The Pharmacy and Titeca: the perfect blend!
Entrepreneur Jan Van Ongevalle (54) is not at his trial. For a quarter of a century he ran a thriving fashion boutique. When he made the switch to hospitality, it didn't take long before he, together with his son Ran (27) and daughters Hannah (32) and Noa (21), made a success of cocktail bar The Pharmacy. In the meantime, the business has also been copied in Antwerp. And their ambitions do not stop there.
Recipe for success
Entrepreneurship is in the Van Ongevalle family's blood. Jan grew up in his parents' clothing business and thus entered the world of fashion. After graduating from the hotel school in Koksijde, he went to work in the family business. After twenty-five years, his passion for fashion faded. He sold the business and packed his backpack for a trip around the world. There he found an old love again: hospitality. 'One evening I was sitting in a bar and watched with fascination as the bartender made cocktails. That's when I knew: this is what I want to do.'
We are family...
Jan went to work as a bartender. In 2010 he won a cocktail competition held by the City of Knokke, although at that time he did not have much experience. After a long search for suitable premises, he found the villa where The Pharmacy is still located six years later. He called his eldest daughter Hannah, who was living in Nice at the time, and asked if she would like to participate.
'She had to think for a while, but the next day she was at the door. The Pharmacy was born. Initially, the idea was to run the business just the two of us, but soon we needed employees.'
"Making cocktails is more than just chopping two drinks together."
Shaken with world fame
After Hannah was chosen as Belgium's best bartender in the Diageo World Class in 2014, she participated in the world final in London, where she finished 12th.
'While Hannah and I were in London, my son Ran jumped in behind the bar. He was working as a bartender in Ghent at the time and always said he didn't want to work with family. You guessed it. After that week, he stepped into the business with me.
Three years later, my daughter Noa also wanted to work at The Pharmacy. I refused, thinking it was a whim. She went to work elsewhere, but came to wash dishes for us for free on Saturdays. She worked her way into the business step by step. Now she is in charge of The Pharmacy in Knokke.'
Son Ran also decided to take his chances in a competition, and the most prestigious competition in the field of bartending: the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition. He won the Belgian, European and world titles. Meanwhile, he has his own business in Bruges: Palo Cortado'.
From Russia, with rum
The original idea was to keep The Pharmacy low-key, but in the meantime the store has been a hit in Knokke for six years. Jan opened a similar restaurant in Antwerp. Before that we joined forces with the hospitality group Shrimp Tempura. She published a cocktail book and can regularly be seen on the channel Njam. She also runs her own company, Tipsy Cake, also a client of Titeca. She gives workshops, lectures. You can often find us abroad. Hannah, Ran and I all give seminars. Next week I'm traveling to St. Petersburg for seminars and guest shifts.'
'We make long days. We have a great passion for what we do. In the store in Knokke we have the motto: Family. We may not have it all together, but together we have it all. We each have unique qualities and complement each other perfectly. Even outside of work hours we cannot keep quiet about our profession, often to the annoyance of my wife Heidy. It's just stronger than ourselves. Eating and drinking are my hobbies, I'm a real Burgundian.'
Bookkeeping... from annoyance to absolute added value
With so much ambition and a busy schedule, a good accountant is indispensable. And that's what Jan found at Titeca, although it wasn't a conscious choice at first. We ended up at Titeca after our accounting firm was taken over by them. Initially I feared that I would be just a number, but this turned out to be unjustified.
The move to Titeca meant a real change for Jan. The support from Titeca is top notch! I used to hate bookkeeping, I saw it as a necessary evil. Only at the end of the year did I wonder how things were actually going.
Now I follow up well. Once a month I sit down with Titeca. We look at where we stand, what I need to pay attention to, what costs I can save on. That gives me more control over my business and above all peace of mind. My regular contact person at Titeca sometimes really pushes me to face the facts. At first I found that annoying, but now I experience it as an enormous added value.
"Make sure you are good at what you do and stay very close to what you are good at."
If you can dream it, you can do it
Jan doesn't have to think long about what his advice is for young entrepreneurs.
'Follow your heart and don't deviate from your principles. Make sure you are good at what you do. The moment your passion is over, you have to stop. That's the advice I give my children as well. All three of them are tremendously motivated, so I'm sure they'll always land on their feet.'
So although the succession is assured, Jan is far from thinking of stopping. After much deliberation and thanks to relevant advice from Titeca, I will be opening a restaurant in 2020. I don't want to give away much about the concept yet. It will not be a classic restaurant, but a total experience, just like The Pharmacy. I strongly believe in the famous quote by Walt Disney: if you can dream it, you can do it.