Marjolaine Gailly: The art of balancing profitability and social responsibility

Space Refinery
April 30, 2024
Marjolaine Gailly - an entrepreneur, a managing partner at the HR firm PeterLily and the co-founder of a coworking Manistal

Marjolaine Gailly: The art of balancing profitability and social responsibility

The goal of any business is to make money. You won’t find too many people that will disagree with this. With so many companies focusing on the pursuit of profit, it’s a breath of fresh air when you come into contact with companies like Marjolaine Gailly’s PeterLily and Manistal. Here at Space Refinery, we had the pleasure of working with Marjolaine on an office design project for her two businesses.

Who Is Marjolaine Gailly?

Marjolaine is an entrepreneur, a managing partner at the HR firm PeterLily and the co-founder of Manistal, a coworking space located in Brussels, Belgium, both socially responsible businesses. Through our time helping Marjolaine design her office, we learned a lot about her and decided to focus the spotlight on her inspiring accomplishments, her socially responsible approach to business, and her passion to make the world a better place. It’s a rare sight to see such a successful person maintain such a high level of passion for improving the lives of their employees, their communities, and the world around them.

But that’s what makes Marjolaine so special. She doesn’t just talk about these things, she’s actively sharing her success to the benefit of those around her.

One-on-one with Marjolaine:

Eric: Hi Marjolaine, it’s a pleasure to finally connect and chat with you about your businesses, projects, and everything you have going on in your life.

Marj: Hi Eric, yes, Katya mentioned this interview, and it seemed like something that would be interesting to take part in.

Eric: Let’s jump right into it. What makes PeterLily different from other HR companies out there?

Marj: Social engagement, I believe in a conscious and fair capitalist model. While we provide HR services, we aren’t in this business just for the money. Yes, profits are important, because a successful business needs to be a profitable business, but we work hard to actively contribute to the world, whether it be through the development of our employees, clients, suppliers, or the world around us.

For example, we currently provide our employees with 12 extra vacation days per year to take part in social projects. Some of our employees are currently using these days to help build homes for refugees, while others take part in local and national charities.

A successful, profitable business can give back to the community and still be successful. Our business offers an academy that provides training. Part of the profit we make from the academy is reinvested into social projects. For this year, it will be to help build a maternity in Uganda for war-affected women.

For me, it’s not about just creating jobs, but more about creating high quality and meaningful jobs where people feel like they are actually contributing to something larger.

Eric: The world would certainly be a better place if there were more people with the same approach. You mentioned charities, are you actively engaged in any specific non-profits?

Marj: We are! We are currently developing an IT-based platform that will be used to educate people around the world, with a heavy focus on math.

Eric: I see that you also run a coworking space called Manistal. What made you start a coworking space?

Marj: It’s a funny story really. It all started when I first met Katya and was hunting for an office for PeterLily. Nothing was standing out, but eventually, I came across the perfect space. Not only was it the right fit, size, but the landlord and receptionist at this building had a positive energy about them. I later found out that he too was socially responsible and was working to help the elderly and handicap individuals.

However, there was one problem. The space was too big, much too big for PeterLily at the time. But that’s when the idea for Manistal came about. Katya worked hard with me to draft up the office design ideas to tie it all together.

I figured I could create a coworking space that would help other hungry entrepreneurs take part in their dreams to build and run a business. After months of hard work from Katya, both the PeterLily and Manistal spaces were created.

My father, a soon-to-be retired engineer, decided to join me when I created this business. He’s a technical & numbers guy and handles everything related to construction, technology & finance, while I handle marketing, sales, partnerships and everything related to design. Not long after we started Manistal, my brother joined on as well and became our office manager. Since joining, he has credited this move as helping him stabilize his life during a difficult time.

The team of HR firm PeterLily and coworking space Manistal

Eric: What makes Manistal stand out from other coworking spaces? Is there anything unique that you offer to your tenants?

Marj: Well, as I mentioned above, I try and create businesses that are socially responsible. Having worked in the HR field for many years, I have contacts in important roles in the business world. Not only do I offer HR & payroll services to people who rent spaces at Manistal, but I offer administrative support & finance/tax consulting, help them apply for relevant grants, and even put them into touch with potential investors.

I truly like to help to aspire young entrepreneurs grow their businesses and I love that I am able to help them achieve their goals with the many services and connections we offer.

Eric: You mentioned your initial contact with Katya, what was your first impression of her?

Marj: Katya is a truly passionate person. When it came to designing my office, I needed someone that had the right energy to make it happen, someone that was passionate and who poured their soul into their work.

And that’s exactly what I found in Katya. You can tell that she is extremely passionate about what she does. But more importantly, she understood my vision and was able to take my ideas and translate them into the perfect office space for my businesses.

Eric: She definitely is a passionate and energetic person. I can see why she was a great fit to work with you.

Marj: My project was far from easy too. Katya spent many nights refining my concepts and turning them into fleshed out ideas. One of the things I liked the most about her was her ability to probe me and get me to share my ideas in a way that translated into great office design.

I knew she was the right match when I met her because the first Pinterest mood board she shared with me to try and capture my ideas was named “Lively Elegance – Playful Nature.” There was something about that theme that stuck out to me, it captured exactly what I wanted.

Eric: What did you like most about working with Space Refinery?

Marj: Besides the things mentioned above, I loved the fact that Katya took the time to meet with me nearly every week. Monday was our day, and we’d often meet over coffee. She’d take the time to show me updates, order progress, and everything I needed to know to track the progress of the project. Her willingness to go above and beyond is what makes her a great office space designer.

Eric: Going into the project, did you know much about office design?

Marj: I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know a lot about the office design process. I learned to expect the unexpected. For example, I originally planned to spend around $50,000, but ended up going over the budget in order to complete the project the way it needed to be completed.

Eric: What elements did you want to capture in your office space? I’ll make it even easier, name 5.

Marj: Nature, elegance, light, cozy, and zen. Those are the elements I felt were most important.

Eric: One last question before we wrap this up. Are there any special projects you want to talk about?

Marj: Right now, I am thinking about launching a project related to retirement homes. My landlord’s social projects with the elderly and handicapped inspired me. I believe it’s important that we reinvest in the elderly and provide them with a more dignified retirement.

Eric: That’s very noble, and I do agree. Marj, I have to say, you are an inspiring person, and it was a pleasure having the opportunity to chat with you about your businesses, your social work, and your socially responsible approach to capitalism.

I wish you all the best in your businesses!

Marj: Thanks Eric, I appreciate you taking the time to interview me. Take care!

Curious about how the PeterLilly & Manistal Coworking workspace looks like now? Check it out!

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