Charlie MacGregor, The Social Hub

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Charlie MacGregor, The Social Hub


This week, we spent five minutes with Charlie MacGregor, founder and CEO of Netherlands-headquartered The Social Hub.

 

Photo: The Social Hub

We go into our planning office and say we’re going to involve the community, but we really do it

What started as The Student Hotel in 2006 in the Netherlands – as a student accommodation provider – has grown into a hybrid hospitality concept combining student accommodation, hotel, extended stay rooms, co-working facilities, meeting and event spaces – all under one roof. Charlie catches up with The PIE outside the site of the soon-to-open Glasgow Social Hub.

Introduce yourself in three words or phrases. 

Charlie MacGregor, Scottish, and a father of four.

What do you like most about your job?

I like opening buildings – like in Glasgow and San Sebastian, which we’re opening soon. But I also like going to cities and when you get there and see the sites, you see a little bit of DNA of a city. Like with Glasgow – the representatives here and we really had a positive meeting, they loved our concept – and that’s the mentality Glasgow. Through that, I also like the fact that I’m involved in those moments right through to the financing, right through to the building. And of course, it’s all about the team, the people, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. The whole process is a real honour and a real joy.

What are your top five priorities?

My family is first. Then, perhaps the TSH team after that – I really underestimated when I started this business how many people would be needed to go there and also watching them grow and learn is amazing. My NGO, Movement on the Ground is another one, that’s dear to my heart. I would also say I see myself as a priority, and my wellbeing – more of us professionals should be prioritising ourselves. And finally, bettering society – in general, through my NGO and through building places like the new hub in Glasgow.

What’s your proudest career moment? 

Probably the Glasgow building. We’re building a whole corner of a city centre – I mean, it’s incredible. What I love about it is that we go into our planning office and say we’re going to involve the community, but we really do it. It’s not just an empty planning talk – we actually get out there and do that. The urban planner who was involved in our meetings for Glasgow is actually now our first member for the building, he’s in our building, and holds his meetings there. He supported our planning application because he really believes in what we’re doing. So it’s when I open accommodation like this that are genuinely adding value to the local community.

What’s the story of an international student who you’ve been inspired by?

There was an international student from Korea. We used to do this thing called Bed Talks, where we had discussions with students and such. I did a Bed Talk with this student and the first thing he said was, ‘I wanted to complain’. He was happy to be at The Student Hotel but didn’t want to be in the cluster kitchen he was in so he complained and then moved into this block where there was 12 people with different nationalities. They all connected and started teaching each other and cooking for each other, things like their national dishes.

It was a dream story come true for him. But he also said that at first he effectively lied to them all – that he was part of a happy family – but then eventually told them the truth that his mother had died from suicide. In Korea, there’s a huge suicide problem. And he said, ‘I’m so inspired by all the people I’ve heard from here and the mentality of trusting people that I wanted to ask for help’ – to go back to Korea to start up a charity to bring awareness for mental health and suicide issues. So we help and support that charity – now known as the Stella Foundation, which was in the name of his mother.

“They all connected and started teaching each other and cooking for each other”

What language, if you could, would you learn instantly and why? 

Italian – I got married there, it’s our second home as a business – aside from Holland and Scotland, it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

What book and podcast recommendation do you have for the sector? 

Human Kind by Rutger Bregman. It recommends exactly the sort of things TSH does, that we trust in our people, we trust in our community – when that book came out, it shared all our values. For a podcast, I would recommend Eckhart Tolle’s Essential Teachings. It’s great for mindfulness.

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