Start your own sustainable place in Brussels
With the pandemic, a lot of places are going bankrupt. We are facing a massive economic downturn. A lot of people are losing their jobs. We need to quickly bring a new sustainable economy off the ground that will create meaningful jobs and that will bring us closer to our objectives of becoming a carbon neutral city as soon as possible.
Read also: Une entreprise sur quatre risque la faillite à Bruxelles, BX1, 22/01/2021
What is in this program exactly?
We will organise dinners or calls (depending on the restrictions) every two weeks to get to know each other, share our progress, keep ourselves accountable, and learn from each other. We will also occasionally invite external guest speakers that will share their own story and what they’ve learned building a sustainable place in Brussels or elsewhere.
We will also match you with mentors who can follow up with you and help you.
This is a very hands-off incubator made by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. We understand that you want to focus 100% of your time on your project, we understand that you don’t want to be told what to do nor how to do it. We are just here to support you on your own terms, whenever you need it. Consider the regular bi-weekly call as a heartbeat and a support group.
Who is this for?
Any resident of Brussels who wants to start a sustainable activity in Brussels.
What types of projects are you looking for?
Any place or service to develop a local and sustainable economy in Brussels. It can be a physical place (zero waste shop, a vegan(ish) café, a repair shop, a second hand shop, a yoga/meditation studio, a local creators shop, …), or it can be a service (food production for local shops, artistic creations, delivery service, a new media, bicycle rental service, training and upskilling, …). Think outside the box: what else is possible? Progress is not necessarily going faster and further in the same direction, it can also be opening up a side track.
What do you mean by sustainable?
The project has to be sustainable financially, humanly and environmentally. While we deeply care about being carbon neutral and zero waste, we are also pragmatic. Every human activity will generate some amount of CO2 and waste. What our society needs is not a handful of people living a perfect zero-waste, zero-emissions lifestyle, but rather millions of people living imperfect but increasingly sustainable lifestyles. It’s about going in the right direction. We want to strike the right balance so that we can create sustainable economic opportunities that will bring us closer and faster to a fun city that is respectful of the environment and of local communities. We want to bring that future closer to the present, one step at a time.
What are the selection criteria?
Motivation and passion are the number one criteria. We want you to do something that you love. Something that will get you up in the morning with a big smile because it will fulfil you. The project has to bring us closer to sustainability as a community and has to be financially sound.
What stage does my project need to be?
You have to have a team (at least 2 people) and an idea of what you want to do together. You may or may not have already launched something. You may or may not already have incorporated (we can help you do that).
What is expected of me?
We expect you to come to our bi-weekly (as in every two weeks) gatherings. We will ask you to share your experiences and the issues that you are facing. It’s peer to peer support and learning.
If you are successful, we ask you to pay it forward and invest €5.000 in one or multiple projects (depending on your capacity). That way, we will spread the love and create a flywheel of opportunities in Brussels while making sure that we decentralize the decision making process.
Do I need to work full time on this?
We expect you to work at least 3 days a week on your project. This should be your primary activity. Starting such a venture is a marathon not a sprint, it has to be humanly sustainable. Having to take care of kids or of someone in need shouldn’t prevent you from participating.
How big should the founding team be?
While you can be a solo founder we highly recommend being at least 2. There are a lot of ups and downs in the journey and it’s good to always have someone to help you through this. But fear not, we will create a support network that you can count on for advice and help.
Is everything in English?
We are in Brussels and we embrace its diversity. Everyone in this program speaks multiple languages. English is the most common denominator so that’s going to be our working language. We expect you to be able to at least understand it (if you can binge watch a series on Netflix, you should be fine). You’ll find for sure other fellow participants that also share another common language with you and who could help you if necessary. Also we’ll make sure we find you a mentor that speaks your native language.
How is this different from other incubators?
We are run and funded by entrepreneurs. We are very hands-off. This academy is about learning together and helping each other become financially, humanly and environmentally sustainable. Our goal is to bootstrap an ecosystem of new sustainable places with an open and pay-it-forward mindset.
That’s not to say that we don’t like the other incubators out there. To the contrary! We believe they are all doing an extraordinary job. This is not a zero sum game. We need a whole new sustainable economy and there is enough to do for many different initiatives.
What are the deadlines?
You need to file your application by February 28th. We will make a first selection and do interviews before March 10th. The selected projects will be announced on 15th of March. The program will start on the first day of Spring, March 21st.
Is the €5k a donation, a loan or an investment?
It’s a high risk investment. If your project doesn’t work, don’t sweat too much about it, you won’t have to sell a kidney. We will just ask you to write a post mortem to help the community learn something out of your experience. If it does work, then the €5k will convert into equity in your company for 5% (that equity will eventually be held by a cooperative in which you and every other project and mentor will have a voice). Our hope is that enough of you will pay it forward so that we can have more cool sustainable places in the city.
Do you plan to do this in other cities?
No. We believe in decentralisation. The people who live in e.g. Antwerp know better what they need than we do. However, we are more than happy to help anyone who would want to start the same type of initiative in any other city around the world. Everything we do is open source and copyleft.
How can I help?
Thanks for asking!
- Share this initiative with anyone that is thinking of starting a new sustainable place in Brussels.
- Print this poster and put it in the shops that you love in Brussels
- Join our newsletter to stay in the loop
- Attend our demo day on June 21th (save the date!) and support the projects that will present (follow them, invest in them, promote them).
- If you have already opened a sustainable place in Brussels, we would love to have you join our network of mentors. Shoot us an email.
- If you are an accountant, lawyer, expert in sustainability, shoot us an email and we will add you to the list of resources that projects can tap into.
Who are the mentors?
- NL/FR/EN Christel Droogmans, Yuman (video)
- EN/FR Ibrahim Ouassari, Molengeek
- EN/NL Leen Schelfhout, Burgerlijst, All for Climate, Open Facilitation, Citizen (Bike) Garden
- EN/FR/NL Nicolas Vangrunderbeek, Hygge (salad bar in Woluwe-St-Lambert)
- FR/NL/EN Quentin de Crombrugghe, Yuman (video)
- FR/IT/EN Stéphanie Roisin, La Ritournelle (second hand shop in Schaerbeek)
- EN/FR Xavier Damman, Storify, Open Collective, Citizen (Bike) Garden
If you have already created a local shop in Brussels, please join us! (shoot us an email). Together we can support the next generation of places in our city!
Where is the money coming from?
While nurses work their ass off to take care of all of us during the pandemic, some invested in the stock and crypto markets. Nurses got a €788 yearly bonus on which they had to pay €464 of taxes. But when the most privileged in our society get to make money in the casino on the stock market, they don’t have to pay any taxes. If that sounds outrageous and unfair, it’s because it is (even in the United States they have a capital gain tax).
It’s a bug. Part of that money should be reinvested in society. We urgently need to give new perspectives for the new generation, we urgently need to overhaul our economy to be more sustainable and more circular. To meet those challenges, we need everyone to contribute. There is so much money sitting in stocks and in bank accounts, it’s time to put it to work. And this is a first experiment to do just that.