Be careful what you wish for…
It’s a glorious, sunny June day and I’m sitting in the London Room in a new office building at the heart of Łódź. This is No. 8 ulica Ogrodowa, where the MakoLab headquarters are located. The company celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year and, in honour of the occasion, I’m about to interview Krzysztofa Sopek.
She is relishing the view outside the window, which presents not only the the gorgeous, regenerated post-industrial building which currently houses the Manufaktura shopping and leisure centre, but also the stunning Poznański Palace, now home to the Museum of the City of Lódź. We’re about to look back on the origins of MakoLab and explore the company’s development over thirty years, as seen from her perspective
In fact, the company was created out of necessity. Mirek was doing his doctorate at the Lódź University of Technology and, as you can imagine, academe didn’t exactly pay well. We didn’t have enough money to support our family. So his work at the university occupied his days and his evenings were taken up with typesetting.
As I said, that was in 1989, the year that freedom was won. All over the country, people were taking matters into their own hands… and Mirek was one of them. Ever since the moment he set the business up, it’s dominated his life. But I have to say that it’s been an interesting journey.
The working conditions were modest in the extreme, although we were lucky that we lived in the family home left by my grandparents. That was on ulica Praska. At the outset, all we had was a desk for Mirek to work at. With time, we expanded to occupy a room, twenty square metres in total, which enabled our first member of staff to enter the scene. That was Zbyszek Rożenek. Later on, he became a partner in the company. He was very hardworking and his contribution to the company’s development was enormous.
At the same time, Mirek has always been the driving force behind our operations. He had the visions and he brought them to life. And they usually worked!
Another thing that I think has been vital is this; no matter what stage we were at, we’ve always cared about good relations. We wanted to surge ahead, but not at the expense of other people. It’s our constant hope that our colleagues have always noticed both our excellent working atmosphere and the fact that, as far as possible, we continually strive to improve working conditions. To this day, thanks to that approach, we have a host of friends from the past and any number of useful contacts.
Later, we moved to No. 80 ulica Gdańska, where we occupied several floors, with fifty or so memebrs of staff. Then came MakoLab’s first modern office, in a renovated post-industrial space on ulica Niciarniana. At the same time, we also set up a large office on ulica Demokratyczna and that remained the company’s headquarters until the end of 2018. Around a hundred people worked at MakoLab at that stage. Each office was better and more functional. There were approximately a hundred and sixty members of staff at the next one, on ulica Rzgowska, and our employment growth was still dynamic. Now this is our head office and more than two hundred people work here.
You know, I’ve long had the feeling that there are many things in life that we don’t choose… they simply happen. The division of labour has always been the same. At MakoLab, Mirek dealt with the most critical business matters and my role was a supporting one. The remaining spheres of life, especially family life, were mainly my responsibility.
We have two landmark celebrations this year… our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary and the company’s thirtieth anniversary. So it’s a good time for reviewing things and summing up. I think that, for us, the balance at the end of these years is perfect.
(Mirek Sopek comes into the room. “Krzysiu, good news,” he says to his wife. “They can set up the optical fibre… but you’ll have to deal with it, you know…”. And he dashes out again.)
Running MakoLab at that stage was no simple matter. The company was still growing and new management skills were needed. That was when Wojtek came on the scene… a new person with extensive business experience who relieved Mirek of all the organisational matters, sorted out all sorts issues and shifted things into another gear. Thanks to all that, MakoLab became a company with modern management processes. We value our collaboration with Wojtek very much indeed.
When we do manage to find some free time, we visit fascinating places around the world, but what we love most of all is the Polish coast. We really unwind there and Mirek is delighted when he can swim in the cold Baltic!
Neither of us could imagine life without music, so when an opportunity to go to a concert occurs, we always try to seize it. Recently, one of our dreams came true. We saw Dead Can Dance live and it was a fantastic experience! And waiting in a drawer are tickets to a King Crimson concert! True craziness!
It was jazz that brought us together. We met at the concert given by Wojciech Karolak’s trio, featuring a young vocalist… Stanisław Soyka !. They were performing at the headquarters of the Polish Jazz Association on ulica Piotrkowska. I was sitting there and the last empty seat was next to me. Mirek came over and asked if he could sit there. We started talking. It soon turned out that we were from two entirely different worlds, with different opinions and views… but, something attracted us to each other…
As a young girl, I dreamed of meeting up with a man who was completely different from me, so that there’d be no chance of boredom worming its way in… and that certainly worked out well for me!
Clashes and conflicts do occur, but it’s interesting. We are different and we complement each other at one and the same time. We know that successes don’t come easily but, in general, we’re happy. Especially when we see satisfaction and admiration in our children’s eyes.
But be careful what you wish for… because it might come true!
Watch MakoLab’s 30th birthday celebrations