Delano: What motivated you to quit your old job and start a café?
Lili Fouet: I was increasingly bored and unhappy and started asking myself about the purpose of life, because I couldn’t bear life anymore. I lived… woke up, took a shower, took the car, sat in traffic, worked, ate… the same procedure every day. I wanted a life of adventure, a life of surprises, a life where your work becomes a part of you, where your actions speak from your heart. And then I thought: why not to combine passion and business?
What resources did you have to launch the café?
I started this business with nothing. I sold things of mine to get the basic money I needed. But as I kept persevering, doors slowly opened one by one and I eventually got to where I am now. You need to believe in your dream and not to give up. A lot of banks refused to help me because they didn’t believe in my project, but ultimately my conviction won. Believe in yourself, in your heart--that’s where success comes from.
Do you feel part of a community of freelancers, independents and self-employed people? And if so, what characterises this community besides their legal work status?
I do not feel part of a community, not as a freelancer or an independent or a self-employed person. I do my business with my own characteristics. I just use my heart and my feelings, which distinguishes me from other businesses. Of course, I followed the legal path to open my café, but inside it I employ my rules. I don’t receive “clients”. I just receive friends, who open my door to share and spread literature, arts, music, food and a lot of love--simple things that you have inside you and which make you happy. Don’t forget the simple things!
Is it hard to run a café in Luxembourg?
Running a café in Luxembourg is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. You are ignorant. The job is indefinitely intense, full of surprises, impermanent and the people you employ have to be strong because the job is really demanding. I’d never been so tired before. Servers are really underpaid in general for all the heavy hours of manual and intellectual work they must do, which is why it’s so complicated to find good people. You must pay so many taxes and bills that at the end you’re just happy to survive. But I don’t complain. I wouldn’t change my job for anything.
When it comes to the subject of “becoming your own boss”, people often talk about a trade-off: you make less money but it’s worth it because you become happier. Do you have any comment on that?
I didn’t become my own boss to make money. I always hated the commonplace. I was growing increasingly bored and unhappy with my middle-class existence. I wanted to be happy and to approach my dreams, to become a writer--I’ve been writing since I was little--to find a way out, to share in words what my feelings can’t express. So, I thought about what I could do first to attempt my dream. And the idea came to open a literary café, since I love books: a place like home where you can meet people and share your passions (and have a good glass of wine and a homemade meal!) Talking, sharing feelings via readings and music--these have given me more happiness than working in an office where your diploma doesn’t even fit on the wall.
This article was originally published in Delano’s working in Luxembourg supplement.