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Turning Passion Into a Brand Built to Do Good with Dr. Luc Maes, co-founder, Kaibae

It's a Matter Of...Biodiversity

November 16, 2020
November 16, 2020

Business can be used as a force for good, and a new generation of brands are shifting the corporate paradigm focusing on the triple bottom line - profit, people and the planet. The word KAIBAE means “Hello, how are you? Are you well?” in Kusaal the spoken language of the baobab harvesting communities in Ghana. The Kaibae brand was born out of the love of a tree and a google search that brought a Naturopathic Doctor, a Botanist Humanitarian and a curator together. Kelly Kovack talks with Dr. Luc Maes, the doctor of naturopathy in the trio. His passion turned into a mission and a brand that gives voice to wild plants seeing them as powerful catalysts for improving health and beauty, advancing social good and preserving biodiversity. 

Dr. Luc Maes [00:00:24]:
Hi, my name is Dr. Luc Maes. I am the cofounder of Kaibae, and for me, it’s a matter of biodiversity.

Kelly Kovack [00:00:37]:
There are no coincidences in life. I’m a firm believer the universe presents the right challenges, opportunities, and people; we just need to be open to receiving them when they show up. I’m Kelly Kovack, founder of Beauty Matter. There’s a new generation of brands shifting the corporate paradigm, focusing on the triple bottom line: profit, people, and the planet, proving that business can be used as a force for good. Passion, vision, and intellectual curiosity are the fuel for these change makers. The word “kaibae” means, “Hello, how are you? Are you well?” in Kusaal, the spoken language of the Baobab harvesting communities in Ghana. The Kaibae brand was born out of the love of a tree and a Google search that brought a naturopathic doctor, a botanist humanitarian, and a curator together. Dr. Luc Maes is the doctor of naturopathy in the trio. He fell in love with Baobab while researching plant-based medicines in Africa. His passion turned into a mission and a brand that gives voice to wild plants, seeing them as powerful catalysts for improving health and beauty, advancing social good, and preserving biodiversity.

So, we have with us Dr. Luc Maes. I have to say that your wife and co-founder, Barbara, writes a very compelling email. The passion of the story was palpable when I opened it. My inbox is flooded with new concepts and brands on a daily basis, but when I read the email from her, it came in sort of late at night, and I was like, first of all, she’s a fantastic writer, it was really beautifully written, but I was like, “Oh my god, I have to reach out immediately. This is a really cool concept,” and I have been totally obsessed with it ever since. I even made one of Emma’s Killer Baobab Margaritas when I was preparing for our conversation today, so I’m all in.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:02:39]:

Kelly Kovack [00:02:40]:
So, I would love to lay the groundwork for our conversation by talking about the founding team, which was described to me as a Santa Barbara-based doctor, botanist, humanitarian, curator combo of nature lovers who have been working with plants for 30+ years, which is quite a combination. Can you share your background and how you all came together to found Kaibae?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:03:06]:
My background is naturopathic medicine. I’ve been in the field – I grew up in a family in Belgium with natural medicine, natural healthcare, it was just how I grew up. I studied naturopathic medicine, I’ve been in practice now for 30 years here in Santa Barbara. I have always been very passionate about nature, animals, plants, and to be able to practice in a field where I can apply the healing benefits of medicinal plants for my patients is very rewarding. For some reason, I mean, I fell in love with this giant tree that happened to grow in Africa. I’ve been traveling the world, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to learn about the traditional uses of plants and different regions in the world, but for some reason, about eight, nine years ago, this giant tree that grows in Sub-Saharan Africa called my name, the Baobab tree, and the more I studied about this tree, the more I wanted to visit the regions where these trees grow and meet the people and how they’ve been using the fruit of the tree for their health and beauty throughout centuries, but I had no connections in Africa, and having tried to connect with many people, I finally connected with a botanist humanitarian, through Google, of all things, and he happened to live only five minutes from my house. His name is Tom Cole, he’s a very experienced individual, works throughout Africa, most of the time working with refugees in post-conflict regions, and a botanist himself, he was very familiar with the tree, and when we connected here in Santa Barbara, his eyes lit up and we had an instant connection. The tree just opened the door to a whole new world, not only to its health benefits, but also to its potential, to make a positive impact for the communities where these trees grow, and also make a positive impact on the environment. We feel that we can make a difference by adding economic value to this tree, and now, we’ve teamed up with communities, we’ve developed a supply chain in northern Ghana about eight years ago, and together with Tom’s expertise in community development and agriculture, and my expertise in medicinal plants, we’ve teamed up and established Kaibae.

Kelly Kovack [00:05:39]:
Can you explain sort of the first time you saw the tree? Because clearly, it’s kind of stirred something up with you, because you’ve built an entire business around it.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:05:49]:
Correct. Every time I visit the communities in northern Ghana and the trees appear over the horizon, they give me the chills. When I see them, they’re just magical. They’re giants that have managed to survive in this arid environment where agriculture is very challenging, and these trees are truly majestic, and a crop that has been undervalued, that grows among these communities, is now making an amazing difference, but these trees are really impressive to be among.

Kelly Kovack [00:06:24]:
And watching the documentary, it was…it’s so interesting, because the tree is really sort of the center of the community in so many ways, and there’s sort of this reverence for it that is really quite beautiful.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:06:40]:
Yes, it is. At every center of every community, you have a Baobab tree, and it serves as a place for communities to have their gatherings, it serves as also a – in some places where there’s no access to wells, for example, the tree is hollow. In the rainy season, it fills up with water, and for some of these communities, it’s actually a source of water. The trees are so big, they are communities within themselves, and for many different animals and bees and bats and so it benefits these communities in many different ways.

Kelly Kovack [00:07:18]:
And, I love the story of there was sort of an older man in the documentary who…there was sort of an, it almost looked like a ribbon tied around the tree, and what did he say, that the tree spoke to him, and basically wanted to be dressed.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:07:36]:
Yes, I mean, that just shows you how much they respect the tree. They feel the tree is like a human being, and I feel that respect and that passion to preserve the tree has created, for us, a great team. Here, we have community members that are committed to saving the tree, to preserving the tree, and working together with Kaibae, where our goal is the same thing, and that’s how we’ve fostered a great relationship around the tree.

Kelly Kovack [00:08:08]:
So, there are two sides to your business. One is you’re selling sort of the raw ingredient itself, and the other is sort of the wellness product brand, called Kaibae. Can we talk a little about the nuts and bolts of the supply chain? Because I can’t imagine that was easy to figure out. These areas are quite remote, so I can only imagine what it required to get all of this going. And, I’m also interested in the impact to the community, because I know it’s quite profound, and I think it’s very interesting in Sub-Saharan Africa, you’re quite progressive when it comes to compensation for men and women, even more so than in the United States.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:08:53]:
Yes, we are. In fact, 85% of our communities’ members are women, and I’m very excited about that. But, so, when we started, eight, nine years ago, we traveled to this remote region where there was no harvest for the tree. It grows in abundance, and through Tom’s experience and through communicating with, creating the relationship with local elders, we were studying the opportunity to develop an opportunity for trade. We started with when that was clear, and was scalability was also evaluated, and we were able to – we realized that we could make the impact that we want to make, we were able to move forward, we became organically certified, which was an amazing challenge that took over a year of work to certify and ensure that the tree is harvested in an ethical, sustainable way without damaging the trees, without overharvested. We are very committed to doing it correctly, and that’s why I have Tom onboard, because that’s his expertise. We built a small processing center. We engaged people handlers, processers, and as we evolved over the years, we were able to grow our processing center and include more and more communities and more and more community members, and our impact has grown over the years. Now, we have a processing center where we harvest every year between November and March, and during the dry season, which is a time when there is no agriculture taking place, so it’s wonderful that we can promote – support livelihoods during a time of the year where there is none, and through trial and error, we’ve created a very high quality product and use everything we can use of the fruit, nothing goes to waste. So, yes, we started with a supply chain for the ingredients, and we decided to start that way because it allows us to meet the promise to the communities that we’ll come back for our harvest, but also the impact that we want to make through buying a specific volume that’s been increasing over the years, we’ve been able to increase the support to the communities. And, at the same time, I mean, as a naturopath, what motivated me about the Baobab initially, and now a lot of wild plants throughout there, is that the Baobab has multi-uses. When you use it as the powder, it has prebiotic, high antioxidant benefits. The benefits of the fruit addresses many needs that we have here. So, yes, we started as an ingredient and as a small company in order to gain visibility in such a big industry, the natural products industry. It was a way for us to start and introduce Kaibae, introduce Baobab, and our concept, and amazing companies such as Patagonia Provisions, for example, Nature’s Path Organic, all companies who are leading in adopting more sustainable practices in their offerings, loved what we’re doing, and I feel very proud that we were able to supply Baobab to these companies, who are now able, who have more marketing power, are able to share the benefits of Baobab. In the meanwhile, as a naturopath as I mentioned, I have always addressed the concern of what people ingest and what people use topically. Yes, we’re using organic foods and we’re eating better, and that has all its health benefits, but I saw people still using skincare products with ingredients that were not beneficial, and as a naturopath, I was very motivated to capture the benefits of these wild plants inside and outside, nourishing the microbiome in the gut and in the skin, which we can address as we cover this a bit more, but yes, we started with the ingredient, to ensure we make the impact on the communities, and at the same time, it gives us the opportunity to gain visibility and develop the products that I wanted to develop for our retailers.

Kelly Kovack [00:13:18]:
Well, I was listening to another podcast that you did, and the impact that you’re having in these communities, you know, a lot of people talk about sort of impact and working with communities, but you are literally on the ground, and it is your operation, and there is…you have a very special person running your operation in Africa, don’t you? It’s kind of a really nice story. It’s a beautiful story, but I think it really speaks to the impact that you’re having in these communities.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:13:54]:
Yes. I mean, initially, when we traveled to Ghana, we connected with Sule, a young man with a beautiful family, who really understood, from the beginning, what our goals were, what we wanted to do, and we decided to, over the year, actually start his company. He speaks English, he speaks Hausa, Kusaal, an incredible individual, motivated to build his own business, and saw the opportunity. Now, we were able to even support him to get his MBA, I’m very proud to say that. He’s become the true businessman. But, he is responsible now to manage the processing center. He ensures the relationships with the communities. So, in that sense, we’re extremely lucky to have such an amazing individual on the ground. Recently, we traveled to Ghana at the beginning of this year and did our first impact assessment, and that is what Tom is – through Tom’s experience, we’re able to assess the Baobab after now eight, nine years of working with the communities. The Baobab is the largest source of income for all of the communities that we work with, beyond agriculture, beyond Shea butter, in that specific region. So, Shea butter is harvested more in the rainy season, Baobab is harvested in the dry season, but Baobab, overall, is the highest source of income, and that was extremely rewarding for me to learn.

Kelly Kovack [00:15:36]:
Oh, I mean, it’s incredibly impressive. I just realized that we skipped over the whole name Kaibae, which is so amazing. So, can you tell us how you came to name the company that, and what it means?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:15:53]:
Well, it brings me back to the first day when I drove up to communities, the ladies were all lined up along the entrance to their village, and they were yelling, “Kaibae! Kaibae! Kaibae!” and it was so energized, for me, it’s the enthusiasm of welcoming us to their community. Kaibae means, “Bonjour, comment allez-vous?” “Hello, how are you?” “Shalom,” so, it’s a welcoming question asking, “Are you well? Welcome,” and for me, Kaibae connects me back to the source where it all started.

Kelly Kovack [00:16:37]:
Yeah, I can’t believe – we should have started with that, instead, we end up in the middle, but we got it covered, so that’s the most important thing, right?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:16:45]:
Yeah, yeah. So, for us, I mean, even our package really has meaning. So, everything – we’ve gone into great detail to really convey what we’re all about.

Kelly Kovack [00:16:56]:
So, I know the journey started with Baobab, but you’ve also expanded sort of the idea of lost crops, which is also the name of the documentary you did. You’ve expanded the concept to Seaweed Mamas in Zanzabar, and the Cacay tree in the Amazon. Can you share a little bit about these ingredients and communities, and is it the vision of the brand to sort of continue to sort of find these lost crops and communities that you can impact?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:17:27]:
Correct. And the Baobab, in a very magic way, opened the door to a world where we came to the realization that it is important to preserve these wild plants, to preserve biodiversity, and recognizing that these plants not only have amazing healing benefits, not only have amazing benefits for skin health, but also are very important to the communities that live among these trees and their need to be preserved. So, I love studying. I’m a very curious individual. I’m always learning how I can best help my patients and it has translated now into making these quality products, and I came across the Cacay tree in Colombia. It’s a tree that was being lost to deforestation, and I connected with a group in Colombia, Cahay (unclear 00:18:27), who is very much the same way aligned with our mission, wanting to support local farmers with a tree that grows in abundance – or used to be in abundance, that he is supporting to bring back. So, we traveled to Colombia, which was another great adventure, and connected with local farmers and see how we can potentially help as well. So, yes, we captured the benefits of cacay in our face oil, and then, the seaweed, Tom actually spent some time in Zanzibar in the beginning of his career, and is now studying seaweed as well, because seaweed is very important to the environment, and when I came across the fact that the Seaweed Mamas have these seaweed plots off the coast of Zanzibar, originally the seaweed was supplied through the carrageenan industry, that industry has since moved away from that region, and left the only source of income for the local Seaweed Mamas was seaweed harvesting, so we figured we would like to make a difference, can we make a difference, and how can we do that? So, we traveled to Zanzibar, and while that’s the smaller part of Kaibae, it’s slowly growing as we start to integrate the seaweed more in our products. In the same way, we now are – our goal is to support these ladies in the same way we’re doing in Ghana, and have on-the-ground relationships to positively impact their livelihoods with an ingredient that grows right outside their door. So, yes, and now actually, recently, I traveled – when I was back in Ghana recently, I’m looking for another tree that is getting lost, (unclear 00:20:18), which produces a beautiful butter, and I continue to research. I love studying plants, and I say, “How can I…what are the healing benefits? Is there a potential to integrate them, and how can I benefit these communities?” That’s kind of what I’m all about.

Kelly Kovack [00:20:34]:
I think it’s amazing. You know, I think the other interesting thing is in the times that we live in now, we talk about a lot of scarcity and sort of natural resources disappearing, but in fact, some of these ingredients that you’re working with are actually available in abundance, they’re just not being used.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:20:56]:
Correct. I mean, I feel they grow in abundance in regions where poverty is widespread. In that sense, they’re lost. Now, the communities who work on the Baobab, they realize, “Wow, this fruit that is growing above my head can make a difference for me during a time where I can’t have a harvest.” So, yes, these lost crops grow all over the world, we just need to go and find them. They’re there, and they’re important to preserve the environment, and preserving them ultimately also will affect climate change and so on.

Kelly Kovack [00:21:34]:
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So, let’s talk a little bit about Kaibae the brand itself. I think it’s really interesting, because the brand is positioned as a wellness brand, so it bridges sort of traditional beauty products and functional foods and beverages. You launched the brand in 2011, so you were way ahead of the trend in sort of thinking about the product architecture and positioning, because it’s definitely in tune with where the industry is heading, I think, sort of the beauty and wellness industry, and definitely how consumers are approaching wellness. Can you share a little bit about why this vision was important, this sort of bridging what is potentially very different categories? And then also, the premise of rewilding, which is sort of the foundation of the entire product range.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:23:34]:
Correct. Yeah, so, I mean, Kaibae has evolved into a company that is all about preserving biodiversity. We’re learning that we’re losing biodiversity, us as humans, we’re losing biodiversity in the microbiome in the gut and in the skin, and leaves us increasingly vulnerable to the challenges in the environment, pollution, UV radiation, and so on. So, living the modern life, the urbanized lifestyle, has disconnected us from nature, and what Kaibae is doing is going back to nature, back to the wild, where research is showing that tribes show greater biodiversity in the gut and greater biodiversity in the microbiome in the skin. So, we’ve gone back to visit these hunter gatherer type communities, for example, the Hadza Tribe in Tanzania uses Baobab as a big part of their diet, and they have the most biodiverse gut microbiome. There is not heart disease, there is no cancer, there is no diabetes. So, there is a lot to learn from these ancient traditions. So, Baobab powder is a prebiotic fiber, it’s high in antioxidants and polyphenols, and it benefits the gut. Now, research is showing that gut health is actually mirrored in the skin. The skin is sort of like the window into the…I want to say the soul, but it reflects your vitality, and it starts with what you eat, how you feel, how you smile, how your mood is, it’s all reflected in your skin. So, we believe, as a naturopath and based on my experience, part of a skincare regimen, there needs to be the ingestible part to be addressed. So, yes, the word to rewild is to go back to nature, identify what has benefitted these local communities, and replenish what we’ve lost living disconnected from nature in this modern lifestyle. So, our skincare products, topically, benefit the skin microbiome in a way to be microbiome friendly, enhancing the growth of healthy organisms, preserving skin pH. So, for me, it’s not separate, it’s one. I look at the body as an environment, and in the very same way that we can disrupt and pollute and sicken our environment and now resulting in climate change, very similar things happen within us, and we feel that we have to address that inner environment with ingestibles and topicals.

Kelly Kovack [00:26:24]:
So, the powder itself, the Baobab powder, it’s quite versatile, and it has an interesting taste to it. Can you explain sort of the versatility and the taste and the different ways that it can be used? Because I got with the package that you sent, it’s almost like a whole cookbook, which I was so surprised, and it’s everything from the margarita to the jams, and literally, you can put it in anything, it seems, anyway.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:26:53]:
Yes. Baobab is rich in pectin, so it’s a thickener, so when you put it in a smoothie, it makes your smoothie nice and fluffy. It has a sweet, tart, tangy – my wife likes to describe it as a pixie stick meets a Sweet Tart, which I’m not familiar with, I grew up in Belgium. Children in Ghana eat it as candy, and they get little follicles out of the pod and they just eat it. So, it’s extremely rich in Vitamin C, it’s one of the most antioxidant-rich foods in the world, and on top of that, the polyphenol and the prebiotic fiber, more and more research is indicating how important it is to have a fiber, prebiotic rich diet. So, it can be used in smoothies. There’s companies that we supply that use it in bars, that use it in cereals, candies, just because of the – I would say not only the therapeutic benefit, but also the other benefits, to improve the quality of their product. So, yes, it can be eaten in many ways.

Kelly Kovack [00:28:01]:
Yeah, I mean, it is quite versatile. I think, also, you just launched a soap, which is one of the most beautiful soaps I think I’ve ever seen. I don’t even want to use it, it’s so nice. It is like – it’s a little piece of art. We’re on a podcast, so I’ll have to describe it, but it has different layers of color, and the more clear layer actually looks like it has some exfoliates in it, and it has sort of this beautiful, really rustic, handtied rope. So, it’s a very chic soap on a rope. It’s really beautiful. Can you talk about how that sort of came to be? Because on one hand, it seems a little bit like an outlier product, but it totally makes sense as well.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:28:50]:
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been going back and forth at what kind of soap should I create? Should I create a natural soap? Should I create a (unclear 00:29:02) soap because of the different skin applications? But, you know, I have the seaweed from the Seaweed Mamas, and we have the leftovers from pressing their oil from the Baobab oil, we have the seeds, that we mill and now use as a scrub, so we’re trying to use all of the benefits, and I wanted to make something that was most natural and appealing. Also, it’s a way – zero waste, minimal packaging, still very appealing to the eye. Yeah, I just wanted to create something that’s attractive and looks good on the web, and it feels good on the skin. So, we developed the one that has more exfoliating benefits, and we developed one that’s more soothing to the skin. So, yeah, I just feel it just fits into our line of offerings, but it’s also, right now, I thought it was just a nice piece to the puzzle.

Kelly Kovack [00:30:03]:
Yeah, no, I mean, it is really beautiful. Is part of your mission to be zero waste, and are you always sort of looking at how to use these ingredients in their entirety?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:30:17]:
Yes. We’re doing our best from beginning to, as a start-up, we’re trying to do our best in all ways to one, maximize the use of all these plants, but also the packaging for us is very important. In addition to the soap, we’re coming out with a tri-powder cleanser minimizing the use of water. It’s a cleanser that can also be used as a mask, can also be used as a mild exfoliant for the face, and we’re coming out with a microbiome mist, which has taken us a lot of research to identify all the right ingredients, and combining it with our plants to develop a mist that balances the pH of the skin and fortifies the skin barrier. So, yeah, it’s very important for us, the packaging we use, which limits us. I mean, we’re trying to stay away from plastic, we’re trying to really stay true to who we are, as good for nature as possible, and humans, too.

Kelly Kovack [00:31:23]:
Of course. So, what is the distribution strategy? Because this product can really live in so many different outlets. Is there one particular channel or type of retailer that really sort of resonates with you, or really truly understands what your mission is?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:31:46]:
Well, we’re, being a small company and having big dreams, we see, right now, we’re working more direct-to-consumer on the web and on Amazon. We see places like Detox Market, Credo, that are becoming more and more sustainability-minded, and then grow from there. When we get the right people on our team, we can take it to a much bigger public, and right now, we’re still a very scrappy little company that tries to grow, and we’re trying to use the best channels possible. The other place right now is hospitality. I see, for example, more people-oriented hotels, wellness hotels, where our target market likes to go on holiday, and we feel that that is sort of the direction that we’re looking in.

Kelly Kovack [00:32:42]:
Yeah, no, that makes total sense. And, well, I do know that you’re on the radar of some pretty important people in the beauty industry, because I was having a conversation with someone, and your brand came up. She used to work at Estee Lauder and she’s a huge fan of yours, and I was like, “I know, the brand is amazing! We’re going to do something with them,” so you’ve definitely caught the attention of some pretty important people. We spoke a little bit about the impact report that you’ve done, but you know, there are more and more purpose-driven brands being launched. Some of them are grounded in intent, some of them are grounded in action, and the purpose is sort of very part of the DNA that drives the business, and I think you definitely fall into the latter, because the mission is everything for you, it seems. Is the impact report something that you’re going to do sort of with some sort of frequency? And, it seems like you’ve accomplished a lot over the course of nine years, especially being sort of a self-financed start-up.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:33:49]:
Yes, correct. Our intent is to adhere to our mission, is to continue to support and make the impact that we want to make, both at the source and both for our consumer, delivering quality products and having full transparency at the impact we’re making for people and the environment. So, that’s our intent, correct, to continue to do our impact assessments in the future. I mean, at the core, it’s just trying to do our best to do the right thing, and the word – when it comes down to the one word, biodiversity is what drives me, and I see it all too often that it’s affecting our health, and I feel that people can adopt good health practices and skincare practices with products that also are making a difference for the world that they live in.

Kelly Kovack [00:34:47]:
Did you ever think when you were studying to become a doctor that you would be in the beauty industry?

Dr. Luc Maes [00:34:53]:
Maybe the wellness industry. For me, beauty, it’s about skin health, and it’s good to look beautiful, but beauty comes from feeling good on the inside, mentally, emotionally, and when you feel good on the inside, you look good on the outside, and it’s more of a skin health, wellness type of look at it, and you know, did I think I was going to get into the beauty industry? No. But, did I dream of taking my passion for getting people better to a bigger public? Yes.

Kelly Kovack [00:35:35]:
One of the things that I found so striking in the documentary is sort of the women of Zanzibar and they’re so beautiful, and really sort of…it’s sort of that beauty that kind of radiates from the inside. They’re so happy, they have gorgeous skin. The documentary is only about 15 minutes long, but I think I was smiling the entire time. They’re just so happy.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:36:09]:
Yeah, it really makes me feel good every single time I watch it. Now, we have a whole bunch more films coming out – a whole bunch more filming we did this time, but yes, every time I go back, I can’t wait to go back again. I feel very, very comfortable visiting all these communities and connecting with them, and honestly, seeing how we can make a positive impact, and the people are really great to work with, and yes, they radiate a total natural beauty, and they use the Baobab oil, they press the seeds themselves, they’ve been using the oil throughout the centuries. So, they just have been using these natural, amazing ingredients, and it’s evident.

Kelly Kovack [00:36:58]:
Yeah, I mean, I would love to be…you can just tell they’re healthy and happy, and it’s really something to aspire to. I guess even just like the simplicity of it all, I found really compelling.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:37:11]:
Yeah. I mean, we talk about simplicity, I mean, our intent with Kaibae is not to make 50, 80 products, our intent is to make effective and concise regimens and keep it simple, and that’s also at the core. Simplicity, benefit to the environment, benefit to the communities, we’re really trying to do our best to do it right. I would say we’re the Patagonia for health and beauty, that’s how I would describe it. I think that would be a good summary.

Kelly Kovack [00:37:49]:
I think you’re right, and that’s a good place to sort of wrap up with kind of one last question. In closing, is there a piece of advice that you could share with other founders sort of looking to build businesses that have social impact? A lot of people have the intent and the desire, but it can be pretty overwhelming on sort of where to start.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:38:14]:
Yes, and not too many people go to a remote country, to the middle of nowhere, to pick a fruit and start a whole company. That is the most source-to-shelf type of approach.

Kelly Kovack [00:38:25]:
It’s definitely one of the most unique founder stories I’ve ever heard: a Google search that led to someone five minutes away about a tree that changed your life.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:38:38]:
And, he, when he was little, used to climb them. He used to climb Baobab trees. I don’t know, the world, the universe, I don’t want to get too esoteric, but some things aligned. My recommendation to be sustainable, I mean, it depends on where can you start? I think maybe if you can’t go pick a fruit out in Africa to begin with, you can start by looking at packaging, or what kind of packaging will I put my product in? What are the volumes I purchase? Where is it coming from? What is the carbon effect of my purchases and my product development? For example, right now on our website, we added an Ecocart, which is a carbon-neutral opportunity for my consumes to do carbon-neutral shipping. So, we are also very concerned about how we do things on this side. You may not have to go to Africa to start, but you can start here, and there’s plants here that are sustainably grown, that are organically grown, that are better for the planet. So, I think when you start a company, I would say look where you can start, and do your best so that you can start, as I mentioned, start with packaging, to look at the ingredients that you are integrating into your products, how are they made? For example, another thing that I’ve done is try to keep the manufacturing all very close to us. So, we’re in Santa Barbara, so I make sure that all my processing, all my handling, my skincare product development, is all made close by, so we have direct access, but we’re trying to cut back on – yes, the Baobab is coming from very far, but locally, we’re trying to keep our footprint as small as we can. So, there’s many, many ways where you can shape and make little steps here and there, and add better practices and better ingredients without having to travel to the other side of the world.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:47]:
Yeah. Well, it also seems, you know, from the photos I’ve seen of the three of you, the three cofounders, you all also seem to be having a lot of fun doing this.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:41:00]:
Oh, we’re great. You have to meet my wife, she’s amazing.

Kelly Kovack [00:41:04]:
I would love to.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:41:05]:
Tom and I are the adventurers and want to go out into the wild. My wife has been a big driving force to keep us connected, to bring visibility to Kaibae, and she’s the networker, she’s the connector, and one thing I’m learning too, it’s great to…like, I’m driven by doing good and making great products. I’m the researcher and marketing and getting the message out the right way and having a great team to do it is extremely important.

Kelly Kovack [00:41:45]:
Yeah, I have to say, it is…you know, what could have been a very complicated story, you’ve done such a beautiful job sort of in the branding and the storytelling and the visuals, it’s so compelling, and there’s just sort of this immediate connection to the purpose, but also the products, because they’re not in sort of the traditional beauty formula, if you will, or wellness formula. It really sort of challenges perceptions, which I think is also important. For everyone who is listening, take the time and watch the short documentary called “Lost Crops.” Dr. Maes, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing the story of Kaibae and the important work you’re doing. We’re really excited for it at Beauty Matter, and we’re definitely going to follow you, because I think you may be a small start-up now, but I think there’s big things in your future.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:42:47]:
I really appreciate that. Yes, we love what we do, and we look forward to keep you updated on our adventures.

Kelly Kovack [00:42:58]:
Yeah, please do. I think you’ve built something really special.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:43:03:
Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

Kelly Kovack [00:43:08]:
For Dr. Luc, it’s a matter of biodiversity. Kaibae’s work takes the concept of wild crafting, or wild harvesting, to the next level through the recognition that optimal wellness on the inside and out is found in the wild through the soil, gut, skin microbiome of interconnected relationships. Dr. Luc and the Kaibae’s mission is two-fold: to work with local villages to create sustainable livelihoods and promote economic development, and to bring the health and beauty benefits of these nutrient crops to the U.S. consumers. The lines between beauty, wellness, and health have blurred as consumers are searching for alternative solutions and seek to live healthier, more balanced lives. This search also dovetails with the expectation that businesses need to do their part, to be good corporate citizens doing right by their people, their communities, and the planet, and all of this needs to be done with complete transparency. Adaptogens, superfoods, collagen, energy elixrs, beauty tonics, beauty supplements, protein powders are just some of the product forms and trends that have emerged from this groundswell of wellness. Kaibae sits at the intersection of health and beauty with products focused on rituals to rewild your microbiome. The beauty world is full of manufactured authenticity, but when you discover a brand that creates an intangible connection, that’s real authenticity. What Dr. Luc and the Kaibae team are building is special. Once lost to the world, these underutilized plants have been revalued to protect biodiversity, improve livelihoods of local communities, and deliver health and effective products to consumers. So, in the end, it’s a matter of biodiversity. I’m Kelly Kovack, see you next time.

Dr. Luc Maes [00:45:06]:
Hi, my name is Dr. Luc Maes. To me, what matters is biodiversity. Biodiversity is essential to human health, wellness, beauty, and it is essential to the environment. Kaibae is all about supporting health and beauty, preserving biodiversity inside and out with wild plants, lost crops, that are important to their environment.

Kelly Kovack [00:45:29]:
It’s A Matter Of is a production of Beauty Matter LLC, copyright 2020. You can find more content and insights on and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.