Francesca Zimmer-Santos

Meet Francesca

Coworking pioneer of the Philippines
Francesca Zimmer-Santos
Embrace fear because that’s when you know that there is room to grow.

Francesca, who goes by “Chesa”, spent many years rising up the ranks in the fast-paced worlds of hospitality and events across the US, Europe and Asia. But when she returned to the Philippines in 2011, she felt stumped.

Despite the fact that she was home, Chesa struggled to navigate the local business landscape, build a sense of community, and find like-minded people. She took matters into her own hands and opened the Philippines’ first coworking space, co.lab.

More than just a place to park a laptop, co.lab became a vibrant network of change makers and innovators. Within a year, co.lab had expanded to a second premises and paved the way for more than 20 other coworking spaces to open across Metro Manila, Ilocos, Bacolod, Cebu and Davao.

Creating the heart of the community

Chesa says she was inspired by the work of urban sociologist Ray Oldenberg, who wrote The Great Good Place and Celebrating the Third Place, where he shared inspiring stories about different “Third Places” and described them as the “Heart of Our Communities”.

Through the co.lab, Chesa has been able to attract a strong network of members working in the development space. It is also home to many tech companies, start-ups, creatives and location independent professionals.

The collision of ideas and like-minded people leads to new opportunities, shared learning, and ultimately contributes to the country’s progress by facilitating connection, cooperation, and collaboration amongst its members.

Connecting the dots

Facebook helped Chesa accelerate the growth of the co.lab community. It has made connecting and reconnecting with people around the world so much easier. “It makes us all progress further and faster,” she says.

Last year, Chesa and two of her closest friends launched a passion project to expand on the sense of local community she had built through co.lab. TryLocalPH was a celebration of local concepts, places, products, and ideas that had helped shape the cultural landscape of the Philippines. The series was housed on Instagram and organically generated over 10,000 followers in less than six months.

Embracing the fear

Launching co.lab in an environment where there was no precedent taught Chesa to just go for it. “Embrace fear because that’s when you know that there is room to grow,” she says.

She also credits the support of her friends and colleagues, who so generously gave their time, knowledge and expertise, but admits “The toughest challenge for me has always been reminding myself that I am enough.”

Previous Article Next Article

To help personalize content, tailor and measure ads, and provide a safer experience, we use cookies. By clicking or navigating the site, you agree to allow our collection of information on and off Facebook through cookies. Learn more, including about available controls: Cookies Policy