Circular Matchmaking & Daring to Innovate


studio les. a circular matchmaker
studio les. - Annemie Engels

studio les. a circular matchmaker

It’s no secret that a shift towards more circular economies, business models and product design would slowly, but steadily, start shaping a new world. New insights, new ways of thinking, acting, sharing, create new jobs and new job profiles, like ‘Circular Matchmaking’ for example.  
Not the newest trend in dating websites, but matches made in heaven to start and sustain an increasingly circular economy. One of those matchmakers is Annemie Engels, one-woman-business-owner from Antwerp, visionary behind ‘studio les.’. Circular matchmaker, co-creation management, design from waste.  
‘studio les.’ connects companies and people in order to repurpose different waste streams into new applications and co-create circular products within a social economy. That’s ‘studio les.’ in a nutshell. We had a chat with Annemie about circularity, sustainability, trends, new generations and our world as a whole. We heard the views of a courageous woman with a vision of change.
We all need some more courage. On many different levels we need to start thinking differently. This shift away from what we know and towards something new brings a lot of uncertainty and a lack of clarity. We don’t know what will happen, we don’t know the results, but we decide to go for it anyway. That’s innovation
“Bringing about profound innovation within circularity is still pioneering work”, Annemie continues. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty around circularity. It baffles me sometimes how a lot of Belgian companies and people aren’t very well informed on legislation about sustainability and a more sustainable future. A lot of companies are still in the discovery phase when it comes to environmental legislation”. 
Annemie shares that, yes, there is legislation in place, but sometimes communication and information don’t always reach the right people. Almost everyone is aware that change is necessary and lots of people want to promote this change, but don’t always have the right information or (financial) means to do so. 'studio les.' and circular matchmakers support companies in circular and sustainable information and transition. 
Circularity needs to be handled on a sectoral level and with government support. This way true change can come about
‘studio les.’ focuses on co-creation, collaboration and open sharing, carrying forward the vision that together we go further and can create more systemic impact. “Circularity needs to be handled on a sectoral level and with government support”, Annemie believes. “This way true change can come about”. 
What stands out is that Annemie believes in a future of change and the power of “we”. “In the beginning we don’t always succeed and as we move through trial phases, lots of things might initially not really work out, but we have to keep on trying to discover where positive, circular business models lie. We need to dare to experiment more!”. 
Annemie passionately talks about the difference between entrepreneurship and innovation. “When you really want to innovate, you need to invest; research, time and money. You need to dare to go further than what you already know. Wrapping your usual day-to-day business in a new coat, that’s not innovation. That’s overexploiting your product. It’s healthy to search for and offer new products and services and necessary in our world today to confront the big changes heading towards us.”
It’s about changing your mindset, daring to innovate
Annemie is a positive realist, “Yes, it’s true that circular design and co-creation are more expensive than many of the products and services we find on the marketplace today, but we need to start realizing that, right now, we’re not always paying the true cost of what we buy. A lot of the time the price tag hides what the product or service has cost humans and our planet along the way. It’s time to make things right, even if, initially, a company might make less profit, it will shift overtime”. 
When asked about the visions of younger generations, Annemie feels that gen Z is further ahead in circular thinking and has different expectations of brands and companies than previous generations. Although she admits, she sometimes questions the depth of their convictions. “I sometimes have mixed feeling about Gen Z. They seem to be more aware, but at the same time easily consume ultra-fast fashion and fast furniture, then often combined them with more sustainable purchases. Their views and intentions seem a bit unclear, but a growing consciousness seems present”. 
Our conclusion: Annemie is a circular daredevil with a positive future outlook and a willingness to help build change. “I believe in progressive companies that invest, change, and innovate with the right ideology.”, she says.