Tine & Lisa: Team Tinsel.

So, Tine you’re usually the one that does the interviews? 
Tine: I guess. But I’m an Aries, so that explains. Right at the start of the pandemic, we got interviewed by the TV news and I just kept on babbling for minutes on end, while Lisa just stood there, perplexed, and all she could say was “it’s really exciting” (laughs).
Lisa: My dad still makes fun of me for that. It’s okay though, I like to let her do the talking, she knows best anyway (laughs).
What I was curious about is how you two got to know each other. Do you remember how that happened?
Tine: Sure, it was through Tinsel! I didn’t know Lisa at all, but we needed someone extra to join the team. Lisa came in for a job interview and soon after started working full time. 
Lisa: That was about 7 years ago, right before Tinsel’s 3rd birthday party.
Did you hit it off right away?
Tine: For a while, there was a distance there because she worked for me, and I think that partly explains why we’re so good together – that bit of distance at the start. She was really good at her job and soon started doing way more than what I’d initially expected. The more we worked together, the more we clicked, I think. I started to realize that it’s not all that common to find someone with such great work ethic, someone that invested. I wanted to reward that by getting her on board. I felt like I wanted to share Tinsel with her.
Why did you love working there so much then, Lisa?
Lisa: That’s hard to say. It’s not like I walked in with a big plan on how things would evolve. I was coming out of a tumultuous period in my life, and just wanted to find a job that I could enjoy. Now that I think of it, it never really felt like a job to me. I never once dreaded getting up and going to Tinsel. If you can live life that way, I think you’re pretty lucky. I immediately really enjoyed being there and I still do today.
It feels like home. 
Lisa: It does and that’s super valuable. 
Tine: You’d think that with Lisa becoming an equal part of Tinsel, we’d feel less of a need to see each other outside of work, but it worked out differently for us. We’ve only gotten closer since then. Obviously, also due to circumstances in our personal lives, and through moving here (Tinsel moved from their original location at the Vlaamsekaai to the current location at the Sint-Paulusplaats in 2022 – ed.). There was a lot going on, but it only tightened our bond. 
Seems intense! Also seems like something that could easily go wrong. 
Lisa: We’re both very communicative though. And I can put up with a lot (laughs). No, honestly, I think it’s important to always keep in mind that whatever we do, we’re doing it with the best intentions and a love for each other. That’s very helpful already. Plus, Tine is also great at detecting problems before they’re actually problems.
Tine: When you work together this closely, it’s important to know what’s truly important and what we can just let slide. We hardly ever argue.
Lisa: We know each other through and through, which makes it so much easier. We also love making fun of the other. Like, I can call Tine our little dwingeland and that’s cool. She can tell me how indecisive I often am, and that’s cool too.
Would you say the move to this location was your biggest challenge yet?
Tine: I would say so. Because there’s a difference between working together and building something new together from scratch. At the old location, all the big decisions had already been made and we had a smooth operation going. But we’d never been through that start-up phase together - and I’m someone that wants things to go a very specific way.
Lisa: In the end, our strength is that togetherness. And we both really dislike drama (laughs).
So, it wasn’t the move itself, but everything that followed?
Tine: Exactly. We were both amazed by how quickly things took off here. We honestly underestimated how busy it would be, from the get-go. There was no time to just ease into it. Also, it was an emotionally heavy time for me as well, so I was dealing with that too.
Lisa: Through that whole process, I got to see some of the realities of being an entrepreneur that I didn’t know yet. Tine had already been through all of that.
Tine: True. I started Tinsel all by myself over 10 years ago and now I wonder how the hell I pulled that off (laughs). Despite everything, the only choice you have is to keep pushing forward. In a relatively short time, we learned how to train our team and make everything function in a well-organized manner. At the old location, it was unthinkable that the two of us wouldn’t be there. Here though, Tinsel runs just fine without us. We’re lucky to have such an incredible team. And we still love being here ourselves too.
Lisa: It was a constant search for balance. The balance between both of us here at Tinsel. The balance between work and our personal lives. The balance in how you spend your time and so on. It did feel like I was chasing a train that was taking off full speed. I was running so hard but couldn’t quite jump on the thing (laughs). Looking back at that time, I’m super happy to see how we managed to deal with it all and how things are structured now.
Lisa, earlier on you were saying that you learned a few things from Tine by working together so closely. Could you elaborate on that? 
Lisa: Well, I’m someone that believes that everything works itself out in the end. I’m not that organized and I tend to procrastinate. I have an agenda but sometimes I don’t use it for weeks (laughs). Whereas Tine is so well structured, her agenda’s impressive! She knows exactly what to do and when to do it. So, I’m trying to apply some of her skills to my way of working because it does bring a certain peace of mind.
And the other way around Tine?
Tine: Lisa’s very patient. She doesn’t give up. I really admire that in her. She puts a lot of feeling and emotion into what she does, but she can turn those feelings off too when it’s needed and just gets things done. 
When people look at Tinsel, they may only see a beautiful spot to eat and get coffee, a popular place that does super well. What are the things that people don’t see or don’t seem to understand about Tinsel? 
Lisa: There are two major things and they’re not always that easy to explain to people. The first one is that Tinsel is this hype Instagram spot. That’s honestly something we don’t even think about it. In a way it’s nice to see that people perceive it that way, but that is not our goal at all.
Tine: Another big one is that we still make everything ourselves. We do our own shopping, we select the wines, we decide on the menu and so on. We start super early every day because everything here is made fresh. People don’t always seem to realize that. It may be smarter for us to let go of a few things, but right now that’s still how we operate. We think about every little detail and want things to be just right.
Obviously, the way people see Tinsel is something you can’t completely control. I’d imagine that your primary concern is making Tinsel a place that people really enjoy coming to. 
Tine: I do find it a bit annoying that it’s perceived as a hip spot. But it’s not something we feed or encourage, so that’s fine. It can be weird though to notice that some people only come here for that reason. To scratch it off the list and take a few pictures. I’d much rather have people come just because they enjoy spending time here and because they love eating here. 
Lisa: It’s a bit of a bummer to see people experience Tinsel through their telephone and not in a more relaxed, open way. We kinda feel like monkeys in the zoo sometimes (laughs).
Prior to moving here, how extensive was the research you did on this part of town? Or did you just happen to land here? 
Lisa: A bit of both. We’d always said that if we ever moved Tinsel, we’d move to a square. So, when we had to leave the old location a bit sooner than expected, we came here to look at another building. But this one also had a “for rent” sign up and it immediately spoke to us, even if it was just a really old, run-down brown café back then. It looked incredibly different from how Tinsel is now, but when we saw how the sunlight came through the windows, we saw the potential. 
Tine: We wanted to be close to the center of the city, but not in a location where we’d have to explain we didn’t have any Coca-Cola 100 times a day (laughs). I think it’s nice that people have to make a little effort to come here, you usually don’t just bump into us. I also love that we’re in a very authentic, lively part of the city. Right by ‘t Schipperskwartier (a well-known neighborhood that borders the old harbor, also known for its red light district – ed.) for example. Everyone knows everyone around here.
Have you gotten used to how busy things are by now?
Tine: We really didn’t expect things to go that hard. I remember seeing the newly installed cooling room downstairs, and thinking it was way over the top. But after the opening weekend I was so happy that we had it. We sold out of everything that first weekend, so we were forced to close on that Monday (laughs). 
Lisa: It’s fun to look back at it now, because now I can see how cool it is.
Tine: I look forward to being totally okay with everything, because given how much busier it is now, how big our team is and the number of investments that we did, I can still get a little stressed. But I know we’re doing well and got it under control.
Once that feeling is there, do you see yourselves doing it all again and opening something else?
Tine: We’re already thinking about that, actually. We wouldn’t want to do a Tinsel Two though. We have learned so much from this whole experience, so we feel like we know what the focal points would be, what we should do different – I think we’d definitely make it work. We both can’t sit still, so it’s something we want to do eventually.
Lisa: As intense and exhausting as it was to move Tinsel, it was also a lot of fun. We really had the best time and can look back and laugh already – so yes.
To wrap things up, what always strikes me is the energy that radiates from both of you. Where does that come from? Do you have any special tricks?
Tine: Our stupid sense of humor (laughs). No, we don’t have the wildest lives outside of work. We don’t have anything to prove, really. No tricks or secrets either. We sleep a lot and go to bed very early (laughs).
Lisa: We’re both very sensitive to the vibe in certain places. We want the energy that we both share to spread all over Tinsel. To the rest of the team, to everyone that comes in. We want to create a space where people can feel happy and can get energized.
Tine: Most of all, we want to stay who we are. That authenticity is the most important thing.
Thank you both!
Pictures by Wouter Struyf
Production & styling by Gijs Grondelaers
Words by Bjorn Dossche