How Success Happened for Anouck Gotlib, CEO of Belgian Boys
Anouck Gotlib runs a business that makes everything from breakfast to dessert, but if you ask her, she'll tell you that she runs a happiness company.
Founded in 2015, Belgian Boys is led by Belgian-born wife and husband duo Anouck Gotlib and Greg Galel. The couple has bootstrapped the business from one small idea into a cult-favorite brand now sold in over 5,000 retailers (like Target and Walmart) nationwide. Recently for the first time, Belgian Boys raised funds from strategic partners including KIND Snacks founder Daniel Lubetzky's Equilibra Ventures and other fellow CPG founders, industry leaders, and angel investors excited about scaling the Belgian Boys mission to "turn up the happy" on every day moments.
Gotlib was still working in fashion when Belgian Boys was in its infancy. Leveraging her skills from the world of fashion, Gotlib began helping Belgian Boys as a side project, designing its original branding and packaging. She quickly fell in love with not only the product, but the smiles it brought to people's faces, and came on board full-time first as a head of marketing before taking on the CEO role in 2018. Gotlib and Galel now work side-by-side, all while raising two children together in Brooklyn, where Belgian Boys is based.
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For Belgian Boys, the success was not an immediate overnight phenomenon. Gotlib notes that she and Galel took a methodical approach to building the foundation of their brand. Because they were bootstrapping the business on their own, they sought cost-efficient ways to incubate new ideas in-market. At Costco, they tested out the idea of offering beloved European breakfasts (like mini pancakes and crepes) in the chilled refrigerated section, as is typical in Europe, as opposed to within the frozen section, as was common in the U.S.
Gotlib reflects, "For us, it made complete sense. Breakfast is a meal that we eat every day. Merchandising our foods as frozen sent the message that this is something you stick in your freezer and pull out on occasion. And why should our customers walk across the grocery store from fresh to frozen when they are already grabbing their breakfast items like eggs, bacon, and yogurt, when they could add on their pancakes right there?"
The innovative idea caught on and more and more consumers started adding a serving of happiness to their morning routines. That happiness that Gotlib is so passionate about spreading shows up in every part of the brand from its nostalgic flavors to its brightly colored packaging that as Gotlib says, "just makes people feel good." The lineup is made in Europe with premium, non-GMO ingredients. Though the stroopwafel was Belgian Boys' first product, and it's the breakfast line of heat-and-serve Crepes, Pancakes, Belgian Waffles and French Toast that is the fastest growing. The Brioche French Toast, which launched exclusively with Target in early 2022, is already showing potential to become the millennial household's "indulgence" staple. As this generation takes on parenthood, Belgian Boys breakfast manages to be convenient, delicious, and without any sacrifice in ingredients.
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"Our goal is to pack the maximum amount of love and happiness into every treat we make and bring a smile to our customers' faces. We never take ourselves too seriously, and we deal in the currency of smiles. We're passionate about creating joy for our customers, and about spreading sweetness in people's lives, and we know we make the best products that do just that" Gotlibexplains that the brand's focus on "turning up the happy" on everyday moments has steered most of her business decisions to date, and that includes helping the brand identify meaningful partnerships. For example, through its partnership with DryBar, Belgian Boys is delivering a little bit of joy at a moment when customers are already treating themselves with a fun and pampering experience. Happiness for Gotlib starts with her family and her team, whom she considers to be an extension of her family. She shares, "My family brings me so much joy, but I'm a workaholic and I'm not ashamed of it! Every day I wake up happy and blessed to be able to do what I love surrounded by the talented team working so hard to grow Belgian Boys into the global brand I know it can be. The team and our happy customers have become an extension of Greg's and my families."
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Especially as people continue to deal with the weight of Covid, Gotlib hopes that Belgian Boys can spark a little more joy during everyday moments and even difficult times. The brand linked up with investor Daniel Lubetzky for the first time when participating in a KIND Snacks program to deliver donated snacks to frontline workers like doctors and nurses. Gotlib recalls that hospitals would call her team to say how grateful they were for their deliveries. She would think, "You are saving lives, I am sending a waffle."
She adds, "I felt like that was the power of our brand. If you have a bad day, that little cookie will make you smile. That's what we are all about: sparking happiness."