Oak Tree Projects is the story of two very special people - and no, we’re not talking about the cofounders. The true inspiration behind Oak Tree Projects came from Wouter and Elisabeth, two young people who shared a dream of living independently.
Independent, assisted living
For their families, it was always crystal clear that Wouter and Elisabeth were capable of living on their own, as long as they got some extra assistance. Danaë Van den bossche, sister of Elisabeth, and Michèle Vermeire, mother of Wouter, wanted to help make that dream come true. With the help of Elisabeth’s mother Myriam Vereecke, they founded Oak Tree Projects, a company that builds inclusive housing in co-housing projects. In these houses, four or five adults like Wouter and Elisabeth can live independently, with assistance.
When Danaë discovered the co-housing project Wijg & Co in Wijgmaal a couple of years ago, she immediately saw the potential for her sister. And she realized that by starting her own company, she would not only be able to help her sister, but fulfill her own entrepreneurial dream as well. “Oak Tree initially started as a graduation project when I studied at Vlerick Business School. After my studies I went looking for potential residents and Oak Tree evolved into an actual company”, she says.
Danaë is currently combining Oak Tree Projects with a job as consultant. “I’m working two jobs, so my agenda is completely full”, she says. “I try to get up at 5 a.m. every day, to go through my emails before my two kids are up. After I bring the kids to school around 8h15, I make sure I stay in close contact with all the different parties: I have meetings with project developers, visit the construction sites, and I keep contact with the future residents on a regular basis.”
“Because of our family connection, we know how important it is to let family members and inhabitants participate in the project. That’s why we chose to organize ourselves into a cooperative company. Every month, I meet with the other co-founders Michèle and Myriam, for the board of directors. We talk about the company’s financial status, sales, our marketing and our general business plan.”
Special houses for special people
“The fact that Wouter and Elisabeth will soon be living independently with assistance in our first house in Wijgmaal, is a great motivation”, Danaë explains. “As an entrepreneur, you don’t always sleep well but you learn a lot and it’s extremely interesting. I hope to be a full time entrepreneur as soon as possible.”
“Our goal at Oak Tree Projects is to create an inclusive society where people who need extra care are given the same chances as everyone else”, Danaë concludes. “We want to keep expanding Oak Tree Projects as a company in the future, so we can offer more affordable houses in cohousing projects and create a society that’s truly inclusive. My personal priority now is to ensure funding so I can become a full time CEO. As for the rest, we’ll see what the future brings!”