Who do you most admire in the real estate business?
There are a lot of people in our sector whom I admire and I think that the Polish real estate market is developing at a very fast pace. In some ways it could even serve as a model for Western markets. We lease out space in our office buildings to investors from all over the world and they are impressed by the various amenities we include in our developments as well as by the fact that we create not only places to work in but also places where you can spend time. Getting back to the people I admire, I highly value women in managerial positions in the real estate sector. They often give their buildings an additional, softer character. They will take care of the social, ecological and health aspects of a project – all of which make an office a comfortable place to work in.
How did you first get into real estate?
For eleven years I was the managing director of Call Center Poland, which is one of the largest outsourcing customer service companies in Eastern Europe. After it was sold, I wound up in real estate in 2007. Quite by accident and it was a shock. These are two completely different worlds and it took me a long time to find myself in my new environment. In Call Center everything would happen almost instantly while in this sector since the very beginning I have had to learn humility and patience. Some things take a long time and are affected by many different factors. Even with the sincerest of intentions, you have to have a lot of perseverance and not get discouraged. But I’ve managed to find my niche in which I have a free hand in what I do. At Capital Park I am responsible for project management, which includes asset management and supervising our marketing and communication activities, and this gives me a lot of job satisfaction. I came up with the Biuro Plus concept, under which the amenities of every one of the group’s projects is tailored to best cater to tenant needs.
What do you regard as your greatest professional success so far?
It is definitely Royal Wilanów, which is an unusual place. We paid a lot of attention to the range of services provided to the office workers as well as to local residents. These include a retail and service area with a meeting area that enriches the Wilanów district not only for users of the building but also for local residents. As well as stores, restaurants and boutiques, we financed the construction of a city square around the building, with courts and pitches for basketball football and beach volleyball as well as trampolines and other attractions for children.
What is your greatest failure?
It took too long to prepare for our Dawna Fabryka Norblina project. It is a very complex development in the heart of the city and includes a number of historic features. Ten of the buildings are listed as historic monuments as well as 42 factory machines. Just finalising what we could do with the historic conservation office took us three years, and all the formalities taken together took us as many as ten. We had no influence on many of the decisions taken by various bodies and institutions, but I still wonder if we could not have been done the work faster and better. In two years you will be able to see the results for yourself and I am convinced that it will be something worth waiting for.
What contribution do you think you have made to Polish society through your business activities?
For the real estate market, I think that it is definitely the placemaking that we have consistently incorporated into our projects to create environments that interact with the local area providing local residents with the amenities that they had previously been lacking. I remember when we started on our Wilanów project and presented our plans to outside consultants; they looked at us as wide eyed and started making gestures to suggest we were crazy. But we stuck by our guns and we got what we wanted. It is a real pleasure for me to see the crowds of locals there every day spending time with their friends and children.
I also support women in business. I am the founder of the Black Swan Fund which operates as part of the Foundation of Entrepreneurial Women [Fundacji Przedsiębiorczości Kobiet]. The fund invests in start-ups from various sectors. Its most interesting project is BioBazar, of which I am also a co-founder. This was the first market in Poland to sell certified organic food. It now operates in Warsaw and Katowice. There is also Invipay, which is a fintech company that offers an innovative billing service to small businesses.
Which major projects are you planning in the near future?
Dawna Fabryka Norblina is currently the apple of my eye. I love such developments. We are revitalising one of the most interesting industrial areas in Warsaw, which also of great sentimental value to many of its residents. The Dawna Fabryka Norblina centre will combine an original and interesting mix of services and uses, including loft-style offices with a lot of character as well as retail space with slow-style stores and a varied range of restaurants bars and cafés that follow the latest international styles; not to mention the recreational, artistic and entertainment amenities that Warsaw currently lacks. The project also includes a modern, open museum that tells the story of this place.
Which is your favourite building and why?
The Angel office building in London is the most impressive building I have seen so far – it’s a real masterpiece! It has been designed with such attention to every detail that it gives you the impression of being inside a work of art when you enter it. I also like developments on former industrial sites, which combine many different uses and become small, self-sufficient towns in themselves. I could certainly mention such developments as Koneser and Elektrownia Powiśle when it comes to Warsaw.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I think Krystyna Janda – for her extraordinary feminine power, her work ethic and her courage – she continuously shows us that anything is possible and she follows through with everything she plans. I admire her clarity and the conviction she holds in her opinions as well as the courage she has to express them. Her consideration for other people and her willingness to defend the truth are also characteristics I admire.
With which historical figure do you most identify?
I admire Steve Jobs for his genius in creating beautiful, unique things and for his stubbornness and uncompromising nature in pursuing his goals, but I do not identify with him because there are many things I do not like about his personality such as his relationships with people. I think he often proved himself completely inept in this respect.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
A walk through the woods with my dogs, a visit to the stable to be with my horses, a polo match followed by an interesting exhibition and a good dinner with friends.
Which is your favourite restaurant and why?
I love the Plato restaurant in Royal Wilanów and its chef – Michał Gniadek. His dishes are little pieces of art and they taste great. He is also very modest despite being so successful (he won the Gault & Millau Young Talent award). He often uses seemingly ordinary ingredients such as beetroot or Brussels sprouts, but he conjures up culinary wonders from them.
Who is your closest friend and why?
I have a group of friends from France that I met at college. We see each other twice a year, and each time it’s like we saw each other yesterday. I can always count on them.
Which characteristic do you hate most in others?
I do not like arrogance. I think that you can succeed and be a pleasant and well-mannered person. There, unfortunately, seem to be fewer and fewer of such people and this worries me terribly.
How would you like to be remembered?
I am not going just yet and there’s still a lot I want to do but I would like people to see me as a person who cares for and is considerate of the needs of others – someone who is simply fair. I try to help people, environmental organisations and animals – this is what drives me and gives me a lot of inner strength and joy.