Interview with German vegan couple who have launched a crowd funding campaign to open a cafe in their hometown, Duisburg
In the last few days the link of the article 10 Couples Behind Some of Today’s Most Successful Vegan Establishments, from Vegan Weddings HQ, circulated a lot on Facebook and it is great to see, on Valentine’s Day week, that more and more vegan projects and initiatives are being successful.
Here at All About Vegan Food we’ve published two interviews in 2013 about great business run by vegan couples: Go Max Go and Moksa Organics. We are also a vegan couple chasing our dream to work with something we believe and that we think can make a difference to this world today and tomorrow, for us, our son and all animals on Earth. It is inspiring talking to people who have gave up on regular jobs to do what they are passionated about.
For our first interview of 2014 we couldn’t have chose better! We’ve talked to Dennis and Sarah, a young couple from Duisburg, Germany, who have been running a guerilla cafe for a while and have just created an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to open the first vegan cafe in their hometown:
You and Sarah have been organizing vegan events in Duisburg since 2012. When did you guys go vegan and what has inspired you?
We became vegan in 2011 after being vegetarian for two and a half years. One year later we went through a time of change. We switched or quit jobs and thought about alternatives to do. So Sarah came up with the idea of our own café. But that was difficult to realize for two people with no experience in that area whatsoever. So this friend of us, Daniel Öhman from the swedish band EF, he gave us the idea to organize a guerilla café at our place. He saw people do that in Amsterdam and we knew about some guerilla restaurants in New York. So we thought that this must be possible in Duisburg, too.
Why did you decide to open a vegan cafe at your home town?
We wanted to become independent doing something we’d both support from the bottoms of our hearts. We didn’t want to work for any corporate companies or other hierarchical structures anymore where we were seen as outsiders because we were vegan. And we both love sweets and cake. So, since we became vegan Sarah started to experiment with all kinds of vegan cake and cookie recipes because there was absolutely no vegan cake to get in our home town. Every time we were in Berlin to visit friends it was like paradise to us because there are so many vegan places there. But not in Duisburg. So we thought we could just move to a different city where it might be easier to open up a place because the vegan community might be bigger there. But then we realized what we would miss about Duisburg and that it would be a great opportunity for us to just open up the first vegan coffeehouse in the city. There are some vegan places here now but as a vegan sweet tooth in Duisburg you have a hard time. And since our guerilla café at our home became more and more popular we felt that it might be just the right time and the right place to just do it.
Tell us a little bit more about Dennis and Sarah, the people behind Cafe Mousebear!
The place we are going to open up is actually going to be called “Kruemelkueche” which could be translated with “Crumble Kitchen”. Café Mousebear is our guerilla café at home.
We come from different backgrounds. Dennis grew up in Duisburg, is a musician, author and (video-) game designer. He teaches game design at an academy in Cologne and plays the drums in a band called MAGMA WAVES. Sarah worked in a marketing agency and then went to a university to become a teacher. But we just found out that we wanted something else out of our lives. And being the dedicated vegans that we are we thought opening up a café would be great. Sarah could turn her hobby into her profession and bake and cook at the café and Dennis would be in charge of the service and organize concerts at the place. So everybody’s doing what they’re best at.
Germany seems to be getting more and more vegan friendly in the last years. Do you think this is happening everywhere in the country or just in some specific cities/towns? How vegan-friendly is Duisburg?
That’s true, Germany is not the worst place on earth for vegans. It’s getting better and better. In the past mostly Berlin was really into veganism and many places opened up there. It’s still the best place to be for vegans. But the rest of Germany follows. Especially the region where we come from. Dortmund and Bochum have a few places, Cologne and Essen are really picking up on vegan restaurants big time and Duisburg is not that bad itself for vegans. We have a mexican joint that’s all vegan, called Mexican Hat, there is an all vegetarian/vegan restaurant called LoLu’s and some places that are not 100% vegan but very vegan friendly.
What are the biggest challenges for setting up a vegan cafe?
One of the biggest challenges is getting the permission to open up a restaurant or café from all the different authorities, especially in Germany. Of course we don’t know about those kinds of regularities in other countries but here it is rather difficult because there are so many rules you have to consider like hygiene, kitchen furniture, parking spaces or even the width of the doors. Once you’ve overcome all those burdens it’s not that hard because there the fun starts. It’s like redecorating your dream apartment.
We decided to start a crowd funding campaign because it’s not that easy to get a loan if you are a small start up. Therefore crowd funding was an alternative which we wanted to try. Not only is it nice to actually get feedback from people who will probably be customers but it’s really a relief because you don’t have to pay back any money to the bank immediately after opening up. Without this loan you can really focus on your job and to be honest: it’s less scary that way. Starting a crowd funding project is not that difficult. After we agreed upon the perks people get for the amount of money they spend we just had to do a video, which in the end was a lot of fun.
So if you or your readers want to help us making our dream of our hometown becoming a little more vegan come true then head over to Indiegogo and check out our campaign.
What can we all expect from Kruemelkueche?
It’s going to be the cozy living room at that cool friend’s place with the old mixed up chairs and sofas where you never want to get out off anymore once you sat down. It’s the joint with the fireplace where you sit in a wing chair and read a book while enjoying a tea or coffee. That book you just saw on the shelf and decided to keep it, because you just put in an old book that you loved yourself but that you felt should belong to somebody else now.
There you will meet your friends in the afternoon and borrow a board game after a late lunch or just a piece of cake. Or maybe you want to play a few cups of Super Mario Kart. You will listen to the vinyl records, Dennis is going to put on all day long and you can browse through the shelves where they sell hand made things from local artists. In the evening you can watch a concert, listen to a reading or have fun at the poetry slam. There will be all kinds of things happening and every time you’re there you can discover something you haven’t realized the last time. At least that’s what we hope to achieve once our crowd funding campaign comes to an end and we can calculate what cool stuff we can still afford after refurbishing the place and buying the professional kitchen hardware.
(All pictures courtesy of Marcus Kösters)