Queen Mathilde of Belgium visited coffee bar "WAY" in Ghent and participated in a round table discussion with nine entrepreneurs about the challenges they face and how microStart loans have helped them get their businesses off the ground.
One of the first entrepreneurs to speak to the Queen was Charlene De Buysere, the owner of "WAY" coffee and lunch shop, who not only hosted the Queen but served her some award-winning coffee. Afterwards Charlene said:
“I think she really liked the demonstration and an opportunity to take in all the different tastes and smells. I hope I gave her an experience that she has not had before.”
Other entrepreneurs who spoke included Hicham El Sghiar whose company, ArGand, makes organic argan oil. His enterprise is contributing to the emancipation of women in Morocco by offering fair wages for their work.
Businesswoman Cecilia Ntelo-Wa-Leko is a specialised teacher who runs a crèche for both deaf and non-deaf children. She decided to start her business, Zafara ASBL, when she found that there was a shortage of options for childcare for children with disabilities. Her aim is to give deaf and non-deaf children the chance to interact and play together.
The Queen was also presented with a gift from shoemaker and handbag designer Christ Dewaele, from Harelbeke. He said: "I designed a personalised bag for Princess Elisabeth for when she goes to school in England. On the inside of the bag are her name and mine."
After coffee, Queen Mathilde of Belgium met staff and volunteers from microStart. Partnership Manager, Lens Lapauw, said:
“The Queen's visit was an honour and the recognition we receive from it really does a lot of good and helps us raise awareness about our services. It enables entrepreneurs to know there are alternatives if they don’t have access to finance, to traditional funding such as banks, family, friends or even crowdfunding. Finding out that microStart is there to help anyone who has a good idea and the capacity to start or expand their business is a real boost.”
MicroStart has been a member of YBI since 2015, offering loans from EUR 500 to 15,000 to start a business or finance development of an existing one. MicroStart also gives entrepreneurs access to a network of professional experts offering advice, support and free training.