guinel

What would be your two-minute elevator pitch?

Le Phare du Kanaal is a coworking and café-slash-restaurant based in Molenbeek – right along Brussels’ canal of course! On the ground floor, you’ll find a warm and cosy café where you can enjoy Julien’s local and seasonal food, delicious drinks and homemade cakes, from Monday to Saturday brunch time. Go up to the first floor and you’ll find the Sailors community working in a bright, dynamic and chill atmosphere. Our coworking space provides all the necessary services to work in perfect conditions: great coffee, highspeed Internet, a printer, meeting rooms and most importantly, passionate and inspiring people! Le Phare du Kanaal is a place in Brussels where people meet, exchange, network but also eat, drink and have a lot of fun – the perfect mix.

List three factors that make Brussels’ entrepreneurship landscape unique.

  • The number of both public and private structures offering (free!) support to young entrepreneurs in Brussels is nothing short of amazing. It’s thanks to all of them that we’ve picked up so many different essential things to know when opening a business, like accountability methods, marketing strategies and financial plans.
  • Brussels’ entrepreneurial landscape is very openminded. Compared to other cities where networking could be more rigid and difficult to enter, Brussels offers plenty of public events and training sessions where you can meet lots of fellow entrepreneurs. 
  • We often hear that Brussels is the “heart of Europe”. Well, as entrepreneurs this rather clichéd sentence makes sense. Opening a business in Brussels inevitably means meeting people from everywhere, meaning that making your project global is a feasible option.

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

  • Money: arguably not so original, but this was the very first challenge we faced before founding Le Phare. We started this project in our late 20s without any financial guarantees, so convincing a bank to give us a loan was out of the question.
  • Communication: coworking is now a widely familiar term and concept, but this wasn’t the case when we opened three years ago. Besides, as the first coworking space-cum-café in Brussels, it’s always tricky to explain hybrid projects. These two reasons meant that our communication strategy was challenging, but also exciting!
  • Localisation: since the terrorist attacks three years ago, Molenbeek has suffered from a very negative and unfair reputation, both within and outside of Belgium. Our challenge was double: to be well-integrated within our neighbourhood, meaning with its inhabitants, workers, public administration, non-profits and so on. Secondly, to break down clichés, support all the positive initiatives and attract people from outside to Molenbeek.

It’s easy to feel lonely as an entrepreneur sometimes. Networks not only play a major role in your business growing, but also help remind you that you’re not alone. 

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

By receiving their OpenSoon grant: it would have been impossible to start Le Phare without this money. They also helped us a lot in our search for the right venue – even if we found the space ourselves, suggested many different spots based on our needs and criteria. Last but not least, they have a great network of entrepreneurs and regularly host public networking events, like the Business Apero Brussels. We’ve met some very interesting people there. 

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

  • Immerse yourself: again, having a network is very important. It’s easy to feel lonely as an entrepreneur sometimes. Networks not only play a major role in your business growing, but also help remind you that you’re not alone. Being part of a caring community is essential when launching a project. 
  • Think: entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s important to care about your project, but equally to recognise your needs as a human being. If you enjoy sleeping and going out a lot, perhaps starting a business is not for you!
  • Be proud: before opening Le Phare, when feeling rather tired and discouraged, a fellow entrepreneur and friend reminded us that “if starting a business was easy, everybody would be doing it.” As soon as you feel ready, don’t forget that you rock! 
Quai des Charbonnages 40 Koolmijnenkaai (1080) 

Do you want to take your idea to the next level like Hanna and Julien?