We continue uncovering the best of Brussels as we speak with Julien and Matt, founders of Buddy Buddy, the first nut butter café in Belgium. Julien is from Brussels, Matt from New Zealand. Their beautifully-designed atelier & coffee bar is located just behind the Apple Store on Rue des Drapiers 10. They have quickly become well-known across the country as creators of premium bio nut butters. Their products are made in small batches and on-site, high in plant-based protein, fibre, healthy fats and low in carbs, all this in addition to being extremely tasty. This is an inspiring story about entrepreneurship, love for coffee & nut butters and urban life in the EU capital city.
First and foremost, what exactly is Buddy Buddy?
Buddy Buddy is a nut butter atelier and specialty coffee bar that opened in January 2020.
Can you tell us more about you, who are the people behind the brand?
Behind Buddy Buddy are two buddies: Julien from Brussels and Matt from New Zealand.
But why did you choose nut butters? And what is making your brand special? (Oh, and what about coffee?) 🙂
We really struggled to find good quality nut butters in Belgium. We love and eat a lot of them since we’re vegan and need more protein, fiber, good fats and nutrients in our diet – which nuts are full of. That’s why we started roasting and grinding our own nut butters at home a few years ago and ended up really getting into it! We always knew we wanted to open a specialty coffee bar. After a lot of travel and reflection, we decided a coffee bar alone wasn’t going to cut it. So we thought why not merge the coffee bar idea with our nut butter obsession? The two businesses ended up synching nicely – we can show off the versatility of nut butters at the cafe and educate locals on nut butters being hidden gems, not American junk food.
We live 5 mins walk away from our chosen location. It’s great because we feel we’ve created a sense of community in a street which is otherwise deserted. We believe the best food and beverage businesses are not on the high street.
How did you choose your location – we love the fact that it’s a bit hidden and yet it is right in the heart of the busy district between Porte de Namur and Louiza?
We were selfish in choosing our location! We live 5 mins walk away from our chosen location. It’s great because we feel we’ve created a sense of community in a street which is otherwise deserted. We believe the best food and beverage businesses are not on the high street. High street cafes don’t have to worry about quality as they’ll always have lots of passing trade. Our customers seek us out because they care about quality and non-industrial products. Thanks to Instagram, Google Maps and Happy Cow, the right people can find us easily.
We’re a couple who love the simple things in life and great cafes!
Doing business in the times of pandemic has certainly been a challenge. How did you manage?
We have to rise to the challenge or die. Luckily we have a dual business approach. While the cafe suffered, we pushed the nut butters and they boomed. Demand exceeded supply but we didn’t want to let the opportunities slip. The ongoing challenges are mastering things we’ve never experienced previously: logistics, procurement, distribution, sales, cashflow, international trade, etc. We just had to make it work and somehow we’re still floating along!
What’s your take on Brussels? How do you feel about the city in general and what do you love?
Brussels has a sense of dynamism and energy which is hard to deny. It’s artistic, creative, liberal and diverse.
What’s one thing that you would change/improve in the city?
For Julien – I’d streamline everything – there are too many different communes with different rules and it’s kind of a mess.
For Matt – more safe bike lanes!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start his/her own business?
There are hundreds of things we wish we knew before starting Buddy Buddy! Perhaps the most important thing is to be very persistent. We had countless people tell us “no”. “No” seems like an automatic response in Brussels bureaucracy. But keep persisting and you’ll get there.