It all started with Tomorrowland. The madness of the 180,000 people, 3 day festival each year in Steffie’s native Belgium was an inspiration to her, and creating events that were experiences for attendees became her mission.
“They create a magical fairytale environment where it is not only about the music, it is about people coming together. It is all love and peace, not just in the hippie drug sense, but it really just feels like you are a part of something bigger. I thought it would be awesome to work with such a team. If they are making something so incredible, it must be an incredible team as well.”
Her dream came true when she nailed down an internship at Tomorrowland in 2014. She had 4 months to kill until the internship however, and was unsure of what to do. She called up the teacher that inspired her the most from her university in Denmark, Adam Montandon, and invited him for a cup of coffee in hopes of finding a way to work together. He had just come back from a Google conference where he was invited as one of the 250 most influential educators of today. It was a very big honor, but also lead to an overwhelming amount of contacts to sort through. As a joke, Steffie became his "evil assistant"
“He basically gave a silver platter of all of his contacts, and access to his email inbox. Then he asked me, ‘Steffie, what is it that you want to do? What is your passion?’ I said well, “Events. I want to make events that matter. I have this internship lined up, but it doesn’t need to be music. I just want to be able to spark something in people. Make events where people develop something in themselves, and years from now, will look back and think ‘that event changed me, after that event, I went and did my passion.’"
Within her vision, Adam saw an opportunity. With the range of people in his network, he decided to invite some of the most interesting people to Denmark under the speaker budget of the school. They invited speakers from Google, NASA, and more. Four of the 6 initial invitees were able to come in the same week in May. They knew they had to make an event around this, and that is where Steffie came into action.
Their city of Odense, Denmark is not the biggest, but it has a long history of innovation and imagination. As the home of Hans Christian Anderson it’s known as the city of storytelling. It has also been an industrial city fueled by factories. These two themes helped inspire a story for their event.
“We thought, let’s make a factory- a factory that makes ideas, not things. The Factory of Imagination.”
Before they knew it, this event had become too big for just the two of them, and they decided to recruit help. They spread the word and made simple posters that they put around campus. Initially, 50 students came to listen to what we had to say, and once they put it on Facebook it spread! After just 2 days, over 150 students had applied to be a part of our volunteer community.
“We had 150 students that applied to be volunteers; to be a part of the story. We selected 60 volunteers from that 150 and then we worked for 4 months to build a Factory of Imagination for 500 people, and 5 speakers in an old warehouse.”
They took an old warehouse and made it a space devoted to creativity. They decorated it themselves with everything from spray painted cardboard constructions to rubber chickens. They created an alternate and crazy world, the only rule being to think outside of the box! There were silly signs, theatrical demonstrations of fake protestors, and more, all adding to the magically innovative environment.
The event was such a success, they decided to continue the movement. They held a second Factory of Imagination in 2016 that was double the size: ten speakers, and sold out at max capacity. They kept the same small amount of volunteers and involved them more as well. The day before the event, they held a Secret Dream Lab where some of the most ambitious people could see the behind the scenes. Volunteers had 5 tokens that they could hand out to their best friends, all of the speakers attended, and it became an extra opportunity to really network and connect with an exclusive group of thinkers and changemakers, a day before the event.
Their idea spread further when they thought to merge their values and lessons in imagination into a workshop. An under two hour workshop encourages people to find their creativity, think outside of the box, and boost their imagination.They believe that imagination comes a step before innovation.
As for the future, they will continue testing out the new workshops, expand to build one and two day workshops and look into creating larger events abroad in years to come.
Their next main Factory of Imagination event will be the 5th, 6th, and 7th of October 2017.