Ex-topvolleybalster geniet van ondernemersbestaan: “Dankzij mijn sportcarrière ontwikkelde ik veel doorzettingsvermogen”

“Thanks to my sports career, I developed a lot of perseverance”

Margo Voets (copyright: Eva Verbeeck)

After her career as a top athlete – Margo Voets played volleyball at the highest level for a long time and was even briefly part of the Belgian national team – there was extra time that she wanted to fill as soon as possible with her second passion: interior design. When that ball also started rolling, it only fueled the entrepreneurial spirit even more, which resulted in Slō, its own catering business. “I felt it all went so fast, sometimes it seemed as if almost everything was going by itself”. Although Voets also encountered the necessary challenges on her entrepreneurial path…

“After my marketing studies, I combined volleyball with a job as a representative of the Lindemans beer brand. I visited the coolest catering establishments in East and West Flanders and sold – as far as I’m concerned – the best kriek in the country. When I ended my volleyball career in 2019, sitting still was not an option. I took up my second passion – interior design – and started a study in evening classes. Soon I did my first interior projects under the name BURO MARGO”, says Voets proudly. “This gave me a lot of satisfaction and even more desire to do business.”

She combined the interior projects with a job as a barista in Koffie & Staal in Leuven. “There I learned, among other things, how to make the perfect cappuccino. Given my great entrepreneurial spirit, I soon started thinking about my own bar. That’s why I started the WSET wine course to read and learn more about wines in addition to coffee. The foundation of her own catering business Slō had been laid.”

Sports minded a family

I don’t think I need to tell anyone that an entrepreneurial journey – especially in the beginning – can be quite bumpy. Fortunately, I am very optimistic and positive by nature. In addition, thanks to my sports career, I have also developed a certain perseverance and I also learned to stand my ground.”

“Of course, a good support from family and friends should not be underestimated. Choosing a logo, choosing a good wine fridge, assembling the kitchen, and so on: my family and friends are always there for me, so I have not often felt alone throughout my business.”

Innovative concept in the city

Slo is the phonetic word of slow and stands for slow food in slow living. “It involves the switch from fast food to mindful eating and from materialism to personality and simplism,” explains Voets. “Within Slō, this is reflected in the simplicity of the plates that are served, as well as in the minimalist interior.”

And the Leuven resident, did he immediately embrace her catering business? “A person from Leuven needs time,” says Voets. “Slō is a new concept for many in Leuven with an innovative interior. I often hear the question: ‘Is Leuven ready for this kind of bar?’ Admittedly in a positive sense. But how nice is it not to be able to bring an innovative concept to a city. Isn’t that why you do it as an entrepreneur?

Sustainable and local

With Slō, Voets attaches great importance to sustainability and local. “We change our menu every season and we put local products in the spotlight. The coffee beans, tea and cheeses also come from around the corner. And for our (natural) wines we always look for smaller wineries. In fact, before the start of Slō, I contacted a few picking farmers to ask them to work together for my fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, they could not guarantee the necessary volume for a catering business, for which I of course fully understand.”

Seasonal working is extremely popular, and therefore a nice trend to observe”, says Voets. “You really notice that everyone is doing their utmost to work (together) locally. That’s how I launched Kitchen Takeovers, where our kitchen is literally taken over for one day by young chefs and passionate food lovers. It gives a different dynamic and it’s so nice to get to know new people from the neighborhood who share the same passion as me.”

(copyright: Eva Verbeeck)

De work-life balans

For the former top volleyball star, the biggest challenge is not in the business itself, but in combining Slō and BURO MARGO with her private life. “After a weekend of work, I can really long for a day off on Monday”, says Voets. “Only at those moments I dare to lose sight of the fact that my interior projects are not waiting for them.”

“Moreover, I think it’s important to maintain contact with my friends, I prefer to see my mom and sister every week and I need enough sports and sleep. You can already imagine that my friend and I really have to look for quality moments together”, Voets laughs. “I have the feeling that I am currently not working 7/7 but 10/7. Is this even possible?

Although I consciously focus on slow living with Slō, it is something I still have to remind myself of every day: being more aware of the now, enjoying the little moments more

“So although I consciously focus on slow living with Slō, it is something I still have to remind myself of every day: being more aware of the now, enjoying the little moments more. Sometimes I can walk – rather speed walk – from point A to point B and live in a huge rush. Since we stand for slow food and slow living with Slo, I think it is extremely important for myself as an entrepreneur to take steps in this direction and to share this with the outside world.”

Continually push boundaries

“Within Slō itself, no one will feel rushed,” emphasizes Margo Voets. “I will therefore never work with two fixed shifts. People come and go as they please. Is that for 4 hours or 10 minutes, as long as they have been able to experience the necessary quality time in my business, I am a happy person.”

Both for Slō and for myself, I am able to push my limits again and again

What are the future plans for Slo? “My dreams have certainly not come true yet,” Voets laughs mysteriously. “Both for Slō and for myself, I am able to push my limits again and again. An ultimate dream or goal therefore does not exist for me either. What I do want to pass on to others is: dare to jump! Dreams don’t come true by themselves.”

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