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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 5, 2008
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Hard Working and Modest
November 5, 2008   
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Philippe de Brouwer, chairman of the Belgian Business Chamber, talks to Ewa Hancock.

What does the Belgian Business Chamber do?
The Belgian Business Chamber is in many aspects a mirror of the Belgian people: hard working and modest. We're not a big organization, but we try to make a difference.

The Belgian Business Chamber is an association of Belgian companies, specialists and entrepreneurs working and investing in Poland as well as of Poles establishing business contacts with Belgium. The chamber was set up in 1992 as the Belgian Business Club. It achieved nonprofit organization status in 1998 and changed its name to the Belgian Business Chamber five years ago. The chamber's activities are aimed at assisting Polish-Belgian cooperation, both cultural and economic, and promoting Belgium in Poland through the presentation of its achievements, customs and unique qualities. The Belgian Business Chamber is also an information exchange platform for both current and future investors in Poland.

Besides lending assistance to entrepreneurs, the BBC is also engaged in social events, integrating Belgians living and working in Poland as well as helping charity activities.

What examples would you give of typical chamber activities?
The core is our monthly "business mixer:" a monthly meeting where one sponsor is allowed to present his company, product or service. It is a monthly meeting point to find friends and/or business partners. We have a simple rule that this business mixer is every first Wednesday of every month, except July and August.

On top of that we have a few big events every year, with generally a picnic and the publication of a catalogue of companies, but the real top event is the organization of the Belgian Days. And traditionally the top event during the Belgian Days is our Gala evening.

The Belgian Days are a string of activities traditionally in Warsaw but spreading over Poland. The activities are more or less around Nov. 15, the Belgian National King's Day. The goal is of course to facilitate business and stimulate social contacts. Therefore we organize concerts, dinners, conferences, and of course one Gala during those days.

This year we have a concert in Cracow Nov. 12 in the Philharmonic concert hall, which is free, conferences about logistics, a piano concert in Warsaw, "Mussels, fries and chocolate" evenings, and the Gala on Nov. 15.

More information is always available on our website: www.belgium.pl

How involved is the chamber in preparation for the Belgian Days in Poland?
We handle the organization of this event; it is the most important of our activities every year.

This year, however, is very special: it's the 10th anniversary of the Belgian Days. Especially the Gala on Nov. 15 is even more "the place to be" than ever before. We chose the new, prestigious Businessman Institute as the venue this year. This elegant place will be all ours on Nov. 15!

Also the fact that our ambassador Jan Luykx is our guest of honor adds to the prestige of the evening. Actually we at the chamber are very happy that Belgium is such a complex country: we not only have the support of the embassy, but also the three regions are supporting us and competing to promote their region!

What are your personal goals for your term as chairman?
First I want to improve the communication of the chamber. We started a newsletter that appears almost every month. It's an electronic edition that anyone can subscribe to via our website www.belgium.pl. This forms the base for our activities, and it works. For example, a few years ago it was normal to have a monthly meeting with 25 persons present; now 120 is the norm. Last time we almost had to turn people away.

With that renewed interest in the chamber and its activities I want to create a basis to start to do other things.

It's my goal to make a difference for businesspeople when doing business, but also I want to give the chamber a social dimension. An organization like the Belgian Business Chamber is a membership organization and the dynamics are slightly different from a normal commercial company. It will work much better if key people are friends and spend time together in a less formal setting. Therefore it's my aim to create a social dimension in the chamber.

This in turn should be the basis to increase and improve the range of services available to our member companies, but it would also allow us to start thinking about other people who are less fortunate. The next step would be to support different charity activities.
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