Now, that we just turned 8 yet cannot gather and celebrate together, I thought I’ll tell you my story of the beginnings, how we started off, about the road we stepped on.
In fact, this whole thing began more than 10 years ago in an organizational development company called Maidan Consulting, where the four of us, Kata Illés, Elvira Kalmár, Dóri Pekár and myself were chatting away about our need for a space where our clients, friends and all others of similar mentality could gather, where we could demonstrate our development projects, could organize trainings and other events or just sit down to have good conversations, just like on a “maidan”.
Maidan town squares or market squares are quite common in Slavic countries and on the Balkans, where people chat with one another, spend time together. These places form people’s lives, they change, they grow. So we used this concept and created such spaces in our organizational coaching sessions where people could safely and respectfully talk about real stuff, they voiced their opinions, what was important, where they came up with new ideas and created concepts and made decisions about their futures.
And just as we talked about this concept, Elvira was scribbling on a piece of paper. A café formed on her paper with big portal windows that open on the street. We started to call this “KKV house” amongst us. A word game in Hungarian, as KKV means small & medium enterprise (our main target market of clients) while KV means coffee. Interesting, that back then we only envisioned this place as organizers, content managers or hosts of events.
I don’t really want to write down all the twists and turns that led us to Révay köz. Kata left Maidan, Dóri went abroad for a year with a scholarship. So, we nurtured and developed the idea with Elvíra then Dóri came home and joined, so the three of us founded the company in August 2011. Till then, we had great ambitions with eyes out for a 3000 sqm real estate, another place of a good friend – who helped so much with the final concept – not far from our current one. I very much remember…, we were driving down to Salgótarján in the beginning of February, 2011 around 7 in the morning and I told Elvíra, that maybe we could also check ingatlan.com, and as I was not the one driving, I checked my phone and almost instantly found our place. It offered favourable conditions and had nothing but decaying walls: complete freedom and space to create something totally new.
The above already shows pretty much that we were totally not thinking of opening a community office, especially not a coworking office back then (the first expression we came up with on our own, the second we have not even heard of for another year or so). We just wanted a place where people meet, share and discuss thoughts and ideas, get inspiration from each other, get to know each other better, can work together and can even become real friends.
We had no idea how to run a business, especially how to run such an office. We didn’t even know how to fill out an invoice properly and administer these, how to advertise and do sales for such a place. We were only interested in how to create a community out of strangers. We though everything else we’ll learn on the road which has proven to be quite a long and expensive way of doing so.
After the first KKV house idea, we came up with HUB as a name for our place, representing a crossroad or meeting point (of course there was no The HUB – back then HUB, since Impac HUB – nor HUBHUB around), and this was the name we submitted the registry court papers with also, but the court rejected it due to the fact that another company already used the name HUBA 2000 Kft. Then we fall in love with the word game WorkShop as we really wanted to sell work and workshops were really places where the owners, the “masters” (carpenter, clock-maker, tailor etc.) also lived at with their families. Then our design partner Factory from Szeged (led by our friend Zsolt Fábián) who worked on our corporate identity designs came up with the name KAPTÁR, because they claimed that a good name has to somehow stick out from its environment so that you need to ask back “Where??” when talking about it. (While creating our design, they also found another tiny little office in Provence of similar concept with the name “La Ruche”, that translates into KAPTÁR.) For us this was quite new as we had totally not been thinking about having a name in Hungarian. It somehow seemed quite bald to go with a Hungarian name as we initially focused on building an international, cosmopolitan community.
Let me jump forward another 5 months after construction and overnightings when – in the middle of the final touches – we celebrated our Grand Opening with almost 250 of our friends and a well-known Hungarian band, Mary Popkids.
After we opened, it became obvious that success will not just fall into our laps: we started with only 1-2 people dropping out of the blue, had agonizingly long, empty hours, sometimes days when only the team members were in the space. Well, the noble cause, the neat look and feel and the extremely polished concept could not bring success on their own. Unfortunately.
What we could do back then and what we still do is appreciate the fact that people come to us and give attention to everyone so that they easily feel themselves home after being a few days here. And we believed, that if we persistently believe in what we do, then our reputation will carry itself along. Then even after the first half year, we realized that we should create an exit plan in case this venture will not be viable. Then we kept postponing it and finally it never happened.
As I was sitting on my couch last Thursday evening celebrating together the birthday of one of our member recalling memories of ski trips, boat trips, summer holidays, office parties, I realized, how what we created turns into unforgettable memories, a force that binds people together. We provide the space, the occasions, the framework and opportunities. But the essence: the colour, forms, thoughts are all brought together by the members of our community.
Happy Birthday KAPTÁR! Happy Birthday KAPTARians!
Áron Levendel, co-founder and CEO