An interview with Krzysztofa Sopek, the wife of MakoLab founder, Mirek Sopek
It’s a beautiful sunny day in June. We are sitting in London room in the city centre a new office building, at 8 Ogrodowa Street, Łódź. This is the current headquarters of MakoLab – a marketing and technology agency – which celebrates its 30th birthday this year. Mrs Krzysztofa Sopek, the wife of MakoLab founder, Mirek Sopek, is happy to see the Łódź-based Manufaktura and Poznański Palace visible outside of the window and looks back at the beginnings of the company’s activity. We are reminiscing the MakoLab origins and what the company’s development looked like over the 30 years of operation from the founder’s wife perspective.
Where does the current MakoLab company name come from?
The company name comes from our son’s name. Maciek was born in 1988, and in 1989 the company was founded. At that time, Maciek could not pronounce his name and called himself Mako, Mako instead. And we added the word typesetting to this. Our son proudly emphasises that this is his contribution to the development of the company 🙂
Besides, the company was created out of necessity. Mirek was a PhD student at the Lodz University of Technology and, as you can guess, science was not a well-paid occupation. We lacked the money that would allow to support our family. He worked academically, and in the evenings, he was busy with typesetting.
It was 1989, the year of freedom. People took matters into their own hands – so did Mirek. From that moment on, the business has dominated his life. But I must admit this has been a truly entertaining adventure to all of us.
Well, MakoLab is a company of over 30 years of history. How did it all start?
At first, it was Makotypesetting, later a terribly long name … MakoLab – Laboratory of Graphic Computer Technicians.
The conditions were very modest, but we were lucky that we lived in a family home after, left by my grandparents. In the beginning, Mirek had only a desk to work on. Later, there was a 20-sq-m room – so the first employee could appear – Zbyszek Rożenek, the latter company partner. A very hardworking person who contributed a lot to the development of the company.
Who was the first company client?
We established the first tremendous cooperation with Framax printing house, while the two large projects related to typesetting were the following magazines: “Siódma Prowincja” and “Ziemia Łęczycka.” It is worth emphasising that we have always been ahead when it comes to technologies. We invested in proper quality equipment. I remember Mirek’s joy when he bought a printer. When it was already in the office, we had the impression that we have a truly modern company.
How has MakoLab developed?
Let me remind you the words spoken by President Hanna Zdanowska at the opening of our new headquarters at Ogrodowa – I have nothing, you have nothing, let’s create something together. That was the beginning of our business: without external investors, without equity. Only ingenuity and everyday hard work. Most of what we earned was invested in the development of the company.
Mirek has always been the driving force of the company’s operations. He had his visions, which he realised and which usually worked.
Well, in 1989 no one would say that 30 years later MakoLab would become one of the largest independent marketing and technology agencies in Poland (according to the Interaktywnie report).
At one point, Mirek sensed the economic situation – the Internet. He has a sense of science. He has always been watching trends carefully, he knew that this was the key future direction. Besides, we have been lucky to meet the right people – we would usually meet those who were creative, full of enthusiasm, and ready for honest work. This blend became the key to development. I also think that it was essential that – no matter what stage we were at – we have always catered for good relations. We wanted to climb up, but not at the expense of other people. We hope that our colleagues have noticed our excellent working atmosphere and that, as far as possible, we have tried to improve working conditions. Thanks to this approach, to this day, we have had many good-old-days friends many useful contacts.
You said that you have been continually improving the working conditions. During these 30 years of activity, MakoLab has moved several times. Do you remember the previous headquarters?
When we were in the Praska Street house, there were so many orders that at some point 8 people were sitting on 20 square meters. In 1992, we decided to rent an external area, which is why we moved to 102 A Piotrkowska St. At that time, it seemed to me like paradise. The neighbourhood of the City of Lodz Hall, the most famous street in Lodz – Piotrkowska and 120 square meters at our disposal – this was a civilisation milestone in the history of our company.
Later, we moved to Gdańska 80, where about 50 people worked on several floors. The first modern MakoLab office was at Niciarniana Street, in the renovated post-factory spaces. At the same time, a large office at Demokratyczna Street appeared, where the company’s headquarters was located until the end of 2018. At that time, about 100 people worked in MakoLab. Each subsequent office was better and more functional. In the next site, at Rzgowska Street, about 160 people were already working, and the dynamics of employment growth was still speeding. Now, over 200 people work in the Ogrodowa Street office.
How did your adventure with MakoLab start? As a company founder’s wife, you have certainly had many professional duties.
I graduated from psychology and worked as a psychologist for the first few years. However, at some point, I decided to get engaged in helping Mirek to run the company business. I carried out office and administration functions: I prepared documents, I dealt with finance, payments control, contacts with banks, and the accounting office …
I have a feeling that many things in life are not chosen by us, they simply happen to us.
The division was always the same: in MakoLab – Mirek dealt with the most critical business matters, and I served as an auxiliary. The remaining sphere of life, especially family life, rested mainly on me.
This year, we celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary and the 30th anniversary of the company. This is a good time for summaries. I think the balance of these years is perfect for us.
Mirek Sopek enters the room and says to his wife – Krzysiu, good news, they can set up this optical fibre… But you know, you have to deal with it …
This is probably the best summary of what you have just said 🙂
Yes, it’s all about Mirek, but I admire him.
What do you admire him for most?
Mirek has the personality of a scientist, explorer, and does not like to walk straight paths. He finds the idea and implements it consistently. There is a bit of madness in this method, but it is also well-calculated. Mirek could have a career in science, he has an aptitude for that, he could achieve a lot in this field. He studied technical physics at the Lodz University of Technology, had an individual course of study, which he completed with high results. Then he defended his doctoral dissertation in chemistry, which was awarded with the prize of the Minister of Science and Higher Education. He had great professors, he could achieve a lot, but for economic reasons, he had to give up. However, he can always use his talents, supported by arduous work, to handle business. Until today, it significantly determines the directions which the company is heading. This is favored by his openness to people, knowledge, and the – generally understood – world’s curiosity.
Probably the first such crucial moment was the employment of the CEO – Wojciech Zieliński – and handing him over the control over MakoLab in 2007.
Yes, it was a real landmark for our company, as was the prior decision to enter the NewConnect market.
Mirek and Wojtek met and became friends at WSHE, the university where Wojciech Zieliński was the Vice-Chancellor, and Mirek Sopek a lecturer (contact with science and students has always been significant to him).
Running MakoLab at that stage was not a simple matter, the company was still growing, new management skills were needed. Wojciech Zieliński appeared – a new man with extensive business experience who relieved Mirek from organisational issues, cleaned up many things and let the company move forward. Thanks to this, MakoLab became the company managed in a modern way. We value cooperation with Wojciech very much.
The first such large client of MakoLab was the international automotive leader – Renault – Nissan Alliance. Many people in the company emphasise that gaining this client is Mirek’s job. Do you remember this period? Probably he would be less and less present at home.
Yes, it was yet another turning point in the history of MakoLab. At that time, when there was a chance to cooperate with French clients, he even began to learn French to have more impact on the course of the talks. Besides, he keeps learning something all the time. The number of books he reads on various areas is countless. Business has always been absorbing Mirek entirely.
30 years of work in the company is a huge slice of your life. How do you relax outside of work? Do you have a kind of a physical outlet?
We have our own corner of the earth, and we like to spend time together.
When we manage to find some free time, we visit interesting places in the world, but we love the Polish seacoast the most. We really rest there, and Mirek is pleased when he can swim in the cold Baltic 🙂
We cannot imagine life without music, so when there is an opportunity to go to a concert, we always try to use it.
Recently, one of our dreams came true – we heard Dead Can Dance band live, and it was a fantastic experience to us … and I have in my drawer tickets to King Crimson concert waiting!!! Real madness 🙂
The official ceremony of the 30th anniversary of MakoLab, with Michał Urbaniak and the band, is behind us. Jazz is dear to both you and your husband.
The meeting with Michał Urbaniak was the meeting with the Grand Legend, and to this day, I cannot believe that one of the most excellent jazz musicians featured our ceremony …
Jazz connected us – we met at the concert of Wojciech Karolak’s trio, with whom a young vocalist – Stanisław Soyka sang. It was a concert at the headquarters of the Polish Jazz Association in Piotrkowska Street. I was sitting, and next to me, there was the last empty chair. Mirek came over and asked if he could sit… We started to talk … It soon turned out that we are from entirely different worlds, we have different opinions and views. However, something attracted us …
Being a young girl, I dreamed of getting connected with a man completely different from me, so that there would be no place for boredom … and it worked out well for me 🙂
Of course, there are clashes and conflicts, but it is interesting. We are different and complement each other at the same time. We know that successes are not easy, but we are generally happy. Especially when we see satisfaction and admiration in the eyes of our children. But, you have to be careful what you dream of s it can come true. 🙂
See how we celebrated MakoLab 30th birthday