If you want to get a creative project off the ground, you need the help of a muse – or better still, two. Expats.cz Lisette Allen sat down with Klára Císařovská and Petra Bíšková, the duo behind new architecture office Mooza, to get the lowdown on setting up your own business in the Czech Republic when you happen to be young, female and talented – the surprise is, it’s not as tough as you might think…
LA: When did Mooza actually open for business?
KC: Mooza started officially six months ago. It was our first project, a business hotel in Lagos, a project which almost fell into our laps, that sent us on our own trajectory. It’s a major hotel complex which will have 13 floors and should accommodate approximately 500 people. During my German internship I worked on a similar project for an African client. I invited Petra to come and join me to get the draft completed. The investor was satisfied and when we returned to the Czech Republic he realized he had discovered two talented workers!
PB: Thanks to securing such a lucrative initial contract, we knew that we have financial security for the foreseeable future at least – that’s what gave us the confidence to strike out on our own.
LA: What have been the positives and negatives of setting up your own business?
KC: One big plus has been the feeling that finally we’re developing our own brand and that we’re creating something which is ours and we can be proud of. The major downside of course is the lack of security and the challenge of finding work.
LA: Is there often a struggle between your desire to do innovative work and meeting the desires of the client?
KC: Recently, we designed a so-called ‘passive house’ – an ultra low energy building – which was a really exciting commission as we we’re really interested in architecture with a reduced ecological footprint. I was a bit disappointed when the client chose the more conservative design we showed them. However, sometimes you just have to put your own ego to one side and say to yourself, “Okay, this will be your house and you will have to take care of it.” We will just take some nice pictures of the finished house and then go home! It’s always like a puzzle with two pieces – our ideas and their input – which then need to be assembled until they somehow click.
LA: Which projects are you particularly fired up about at the moment?
PB: We’re really excited about the Petrof Music Centre in Hradec Králové. Petrof, a renowned Czech piano manufacturer have commissioned a community meeting space meets concert venue in one of its warehouses. Initially, the plan is that local bands will perform there but in the future there could be co-working spaces, film screenings and rehearsal rooms.
What’s really interesting is that the design process is in co-operation with future users through workshops, so that they are invested in the space right from the very beginning. Working in this way gives you the opportunity to build a uniquely intimate relationship with a building which is not always possible in more commercial projects and can be very satisfying.
LA: Do you think being part of the post-communist generation makes you more entrepreneurial?
PB: I’m not sure that’s true. Under Communism it wasn’t easy to run your own business officially so that pushed people to start up their own irregular operations! The Czech entrepreneurial spirit has always been strong, whatever the regime.
LA: Do you think there are any particular challenges you face in the Czech business world because you’re women?
PB: Actually, we’ve been really surprised: for the most part we’ve been accepted and taken seriously. And then there’s the fact that it could happen that men prefer working with two young women! [laughs]
KC: I think clients feel more free with us and more able to talk to us about their wishes without seeming foolish – for example, if they don’t know the exact term for something – so from that point of view, it’s really an advantage.
LA: How has setting up a business together affected your friendship? Or to put it another way, how do you run a business together and stay friends?
PB: We started to separate work and private time and that’s in fact positive. Sometimes because you have to discuss serious things at work all day, then agreeing on whether to have red or white wine is not that big a deal!
KC: Working together in this way wasn’t such a big risk for us though, as we’ve known each other for a long time, so we feel we can say almost anything. It’s essential to talk to each other honestly, and not just hold things inside or else you just end up feeling resentful which can be destructive.
LA: What’s your vision for the future? How do you think the business will have developed in five years time?
KC: I know that Petra would like to travel around the universe and I’d like to have some time out from my career to create some human beings!
PB: It would, of course, be nice to expand, but I don’t imagine establishing some huge corporate office. If I imagine some of the companies where I worked before, I think five employees is an ideal number. That way everyone in the team knows what’s going on with a project and the main architect can still actually design and not just be focused on management.
LA: And do you have any dream projects?
KC: I think the dreams are already coming true. We’re doing projects on every scale from small to large, which is great.
PB: I think it’s better to have a dream process rather than a dream project because a project is just one point but we’re just on the start of our dream life.
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