From ‘queen bee’ to ‘real me’
I grew up nearby the coast in Belgium. The province of West-Flanders has many family firms that are rooted in agri-food and textiles. My parents had a wholesale plant business. However, when it came to taking over the helm, my father only considered my two brothers.
“Little chocolate shop”
My entrepreneurial ambition was downsized to “a little chocolate shop” – the ultimate cliché for a Belgian girl. What? No way! Wanting to be independent, I studied tourism and found myself a job on the reception of a camping site. The manager was good with figures, I was good with people. Settling arguments over a bar of soap? I loved it!
Learn to take risks
Through my husband I got in touch with Philip Cracco, who would be my business partner for the next 20 years. Together, we founded Accent Jobs, a recruitment and staffing agency. Philip was the visionary risk-taker, I turned it into an ambitious but feasible goal. Along the way, I learned to be less risk-averse.
Over the course of 25 years, Accent Jobs would expand and become part of The House of HR, worth €3 billion today. My next business ventures would revolve around female empowerment: either by creating more diversity in boards or by funding female-founded scale-ups.
It’s safe to say that my dad ended up being very proud of me. But it took 15 years for the “queen bee” to transform into the “real me” – participative, authentic and unapologetic.
When I’m not at work, you can find me at the seaside, preferably out strolling with at least one of my two guys.
Accent Jobs, a temporary employment agency, is founded. The company subsequently formed the basis for the House of HR – a holding company of 10 entities specializing in temporary employment and outsourcing.
The Belgian private equity player Gimv comes on board. It offers Accent Jobs the opportunity to grow faster, re-evaluate the business model and to place the organisation on an even more professional footing.
French private equity firm Naxicap acquires The House of HR. Rika Coppens is given the responsibility for day-to-day management, while Conny retains a 30% stake. The House of HR pursues its international growth and now has 35 staffing businesses, finding work for 44,000 people every day in nearly a dozen countries. It has a turnover of €1.8billion ($2.2 billion).
Stella P. is founded, a head-hunting firm that selects external board members to bring more diversity into the boardroom.
Together with Muriel Uytterhaegen and Eline Talboom, Conny founds We Are Jane, a 100% female investment company that focuses on scale-ups started by women.
Conny wins the EY Enterprising Leader Award.
“Dare to be female!”
“It’s important to make a statement as a woman – every day.”