Interview with Tomasz and Kaja Nowowieyski

Poland is not a rag as many would like, it's a rocket. We have nothing to be ashamed of. If there is no Poland, our children will have much worse chances for development.

Tomasz Nowowieyski, alumnus of the 7th edition of the Capital Market Leaders Academy, entrepreneur, Master of Law (University of Warsaw) and Finance (SGH), studied at HEC Paris. Since 2016, together with his wife Kaja Nowowieyska, he runs Mutalo Group – the owner of the KABISA beverage brand, available globally in over 100 countries. Gained experience in 17 African markets where he built the first e-commerce business (Jumia Africa) in cooperation with Rocket Internet. Speaker at TEDx SGH (2019), he began his professional career in the consulting industry (EY, zeb).

Kaja Nowowieyska, alumnus of the 9th edition of the Capital Market Leaders Academy, entrepreneur, Master of Finance (SGH) and Management (University of Warsaw), studied at Ivey Business School in Canada. Together with her husband, Tomasz, she runs Mutalo Group where she is responsible for exporting KABISA beverages and business development. She gained experience in Zambia, Kenya, and Mozambique, where she worked with Rocket Internet as a Managing Director (Jumia Africa). She started her career in state-owned companies, including the IPO of PKP Cargo SA.

Marta Płowiec, Paga Foundation: You are expecting your second child soon, your company has grown into an international brand in recent years, you are a foundation couple – a great story, right?

Tomasz Nowowieyski: There’s a lot ahead of us, we’re just at the beginning of the road. We try to approach the opportunities we have received with humility and make the best use of them. We work at the grassroots level, close to the ground.

Kaja Nowowieyska: Being a parent is most important; the decisions we make will have a huge impact on the children. Unlike in business, it cannot be replaced with money.

Marta Płowiec, Paga Foundation: What values do you live by?

Kaja Nowowieyska: The most important for us is the family: us and the children. Everything else is a means to an end.

Tomasz Nowowieyski: As a consequence of that, Poland, our place on Earth, is also important for us. This is where we live and build, for the good of this country. It is important for us that our products, which we send to all continents of the world, are produced in Poland. We emphasize this at every step. Poland is not a rag as many would like, it’s a rocket. We have nothing to be ashamed of. If there is no Poland, our children will have much worse chances for development. We spent a lot of time abroad and our home is here, not far away in the world.

MP: In the Foundation, we believe that business must primarily serve people. You have a brilliant perspective – you had the opportunity to get to know a completely different culture, into which you had to fit your product. So I guess it had a big impact on your values.

TN: Serving business to people can be understood in many ways. For me, it means that both people and business must constantly improve to stay afloat. If you stop developing, the end is near.

KN: It would be beautiful to be able to share an optimistic view of brotherhood and equality of cultures, but the world is unfortunately much more complicated. Both in Burkina Faso, Germany, Myanmar, and on the island of Curacao, people fight for limited resources, the opportunity for modernization, and work at the best margin. Human nature, however, is the same everywhere.

MP: And how did it all start? I think I’ll ask each of you separately about your start with the foundation adventure!

TN: ALRK and the foundation environment is an excellent network of contacts that helped us solve many challenges in business. For me personally, the foundation has a personal dimension – mainly thanks to the foundation I met my wife. I came there with a presentation for the Reunion and my wife was the only one who asked me a question after the lecture.

KN: Participation in ALRK was a turning point in my life. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Ewa Paga for so many years of running the Foundation, to Anna Mieleszko, Marta Płowiec, and also to many Alumni who helped us when we were starting the company: Łukasz and Monika Włodarczyk, Damian Król and Anna Karpec, Paweł and Monika Bieniasz, Michał and Agnieszka Markowski, Karina and Kuba Ananicz, Tomek and Natalia Kubik, Paweł and Kasia Świdziński, Tomek and Monika Kamiński, Sławek Baniak, Agnieszka Obrycka and many others who know we are talking about them.

MP: The most important question: where did the business idea come from! You, Tomasz, have already met several times with the younger Participants of the ALRK Academy to tell them about what you do, the audience was always greatly impressed.

KN: Both the idea for the business and the idea for oneself must be new every day. When we started, we sold one product aimed at the markets of African countries. Now KABISA Drinks brand is sold on all continents of the world, and our offer includes vitamin drinks, ginger drinks, and party mixers.

TN: Every day for us is a series of choices between two paths – the easy and the difficult. We always choose the difficult one.

MP: What is your so-called “hard pass”? What do you say a firm no to?

KN: Every person has weaknesses, and they take various forms. You should work on these shortcomings. The great temptation is to wallow in one’s weakness and blame others for it, not oneself: children – parents, the poor – the rich, women – men, entrepreneurs – the tax office, employees – employers, citizens – the rulers. A person should every day improve himself, not look for the guilty for their failures.

TN: For us, strength is in tradition, in what has worked for centuries. There is no time in life to break open doors, there is too much to do to waste time finding solutions that are already available.

MP: What do you think business should be like?

KN: Business must constantly make a modernization effort. Business must constantly adapt and evolve, becoming better: offering a better product, a better process.

TN: Business has always been and will always be – increasingly difficult. The next popular adjectives “responsible”, “ecological” are an increase in difficulty level. Whoever will not be able to adapt will disappear.

MP: If you could share something with the youngest generation of the Foundation, but also if you could convey something to the older colleagues from the circle of Alumni, what would it be?

KN: Do what you are good at. Don’t pay attention to others.

TN: Buy with cash, not on credit.

MP: Sometimes the sun shines, sometimes it rains – what is your story of ups and downs in running a company?

KN: Fortunately, we have not made any big mistakes so far. Both in life and in business, we are conservative.

TN: Basically, if someone really doesn’t have to, it’s better not to run their own business, it’s a very big challenge. What helps is the ability to make accurate decisions, on the edge of intuition, from scraps of information and uncertain reports.

MP: Thank you for your time, especially during such an important time for your family! We keep our fingers crossed for KABISA’s global expansion.

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