Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011
PWI Member Profile – Sonia Neefs: a career shift at fifty?
An interview by Alessandra Zocca
Mrs. Sonia Neefs, Managing Director of “Organization Services”(*)
PWI – What inspired you to join PWI Brussels?
Mrs. Neefs – I joined PWI Brussels fifteen years ago because I was impressed by the quality of the speakers and of the organised events. I liked the dynamism of the PWI members.
PWI – What is your current profession?
Mrs. Neefs – I am an event organiser for company incentives, weddings and other unforgettable events. Around twenty years ago, I founded my company “Organization Services”, specialised in Belgian Folklore and theme events (like medieval weddings, Venice Opera or exotic evenings).
In 2002, I won the “Award of Ambassador of the City of Brussels” thanks to my initiative "Dégustez Bruxelles" (Taste Brussels – It is a rally by foot, available in four languages, to discover the city through a sort of game/team building). Actually, I started this work when I turned fifty years old …
PWI – You started a new profession at fifty years old? Wow, Sonia, it sounds very encouraging, could you please tell us more about your professional story?
Mrs. Neefs – Yes, I become an entrepreneur at fifty. Life is unpredictable … it all started when my husband lost his prestigious job due to his company restructuring and luckily after fifteen years being at home as a housewife I found a job in eight days at the Tourist Information Office of Brussels thanks to my ability to speak four languages.
You have to know, Alessandra, that when I was a young girl I wanted to become an air hostess, but in the late ‘50s when I completed my language studies, my parents were very skeptical about the hostess profession, so they insisted I had to work in their restaurant. Despite my disappointment, I obeyed – thank God times have changed now! – and I started working for my family business, an experience that allowed me to gain the competencies needed to become the manager of the “Grand Café” in Brussels from 1980 till 1984.
In addition to my parents, my husband was also trying to direct my life, by pushing me to concentrate on bringing up our children instead of investing energy in my profession, so I decided to go for a part-time managerial position at “Falstaff Café” for seven years.
Finally in 1990 I started my own business.
PWI – What triggered you to become an event organiser?
Mrs. Neefs – I have always liked helping people amuse themselves. When I worked at the Brussels Tourism Office, I was fascinated by a survey whose results claimed that Pieter Bruegel was the most known Belgian. Therefore, I began organising “Breuglian Evenings” inspired by his picture.
The Peasants' Wedding - 1568 - Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca.1525-1569/Flemish)
Oil on Wood Panel - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
PWI – And which of your business dreams have not yet come true?
Mrs. Neefs – I am at the end of my career and would like to find a successor, a young dynamic person to continue the business I created, it is “my baby” and I want to be sure I put it in the right hands. Of course I am willing to help my successor for a while, slowing down my involvement and concentrate on weddings and trips for few more of years .
PWI – What is your advice to women to be successful in business?
Mrs. Neefs – For a woman to be successful is necessary to keep a positive mind and always continue believing that you can realise your dream, even if some people tell you not to do it. Alessandra, the best recommendation is to follow your intuition, your heart!
PWI – How do you apply the PWI inspiring principles in your profession/environment? How do you see the introduction of the "quotas"?
Mrs. Neefs – I give more chances to female artists when I chose partners or free-lancers for the events I organise.
I believe that the introduction of quotas is significant progress for women. Just think that women in Belgium were not allowed to vote till the beginning of the 20th century …
|Mrs. Sonia Neefs is the founder and Managing Director of “Organization Services” (*), specialised in the organisation of theme evenings, Belgian folklore, Bruegel events and the rally "Taste and discover Brussels".
Mrs. Sonia Neefs is the Award Winner of the "2002 Brussels Ambassador of Tourism", category "Incentives".
Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011