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04 Friday 2020 |

5 funny things about the CEO couple behind Upgrade Estate  

The fact that Nele Van Damme and Koenraad Belsack are the power couple behind Upgrade Estate is no secret. But did you also know that they started out on the road to success in a food truck? That evening walks are a fixture of their relationship as a CEO couple? And that you'll never find Nele in the office on Wednesday afternoons? 

Read 5 funny things about the partners with storytelling architect Ianka Fleerackers, in the Brave New Human podcast, where Ianka goes on a walk with Nele.


 #1 Before Upgrade Estate came… a food truck

“In our early twenties we opened a food truck at the Ghent Festivities”, says Nele. “What we lacked in experience, we made up for in drive. We made a pizza oven, tried our dishes out… Our 'let’s go for it' mentality proved successful and the following year, our food truck was even more efficient. That’s how we laid the foundations for what we do now. Because with the profits, we were able to apply for a loan to buy a site that we ourselves converted to student accommodation.” 


#2 Walking meetings in nature

“To let off steam, Koenraad and I go for an evening walk about three times a week. Because even though we’re running the same business, sometimes we don’t see each other for the whole day. This is our chance to have a chat and a walk in nature, which makes me feel totally relaxed. Then we don’t need to discuss everything in front of our children at the kitchen table.”.”


#3 Sabbatical year? Sabbatical summer!

“Our big dream is to go abroad for a year, to broaden our horizons via a fellowship or exchange programme. Of course, when you’re running a large company, that’s no easy ask. So last year we challenged our management team to think about how they would organise themselves if we were away for a year. It was a hypothetical exercise, but it did get the cogs turning. So this summer we cancelled all our operational meetings and delegated our roles. We only got weekly updates. And this summer, I can organise my diary as I please. Fantastic!

#4 Wednesday, chips day

“Whatever happens, everybody in the business knows that they can’t plan meetings on Wednesdays between 12 and 2 pm. Because, as we've done for the past 22 years, that’s when we go and have chips at my parents’ with the whole family. With meatballs in tomato sauce or mussels… This helps the grandchildren develop a fantastic bond, because they’ve seen all their cousins throughout their lives.”

#5 Two things Nele never wants to do

“There are two things I can’t do: copy someone or copy myself. If I come up with a concept for a particular project, I never use it in other projects, however good it is. Because that takes the fun away. Constantly challenging myself and seeking out new things is an important part of my happiness”.


Take a virtual walk with Nele and Ianka in the full podcast: Taking a walk with Brave New Human Nele Van Damme - Upgrade Estate