Sabien as a friend
“Sabien is one of the friendliest people I know. I have never seen her snap at, or be rude, to anyone, not even when she is under great stress. That’s what I like so much about her,” says Sarah Merabaï, one of Sabien’s closest friends over the past twenty years.
A shared passion for fun is one of the things that has kept these friends together for all these years. “I always have a good time with Sabien. It’s been the same since primary school, when we cycled to school together every day. I remember our first meeting very well. I was rather chubby as a child, yet that didn’t bother Sabien. On that very first day, she lifted me off the ground and swayed me through the air. That was extremely unexpected, and so cool! I believe that that was the beginning of our unconditional friendship.”
After they finished at high school, Sarah moved to Amsterdam and Sabien went to study in Ghent. Despite the distance, the two friends stayed in close contact. Sarah recalls, “We actually had a group of nine friends. I remember when one of the girls’ relationships ended. I told my boyfriend at the time that I’d have to go back to Belgium right away. He was surprised and asked me if I was in a sect or something! Sabien laughs and continues, “Since then, our group of friends has been called ‘The Sect’, and that name still persists to this day.”
After her studies in Amsterdam, Sarah returned to Belgium and went to live with Sabien in Ghent. “That was a great period,” remembers Sarah. “It was very intense. We went out a lot, had a lot of fun and experienced the wildest adventures, without ever going in the wrong direction. Yes, we both have what it takes to be the life of the party. We don’t wait for something to happen; we make things happen ourselves. We also share the same absurd sense of humour and have wild imaginations. We can totally immerse ourselves in that, which makes us perfect allies.”
Sarah experienced the founding of Roof Food from close quarters. “At the time, I was mainly there to support Sabien, rather than being a critic. I never told her to be careful or to think twice. On the contrary, I often said that she should just go for it. I’d say, ‘Go ahead, I know you can do it.’ Particularly in the early years, when everything went smoothly and Sabien won several prizes with Roof Food, I saw how passionate she was and how much energy she drew from it. Even when things started to get harder after a few years, I kept encouraging her. I saw that period as a learning experience for her. Of course, if I had noticed that things were going the wrong way with Sabien, I would have sounded the alarm. Sabien is, however, an entrepreneur by nature and I had confidence in her capabilities. I think that Sabien’s biggest advantage might also be her biggest disadvantage, in that she has to learn how to temper her enthusiasm and energy so that she doesn’t get ahead of herself.”
Sabien: “I really appreciate how Sarah reacted. Sarah likes to be clear and prefers simple and robust solutions. I have learnt a lot from that. She taught me how to take good care of myself and not to be afraid of speaking my mind. Entrepreneurship is a very personal story after all. Her advice has always been so valuable to me. Sometimes I have learnt more from talking with her than from talking with other entrepreneurs. Friends care more about your business; they have your best interests at heart and, as outsiders, they have a more objective point of view.
Talking and crying
Sabien: “By spending so much time on Roof Food, my friendships have been quite strained for a long time. Sarah and I went camping for a weekend with another friend a while ago. We didn’t have that much fun because we were all dealing with our own problems. We talked through a lot of things and all had a good cry and that helped a lot.”
Sabien laughs and continues, “I suddenly realised how much I missed my friends and how much I had been leaning on my boyfriend for support. I didn’t want to have to do that anymore. In the end, friends give you a different kind of energy. Since that moment, I have been putting more effort into spending time with them.”
Quality over quantity
Sarah has been living in Berlin for the past year and a half, so they have to make do with simply calling each other. The disadvantage of a long-distance friendship is that it is far more difficult to build new memories. On the other hand, their long history together makes it easy to resume conversations and to get straight to the point when one of them is struggling with a problem. “For us, quality takes precedence over quantity. We have an uncomplicated and unconditional friendship.”
This story was created with the support of Circular Flanders, the Flemish policy-making organisation for a circular economy.