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March 23, 2020 —

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Slou

In the Stare Bielany district of Warsaw, Poland, you’ll find a welcoming creative haven that’s more than just a lifestyle store. We talk to owner Joanka about her vision in establishing the popular destination, Slou.
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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How would you describe Slou? 

Slou is a place to meet, talk, buy and create. You can find some unique products and plants here, and you can also try our workshops, or just spend some time chatting with our team.

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Who are the key people behind your business?

I’m the creator of this place, the brand, and the whole concept. I make strategic decisions, and Paweł is co-creator of our concept. Agnieszka has been with Slou from the beginning and is responsible for social media, brand image, and contacts with our clients and the makers that we work with.

Photography: Olga Tuz
Photography: Olga Tuz

What inspired the idea of setting up Slou?

I had been dreaming about a place like this for a few years before creating Slou. I dreamt about a plant shop, and I also wanted to open a space that would revitalise the local district and community – a space where creative projects, workshops, and exhibitions and so on can take place.

Slou is constantly evolving. We think about new projects all the time, we attend markets, and organise new workshops with local artists. Now we are opening our second place in Warsaw. Our team will be bigger, we are very excited about this!

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When did you open for business?

Slou opened in Autumn 2017, and beforehand, we owned a cafe (which we still run) in the same street. It’s called Roślina Cafe and it was the first vegetarian and speciality coffee house in the northern part of Warsaw.

Going further back in time, we did many other things: we ran a company producing stylish dog accessories, Pawel work as a freelance designer and photographer, and I was part of the marketing department in a big international corporation in Asia.

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Is there an underlying concept or set of values behind your business?

The concept of Slou is to showcase timeless, unique, high quality products made by creators and artisans from Poland, and all over the world. It was very important to us to create a place for workshops, for people who would like to gain knowledge about craft and art, and also to make something unique by themselves. We are inspired by simple things, good design, crafts, and plants.

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What’s Slou’s location like?

Slou is based in Warsaw, in the Stare Bielany district, where Pawel and I both live. It is far away from the centre, but near to the metro station, so in 15 minutes you can be in the heart of the city. The neighbourhood is very calm and green, full of old houses and old stores. We love the atmosphere – it’s like a cute small town – it was the perfect place for us to open Slou.

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Who are your customers?

Most of our customers are very conscious consumers, they know our brands (which are often eco brands) and they visit us to buy their products. Other people visit us to spend time in our shop because of the atmosphere, and to check what’s new, or simply to talk. We love it. Some customers don’t really know the brands, so it’s our role to introduce our them and we do it with pleasure. We have regular customers who visit Slou to get new plants – Slou is a kind of ‘green spot’ on Warsaw’s map.

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How valuable is the online community to your work?

We use social media to communicate with our customers, talk about news, future projects and anything they would like to ask us about. We show our everyday work to let them see what’s happening at Slou. We use it all the time. I think it’s important to be in touch with people, especially when they can’t visit us because they live in another city or country.

What’s your ideal day off?

I have finished my photography studies and this is my passion at the moment, but I don’t have much time for it – except for work. My partner and two children definitely fill my free time! However, what I love and care to do regularly is to meet up with my girlfriends. I have wonderful friends, and meetings with them keep me going for a long time. That’s something I appreciate every second of, and I’m always careful to make time for those moments.

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Tell us about the physical space of Slou – how did you create it?

Interior design is another thing I love. I love to plan, invent, create. I designed our interiors and took care of all the details; the search for the craftspeople, the bending of the brass pipes to the wall panels, and everything else. What’s important to me in these spaces is the mobile elements. Every now and then, a voice inside tells me to change everything, to move displays and furniture to a different place in order to feel the freshness again.

How do you source your products?

Part of our work is to research for interesting brands. We send emails to all the brands that we would like to see in our space. At the moment we are focused on home accessories and lingerie.

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What is Slou best known for?

Many people comment that Slou has a unique, friendly and positive atmosphere, as well as offering beautiful things that make perfect gifts.

What are the good and bad parts of being an independent retailer?

Sharing information with people about miraculous brands, craftsmen and a business world that is geared towards being fair to people and the world is very enjoyable! The challenge is the business part. The Polish market is not easy, and sometimes, it’s difficult to work with small brands under good conditions that are satisfying both for us and for them.

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What have been your business highlights, so far?

I think our biggest highlight is just ahead of us – it will be when we open our second location. We are very excited!

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Describe a typical working day…

It’s full of tasks and meetings, and each day we talk a lot and discuss recent projects. My list of things to do is a never-ending one! Every day is different and it’s exactly the way I plan it to be – I love it!

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Has Slou evolved since you began?

I think our business model (in essence to be an active and bright store, and a creative space) accompanied us from the beginning. Frankly, I think Slou is the same place as in the first months! Of course, we have learned a lot with the different projects and collaborations we have taken part in, and now we are more experienced. But a lot of things we still do the same way. We are more recognisable for sure, and I think our second space will definitely be a big new journey for us.

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How do you balance running an online business with a physical shop?

It’s natural to us. We opened offline and online stores almost at the same time. In the physical store, our customers can touch and have a look at every single thing. At the online shop, they can buy something without a trip to Warsaw.

How do you approach marketing and PR?

Marketing is very important in running a brand, but for Slou it needs to be unobtrusive and delicate. I prefer this type of marketing of brands myself, and this is what leads the way in the marketing of Slou. Communication with our audience is tactful, on a level, sincere and very aesthetic.

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What are Slou’s favourite products, makers or bestsellers?

Our customer’s favourite products are the plants, I think. To be honest, we love all of our products. We choose artists and brands whose products we already use, or would like to use. Any advice for aspiring independent store owners? Not specifically – I just think it’s worth doing things the way you feel: then it works, and it’s nice.

What does the next six months hold for you?

The most important future event is opening our second Slou store, and developing our small team’s growth. Additionally, I’ve been working on a new brand for two years, and I hope it will start this year.

Find Slou at Aleja Zjednoczenia 11, 01-829 Warsaw, Poland.

Online at www.slou.pl and on Instagram and Facebook.

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