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Doing it differently: Fosbury & Sons

Internet might have appointed 2016 as ‘the worst year ever’, it certainly wasn’t for Stijn Geeraets and Maarten Van Gool. The enterprising duo launched their new co-working concept in Antwerp called Fosbury & Sons, and transformed the entire first floor of the old WATT-building – designed by Léon Stynen in 1958 – into an impressive hub where it’s all about #workworkwork (and coffee, too!)

If you haven’t seen any pictures of this impressive place yet, you’ve been 1) living under a rock, and 2) missing out on something! The industrial-ethnic look is anything you’d expect from an office and every corner looks like a real-life Pinterest board. Fosbury & Sons is an inspiring and professional workplace where entrepreneurs, digital nomads and larger companies come together and benefit from all kinds of additional services. As a member, you will enjoy the comfort of a professional office, with the welcome warmth of your living room, the services and looks of a hotel and the fun of your free time.

We sat down with Stijn (on the right) to talk about ‘the renaissance of work’, meeting the needs of today’s generation and collaborating with the right people and brands, such as interior design studio Going East and sofa brand Journuit!

ROOMIN: Hi Stijn! We’ll be blunt: you’ve turned Antwerp topsy-turvy with the launch of Fosbury & Sons. When and how did you get the idea to start this a challenging project?

Stijn: “I had a lot of frustrations about the omnipresence of boring office environments and wanted to change something about that. As I’ve been an employee myself, I knew everything about weak coffee and boring offices, and just couldn’t bear the thought of working in these uninspiring environments for years and years to come. My key questions were the following: why do we decorate our home so it becomes a cozy place where we feel good; why do we look forward to our weekend dinners in sophisticated restaurants; why do we sleep in inspiring hotels when we’re abroad and, most importantly; why do we work in grey, uniform offices when we spend about eight hours a day for about 40 years of our lives in there? It just didn’t feel right.” 

ROOMIN: So, you had that aha-moment. What did the next steps look like?

Stijn: “When I ran into Maarten at a baby shower – 10 years after we lived in the same student house – everything accelerated. Especially because he already gathered valuable entrepreneurial experience by launching De Hoorn in Leuven, a creative meeting place and event location. As we shared the same frustrations, he was immediately up for the idea. Then we met Serge Hannecart – top entrepreneur and CEO of the Antwerp property developer L.I.F.E. – things started to fall into place and we collectively invested 6 million euros in 250 new work places. We had only one goal in mind: turn work into a pleasant and positive experience again, something to look forward to.”

"We had only one goal in mind: turn work into a pleasant and positive experience again, something to look forward to.”

ROOMIN: How does Fosbury & Sons distinguishes itself? It’s not an ordinary office, that’s for sure…

Stijn: "The most distinctive factors are undoubtedly the human aspect, the cozy setting and our organic growth. We took time to work out every small detail. Work and private life overlap each other, so if you need a pause after three hours of intense concentration it’s easy to mingle with other members in our coffee bar. The same applies in the opposite direction: you can organize a business meeting with a client at 10 AM, and separate yourself to meet a certain deadline in the afternoon – everything’s possible! Fosbury & Sons wouldn’t be here without collaborating with the right people, so it’s great to see these synergies and partnerships happen here themselves.”

ROOMIN: The interior design is sublime, if we may say so. What’s it inspired by?

Stijn: “For the interior design we worked with Anaïs Torfs and Michiel Mertens of Studio East, which was a very valuable cooperation. Anaïs and Michiel are partners in their professional and private life, and we’ve been friends ever since our first business meeting. We gave them carte blanche: all we wanted was an international vibe and that they’d choose the things they’d want at home. That’s why there aren’t any fluorescent lights or boring office islands, but lots of levels, stairs, plants, different light points and vintage furniture instead. We want to encourage people to walk more when they come work here, and go explore new corners of the 3000m2 we take up of this building.”

ROOMIN: There are different Journuit sofas set up here. How does the story of Journuit fit the one of Fosbury & Sons?

Stijn: "We like to work with smaller companies that have a clear mission: challenging the status quo. Their vision aligns with ours, and since Michiel and Anaïs could customize the sofas entirely to their liking, we decided to do business with each other. We’re also very much into the idea of discovering products in a real-life environment, and allow potential Journuit- customers to test the sofas at our co-working place.”

ROOMIN: The name 'Fosbury & Sons' was inspired by high jumper Dick Fosbury. What did he do and what’s the link with your company?

Stijn: "If you watch movies of high jumpers before 1968, you’ll definitely have a good laugh: there was no closing technique to get over that stick, and every high jumper just did his own thing – which was very funny. When Dick Fosbury made a curved run, and jumped backwards over that stick, he singlehandedly caused a revolution in the sports world. He won gold and made history during the Olympic Games in Mexico City of that year, and subsequently standardized the fosburyflop as the ultimate technique for high jump. By setting the example with Fosbury & Sons, we’d also like to standardize this new way of working and be the change so many people are desperately awaiting. There’s a reason why lots of people suffer from burn- and bore outs, and an inspiring work environment can make all the difference. Work doesn’t have to be a mandatory part of your life; it can be a fundamental aspect of your well-being.”

ROOMIN: Where would you like Fosbury & Sons to be in a few years?

Stijn: “We’d like to expand our current location and maybe add a few other locations as well? I’d like everyone to consider Fosbury & Sons as their home away from home.”

ROOMIN: Thanks for your time and good luck, Stijn!

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Photography by Gilles Draps, Laura Willems, Stephanie Duval and Frederik Vercruysse.