Many housewives are looking for work once their children have become independent, either for the first time or to pick up where they left off. But after several years of inactivity, the step to employment is often a big and difficult one.
For Fatma Ozkan, who took over brewery-restaurant London located at Place du Luxembourg at the heart of the European quarter of Brussels, it was indeed a challenge. At 45, she found herself at the head of a company of 11 employees in a job for which she had no training or experience.
“When the children were growing up, I wanted to do something. I started to get bored. But I never actually worked in a job like this. I am a trained hairdresser. The first day, I sat in the restaurant and I said to myself: What am I going to do here? The staff was already working in the restaurant. They said to themselves: Who is this woman?”.
Long working days followed and Fatma Ozkan had to be brave and learn the job on the spot to earn the respect of her employees: “I suffered for a year. But today, I am proud of myself. “
Four years later, the makeover of London is often praised by other pubs at Place du Luxembourg.
Her secret? Work, fun and openness to others. Although she moved from Turkey to Belgium at the age of 8, she does not feel more Belgian than Turkish or European.
“I am Belgian, my roots are Turkish, my religion is Islam. But I am open to all cultures and religions and I respect everyone the way he or she is. I feel human.”
What she likes the most about her job is the contact with people. It is probably this openness that allowed her to make this pub “a home.”
It is a home to that one client who clears his own table every time he visits. And to that one employee, who, at the age of 75, still has the strength and the desire to continue working at London.
“I know my customers very well and I know what they like. I give it my everything, just like I would for a guest at my home. Customers tell me that in London, it’s like being at your family’s house or at a friend’s place.”
With its classic Belgian and Franco-Italian cuisine, and some Turkish dishes, London attracts a diverse clientele: Belgians, employees of European institutions, MEPs, people of multiple origins…
What advice does she give to young people who want to start their own business?
“Today’s young people are afraid. If I can be successful starting my business at the age of 45, you can all succeed. Do not be afraid of work. It is the work that needs to be afraid of you.”
This is the message that Fatma Ozkan wants to share, she who dared to take up the adventure of entrepreneurship, which brought her from her living room to London.