Not any old Library will do

Anne-Sofie
Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld, CEO of the Library Group, Brussels

When you meet Anne-Sofie at the Library, you’ll be blown away by the warmth of her welcome and the stunning environment that she has carefully crafted as a unique coworking space in Brussels. The Library is a breath of fresh air, well away from the anonymous office blocks of the European Quarter, set in a residential area, just a stone’s throw from the park.

Her vision is to give the antidote to bland, sterile office spaces by providing a generous, homely space which fuels creativity rather than uniformity. By the look of the smiles on the residents faces, you can immediately see that Anne-Sofie is on to something. More than that, she makes everything she’s doing seem effortless and enchanting. A sign of the inner strength she emits as a confident and very focused entrepreneur.

How did you end up in Brussels, doing what you’re doing?
I moved to Brussels three years ago and worked from home as a consultant. It was very boring and quite lonely. I couldn’t find a networking, coworking hub with the right balance of people and cosy atmosphere. One day, it hit me that I should open the place that I had been looking for. After a lot of development and a lot of investment, I opened The Library – a chic, cool and cosy boutique business centre and coworking hub.

How much courage did it take to set up your current business?
It took more than I knew I had! For the last year, I have had so many sleepless nights, so many worries and given myself so many pep talks. I try to remember that if I should fail, it’s just a question of losing some money. If I don’t even dare to try, then it´s a question of losing some self-respect.

What were the biggest obstacles/triumphs?
The biggest obstacles have definitely been my own worrying about finances. The biggest triumphs are when I see people making new friends and gaining new inspiration at The Library.

Anne-Sofie, CEO of the Library Group, Brussels
The Library Group, A new generation of office hotels

How do you ensure work/life balance?
My business and my family life are pretty entwined, but that’s okay. I try to switch off when I am with my daughters, but they are part of the business and one of the main reasons why I became an entrepreneur, so I don’t mind that they know that I am passionate about other things than being a mum. In the economic context that they will face, I believe that entrepreneurial skills are vital and female role models are incredibly important. My main coping mechanism is that I don’t indulge in making myself feel guilty about working. That would just be counterproductive for everybody.

Do you consider yourself a leader?
Yes. I am a positive, creative person with healthy self-esteem and I think people respond to that.

Who is your inspiration?
My mother raised my brother and me all alone while building a good career. She taught me to expect a lot from myself, to think of others and to behave with friendliness and decency. She supports me when it comes to my business and she has been a fantastic role model. It sounds a bit sappy, but it is all true.

Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld
You can expect a different kind of atmosphere at the Library

What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to pass on to other young women?
1. It pays to be generous: Give advice, time and support freely and new opportunities, friendships and relations will come your way.
2. Walk away from a bad situation or a bad influence. Protect your frame of mind and seek out positive, passionate people. If you are not treated with respect and common decency then walk away. There will always be another job, another boyfriend or another opportunity, but you have to be your own main protector and benefactor.
3. Don’t be bored. Life is exciting and the adventures are there for the taking.

Would you do anything differently?
No. I don’t believe in regrets.

What will the next 5 years look like?
I plan to run a collection of The Library coworking hubs, where people and ideas can come together. But I also like not knowing. Anything can happen.

Article by: Laura Hemmati

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