Today marks the beginning of a new series I’m starting on my blog: kindred spirits. In this series I interview the person behind a small business or blog that I find inspiring and whose message I would like to support or whose story I would like to share. I am starting off with Babongo, an ecofriendly webshop run by Nicole Blaak. I asked her some questions and she was so kind to answer them.
Could you tell me something about the person behind the webshop Babongo?
My name is Nicole Blaak, creative, idealist optimist with a passion for beautiful things, travelling and nature. But I’m also an incredible homebody, I love settling myself on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. I can do nothing really well!
When did you start Babongo?
The idea for Babongo started at the end of 2010 and in june of 2011 Babongo went online. In between that time I perfected the idea, wrote a business- and marketingplan and I searched for products that encompassed Babongo’s philosophy.
Can you describe Babongo’s philosophy in a few words?
Almost everyone now is more aware of the problems that exist with regard to the finite nature of our resources. I see it as our shared responsibility to make sure that we can continue to enjoy the beauty of our planet earth. With Babongo I want to show that beautiful, fair and sustainable go together really well without having to making any large compromises. Besides that I think it’s important to not be extremely serious or somber about sustainability. I think nobody gets very happy that way, I even think it creates the opposite effect.
Why did you target the sustainable or ecomarket in particular?
Let me be frank: I really think it’s important we change the way we do things. But I’m also being realistic, people will have to cross a threshold in order to buy sustainable and fair products. There is still this tag attached to it that says ‘boring’ and ‘ expensive’. This is not the case, there are many young designers who think it’s self-evident to take into account the impact on the environment when they design or choose a material to work with. And these products are really affordable. Through Babongo I would like to create a platform for these products and their designers.
How do you make a selection to include in your range of products?
I select my products based on what I think is beautiful and from which I hope and believe the customer will too and based on what I think is sustainable. All of my paper products for instance are recycled, but also preferably carry a FSC or other certification and are printed with bio-ink. Sometimes it’s also possible to ask designers or suppliers to produce a sustainable version of a product. That is really fantastic I think! Furthermore you can find products that are made out of rest- and recycled materials, reused, biological cotton/ hemp and biological degradable materials. And what I think is really cool is that we also sell colorful candles made by people with a disability.
What is one of your favorite products and why?
I have a great feeling with all of my products, I think they are all beautiful, the magazineholder from the Swedish brand Creatables, the paper lantarns by Jurrianne Matter, the colourful baskets by the French ¿Adonde? and the little notebooks by the British Tamasyn Gambell are my personal favourites.
What are your dreams for the future?
Of course I would like Babongo to grow, for people to see what beautiful products can be produced in an ecofriendly way and eventually to be able to get rid of the label ‘ green lifestyle webshop’ when ‘green’ is just normal. Besides this I would also really like to design products, in collaboration with other designers or by myself.
Which sustainable (webshop)tips here in the Netherlands or abroad would you like to share?
Please do make sure to visit Babongo and in case you’re wondering about the name, Nicole explains that the name comes from a native tribe in Gabon. Life for the Babongo tribe consists of ritual dance, singing and ceremonies. They live in close relation with nature. The logo for Nicole’s webshop was made by one of my favorite illustrators and paper-cutting genius: Geertje Aalders. Thanks Nicole!