Hanna Bonnier is the founder and co-manager of Le Phare du Kanaal in Brussels. She created Le Phare in 2015 and runs both the café and the co-working space together with an amazing team of 10 people! Before starting her own project Hanna was working for International and European Institutions but since she was 9 years old she had the dream of opening her own place where people could meet and share. Seems like the dream came true :)
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! Can you tell me what inspired you to found Le Phare du Kanaal?
Well, I am not from Brussels and one of the first things I noticed when I moved in this city was the huge community of freelancers coming from all around the world from different backgrounds. The second thing I noticed was the lack of spaces adapted to this new generation of workers. A flexible, affordable and cozy space, where you can work and meet people at the same time.
Le Phare was born from these two observations: On the first floor, a bright and full equipped coworking space offering different passes with no limit of time and no engagement. Our best seller is our “swimming pool” pass. The what?! Like at the swimming pool, you pay for 10 coworking entrances that you can use over the time period you want. Tempting, right? ;)
For the cozy side of the project, on the ground floor there’s a café and restaurant (that we own) open to everyone! In this place you can create links between Sailors (members of the space) and meet your clients, but also your friends. We organize our events in the café. And the food we serve is amazing. How nice it is when you arrive in your working space and you find free (and still warm) homemade cookies next to the coffee machine!
And you have to have a look to this building façade! It’s an urban treasure drawn 20 years ago.
Why Brussels? What is your relationship with the city and the community?
As I said I am not from Brussels, I moved in the city more than 6 years ago but before that I lived in a few different cities: Paris in France, Århus in Denmark, Santiago in Chile, and after some months in Brussels I totally felt belonging to the city. Brussels is the most cosmopolitan city in the world after Dubai, so just imagine the diversity of people, cultural events, food, neighborhoods you can find here. Brussels is such a lovely chaos and unlike its rainy and grey weather, the people are open-minded, warm and friendly.
With the Le Phare, it was really important for us to build a strong links with our Sailors but also with our neighborhood in Molenbeek. We created diverse partnerships with local initiatives. For instance, Le Phare hosted pictures exhibition of local artists and young photographers of Molenbeek. The “vernissage” is a great opportunity to meet our neighbors and their family. In our restaurant we try to work as much as possible with local producers and suppliers such as beers (Brussels is full of delicious micro-breweries!), cheese, eggs etc. For example, our vegetables are grown in a urban garden located… 500 meters far from Le Phare!
How do you see Le Phare du Kanaal developing into the future?
We are very proud of the community we created and of Le Phare’s DNA. It’s been a lot of work and effort but I think after four years of existence we can tell these links are becoming strong. Therefore, we think it’s maybe time to think further.
We are in a building with some empty floors above us… Nothing is yet decided but that would be such a great and exciting project to develop our Sailors community, our services like private offices, more communal areas and meeting rooms etc., without losing what we have.
Cross your fingers with us ;)
Can you share a favorite story from the space?
During one weekly Sailors breakfasts, one web-developer Sailor had a pretty big emergency with a client he could not solve alone, other web developers attending the breakfast went to help him and half an hour later the problem was solved and everyone enjoyed a good cappuccino and croissant together.
This is what I love in coworking spaces and especially at Le Phare — the solidarity and goodwill between our members is priceless!
How can our readers find out more about you and Le Phare du Kanaal?
Come and sail with us!