It’s Wednesday afternoon when I am at ETN Salad bar for an interview with Lotta. We have just started, when I see two ladies hesitating to come in. They have come to visit Enschede for a day and would like to grab a bite to eat. They study the menu to see if the salad bar has something to offer they like. After some deliberation they decide to compose their own salad and could use some advice from Lotta.
Music of a French radio station is playing. All elements contribute to a relaxed, nice atmosphere. In the middle of the bar you are able to see how Lotta prepares the salads.
After Lotta has made the salads, so the ladies can eat, we start with our interview. I start the recording. During the interview, when a customer arrives, I make some photographs of the bar and the preparation process of the salads.
I get to see the room from a different perspective through the lens of my camera. I see more details than when I would have been eating and talking. I like the chalk board very much which she has lettered herself.
‘When you don’t do it, you will wonder for the rest of your life: if only I’d done it, would I have succeeded?’
Lotta doesn’t need to have those doubts anymore, since she opened the ETN Salad bar in December 2016, the first to be opened in Enschede. She has dreamed of her own business for some time now, so she was happy to have herself inspired during the development of this concept. She wanted to offer something which wasn’t there yet. ‘You cannot predict, if it will work out or not. You can research as much as you want, but you have to put it in practice to find out if it works. You have to test it. It helps when you know what you are getting yourself into.’ When people confirm that this is what is right for Enschede, she is very happy.
It is now or never.
She had a job that didn’t fulfill her. On top of that colleagues were leaving, since they suffered from burn outs. It was not the best place to work at. When she received the question if she wanted to work during Christmas holidays in December 2015, she thought: it is now or never.
That was the start of this adventure. She quit her job, did some research and next she started a crowdfunding campaign which gave her a lot of publicity. In November 2016 the shop was hers and a month later she had a running business. The work is much more than the job she used to have, but she receives so much more in return, which makes it worth the effort.
Lotta is a German woman in Twente who thinks it is important to connect to the local culture. That is why she named her business ETN (when pronounced in local dialect it means to eat).
Local suppliers support her initiative. She uses many of their products, especially meat, eggs and cheese, since it is readily available. People are attracted to the local character of ETN. She believes it is important that her products are good-tasting and from local suppliers.
She doesn’t participate in all food hypes. ‘When you really try to make a product sugarfree, without dates, maple syrup, honey, coconutflowersugar, then it will not taste good.’ Besides salads, Lotta offers more and more sweets. She has enjoyed to sell vegan treats and sweets on the Local Sunday Market very much.
She has received many positive reactions. To see people enter or leave her shop with a smile is really rewarding. On the day of the interview she had a woman in the bar who said: ‘Wow, I need to take a moment to take everything in, I am enjoying myself.’ When Lotta is telling this story, she is glowing.
In the flow
Lotta experiences flow when the place is packed with people during lunch hour and she is fully focused to make sure that people don’t have to wait too long. Her core task is to organize the work flow. She is satisfied when everything runs smoothly. It happens that she cannot have a lunch break herself.
Lotta likes trying new things and she is full of ideas. She would like to step down from the process and leave more to her employees, so she can engage in other tasks.
One of her ideas is to set up workshops in the back of the shop, so the room can be used after opening hours. Her specialty is a workshop ‘canning’ (preserving food in cans). She would like to do this again, but she knows it isn’t the right time yet.
She believes it is important to deliver quality. It means doing things step by step. She tunes in to her gut feeling, so she knows what the next step is. ‘It doesn’t work when you want to do all at once, especially when you are not ready yet.’
First she would like to create more routine in her business, the other things will happen next.
Setting priorities is one of the things she has learned. It creates focus. She has a strong vision of her business and what needs to be done. She doesn’t get distracted easily by all the advice she is given. She sticks to her own ideas. It was part of her own development process.
She has many doubts, but doesn’t get carried away by them. She calls it ‘holding a realistic view’. ‘Too much positivity is not good’, you have to find the optimum balance.
‘You can overthink everything too much.’
She talks about a situation during the crowdfunding campaign. She took off in the beginning, but stagnated on 58% for a few days. ‘What if you don’t find any people that will participate? Do you know what you have gotten yourself into?’ It was very frustrating and it affected her.
However, she was determined not to show it, so she made a video with a convincing speech for a call for action. That helped the campaign tremendously. Spreading doubt would have done just the opposite. Sometimes you need to bluff. Fake it till you make it. On top of that you need to believe in your idea strongly yourself.
‘When you don’t try it, you will never find out. If you don’t do it yourself, nobody else will.’
Out of her comfort zone
Every now and then she pushes herself out of her comfort zone. It happened for the photo shoot for cultural Sunday in Enschede. She was asked to be a cover model for billboards and now her picture can be seen throughout the whole city of Enschede. That was kind of a thingy, she thought, to be so visible to everyone. She has put aside her feelings and stepped into this new adventure. She has received many positive reactions until now and she couldn’t have wished for a better publicity.
Lotta has many ideas and keeps on developing herself. That’s the fun of it. She has people who support her 200%, so she always has a backup. It’s very important, she says, because you need to accept the fact that things can go wrong and you have to be prepared to bear the consequences. You need people who help you in times of doubts and worries and give you a kick in the but whenever necessary.
We are about to experience many nice things from Lotta, since she vibrates with energy and ideas.
When we say goodbye and I am standing in her store, I feel how awesome it is for her to run such a business. She feels comfortable there, it has become her place.
This is where she belongs and that is what she reflects.
You can find the ETN salad bar in the Haverstraatpassage 26 in Enschede. Your taste buds will be well taken care of by the delicious salads and drinks and on top of that the place has a relaxed vibe. It’s a nice place to be. You can have a take-out meal or have it delivered in your home or office. They are opened from Tuesday until Saturday, you can find more information on website: www.etnsaladebar.com