Dear Nicole, so glad you could join us! I am pleased to welcome a Cologne colleague to the FemalExperts interview and “jump” straight into the topic:
Would you like to give us a little private insight, loosely based on the question: Who is Nicole Borek?
Yes, with pleasure. Thank you for the invitation to the interview dear Kinga.
Nicole Borek is a young woman who loves freedom. She stands up for justice, self-determination and respect for every living being (I’ll stay in the third person, I find it funnier that way).
She is on fire for the topics: Consciousness, connection between man and nature, universe and quantum physics and mental, physical and spiritual health. She knows that all these issues are interrelated. She is curious, a good listener, adventurous and creative. She has the urge to develop as a human being and likes to think unconventionally and to loosen up existing, rigid structures and thought patterns. She is determined, consistent and you can steal horses with her.
At parties she is usually the last one on the dance floor, she loves to be with people and loves just as much to retreat to a wooden house in nature in the Eifel (like right now, while I am writing these lines).
Nicole Borek is a family man, a people person and loves life. She is a born strategist, being an entrepreneur is in her blood and she believes that even one person can make the world a better place.
You have successfully completed a Bachelor of Arts in International Culture and Management at the Cologne Business School. What made you choose an international focus?
I grew up in Remscheid and felt pretty quickly: There’s a lot more out there to discover. I want to get out, I want to see the world. For this, an international study program is a good start. I knew that in order to work internationally one day, I would have to raise my level of English (which was mediocre when I was in high school). And then at a party in Cologne I met people who were studying at CBS. I spent the whole party night grilling the students on how it was all going and then the next morning I knew: I need a loan and I’m going to CBS.
You are a multitalented linguist (German/English/Spanish/Polish). What advantage does this linguistic diversity offer you?
Being able to grasp a language has many advantages. It’s not just pure communication. Rather, only then do you really get a deeper insight into a culture through the way it constructs its sentences, the words it uses, and what it sings and laughs about. When you learn a language, it shapes you as a person to deal with these different perspectives. And of course, especially in Mexico (the country of origin of the aloe vera raw materials for my startup), it is the greatest thing for me to be able to exchange ideas with the country and its people on a professional as well as private level.
Starting your own business after graduation is certainly a courageous step for many readers. Would you like to take us along a little bit on your journey here? How did this decision come about?
During my studies, I had three commercial activities running in parallel, which I used to finance myself. I have an entrepreneurial sense and enjoy understanding new industries and immersing myself in other worlds. The scope of my activities during my studies was as varied as one could imagine. For example, I took care of the rental of four high-end apartments in Cologne and at the same time I was on the road at trade fairs as an interpreter and sales support.
I am a generalist, learn quickly and find new challenges great. That’s how my small businesses came about on their own.
Being in control of my life and income has always appealed to me. And most of all, I love to decide for myself when and how and from where I work. To be able to live self-determined is a great gift for me and I have kept that until today. Being independent allows me to be able to live like this.
You met a Mexican aloe vera manufacturer at a trade fair in Cologne, which gave rise to the idea for Wild Baboon. How would you describe the process from the idea to the founding of the company exactly?
The creation of Wild Baboon was an interesting and very natural process. This opportunity has “come to me” as if it was meant to be.
The abbreviated story of my heart’s project Wild Baboon went like this: At a trade fair in Cologne, I meet a Mexican company that is involved in the organic cultivation of a plant that I had previously had the opportunity to get to know in Mexico during my semester abroad: The Aloe Vera.
The Mexican aloe vera farmers and I hit it off right away. After the trade show, I get the job offer to accompany the company to international trade shows to assist with sales and communication. I learn about the aloe vera production process and benefits and am invited to the plantation. I work with them as a freelancer for many years until one day I sit down over red wine with Pancho, the founder of the family farm. We’re discussing the economy, and I’m probably wielding speeches again about how we need to make sustainable change about the economy. And that’s when he says to me, “Why don’t you create your own aloe vera brand and implement all that you have in your head?”
And after some thought, I came to the conclusion that this had to be a good idea. In this way, I was not only able to offer healthy and valuable products that increase people’s well-being, but at the same time also build the kind of company that I consider meaningful for the future: Sustainability as the foundation for all entrepreneurial decisions, convincing through high quality in the product jungle and bearing social responsibility as a company from the 1st Euro turnover.
The idea for Wild Baboon was born.
What is so special about aloe vera and how are your products particularly interesting for customers?
Aloe vera is an extraordinary medicinal plant that has been used in many cultures for thousands of years. Anyone who has ever treated their sunburn with aloe vera knows that the skin regenerates many times faster.
And this is basically the superpower of the plant. It provides the nutrients and building blocks our bodies need to quickly replicate healthy new cells and recycle or remove old, damaged cells. And since not only our skin, but our entire organism consists of cells, the benefits are very versatile.
The longer I am involved with the plant and learning about it, the more fascinated I am.
Our products are particularly interesting because we have combined product quality with sustainability and social responsibility, so that customers know they can rely on the quality of our products, use plants from sustainable, responsible cultivation and part of their investment is reinvested in meaningful social projects.
Were you ever afraid of the competition and famous competitors? As a founder, how do you find a good way to deal with this without getting discouraged right away?
I like to call the other brands competitors, because here, too, I believe in a supportive economy of the future, where resources and knowledge are shared for the benefit of society and the planet. Maybe I’m still a bit too early with my vision, but in the startup ecosystem I can already say that I perceive this atmosphere among the founders.
And I didn’t get discouraged, because I think the market is big enough for all the brands that are currently represented. Each brand also has (at best) its own charm. And if people like the charm of Wild Baboon, they will buy from us in the long run, even if we are still relatively unknown.
It takes patience, consistency and passion, then there is little room for discouragement.
After the foundation in January 2020, you could record incredible development steps. Among other things, the sale at the “Blaenk-Shop” on Black Friday in the same year caused a huge queue in downtown Cologne. How did it feel to see your own product on the shelf locally?
It was an incredible feeling to be selected by the Economic Development Agency as the Aloe Vera One-Woman Show for a project on Schildergasse. Martin, the founder of blaenk store also had a personal connection to aloe vera through his grandpa and was happy to have such products in his store. It was a top match and I am still in close contact with Martin today.
If we venture a little retrospective here: looking back, what would you consider to be the biggest challenge in starting and running a business?
I believe that trying to create such a concept as Wild Baboon on your own is a very daring undertaking and requires a lot of strength, a good intuition and a lot of angels along the way who will give you the right tip or a helping hand at the right moment.
Is there a tip here that you would like to give to (aspiring) female founders?
Dare. You have nothing to lose – only a lot to gain.
As a female founder, it is often difficult to find an investment for your own company (keyword: gender investment gap). You even consciously decided against external investors for Wild Baboon. How did this decision come about?
Offering aloe vera products is not exactly the most innovative thing the world has ever heard. I knew that if I brought outside capital into the company in the early stages, I would be giving away a lot of percentage for very little money. First of all, I wanted to prove myself that a sustainable and holistic aloe vera concept has a right to exist on the market and will make sales.
I also enjoy the self-determination of being able to make every decision on my own, without having to orient myself to the goals of financial backers. Certainly there are business angels and investors who have a gentler manner and exert little pressure.
But I believe that it has been too early for investors so far. Between us, I also think it’s pretty good to bootstrap and see how far you can get with minimal resources. But I also keep a realistic view of the situation and would react at the (hopefully) right moment and bring investors on board.
If we expand, this step will most likely not be absent either.
With Wild Baboon you commit to the Fair Principles, a part of every purchase will be donated to the “Neven Subotic Foundation” in Ethiopia. What encourages you to take on social/environmental responsibility with your company as well?
Taking social responsibility as a business enterprise is the vision that drives me. I think business can and must be a lever for change in the right direction, and for that we need companies that show that profitability and impact can go hand in hand. If you only want to.
Dear Nicole, finally, my favorite question: where will we see you and Wild Baboon in the coming years? What are the next development steps?
In the coming years, we’re going to shake up Europe a bit and place ourselves in high-end wellness hotels, pharmacies and drugstores. Wild Baboon will be much more than “just” a company that sells products. We see ourselves as a holistic partner on the journey to greater health and beauty in harmony with nature. Live formats, such as a joint Lenten journey with the Wild Baboon community, will be available as early as January 2023. And many more exciting formats. As they say at Wild Baboon: be wild. be natural.
Thank you for inviting me to your interview, dear Kinga. It was fun!
Dear Nicole, thank you so much for these exciting insights! Your example shows what exciting ideas can come about when we approach our world with open eyes and are curious to learn more and create better.
About the author
Kinga Bartczak advises, coaches and writes on female empowerment, new work culture, organizational development, systemic coaching and personal branding. She is also the managing director of UnternehmerRebellen GmbH and publisher of the FemalExperts magazine .