Nico Wilmes is a business owner with a background in investing in renewable energy from Germany. He fell in love with Mexico as he was visiting on his 30th birthday and decided to stay forever as he saw the potential in sustainable development in Tulum. Nico founded the company Los Amigos Tulum with Marc Levy. Six years later they have become the most influential developer in Tulum with a revenue of 30 million dollar annually and over 500 employees.
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Ali Mirza: Alright! Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us on another episode of For The Close Podcast. Today, we have an excellent show. We actually have a special show for you today. We have somebody in house in the studio as all our podcast guests have been. This person is a close personal friend of mine. I actually stayed on his 3rd floor penthouse rooftop in Mexico. Well, I think… he wasn’t even in town and I got in. And so, this person is a friend of mine. I would like to welcome Nico to the show. Nico runs an incredibly successful development company out of Mexico, it’s called Los Amigos Tulum and they specialized in sustainable development specific to the… should I call it the short term rental market?
Nico Wilmes: It’s vacation rentals.
Ali Mirza: Vacation rentals.
Nico Wilmes: [00:01:04.19] [Crosstalk] [Unintelligible] that we rented out on and they have full ownership.
Ali Mirza: Yeah. So, Nico is the developer, he had his hand in probably single handedly him and his business partner Marc have single handedly really built Tulum into the hotspot destination that it is today. So, with that I would love to welcome Nico to the show. Nico, thank you so much brother. I appreciate you being here.
Nico Wilmes: Thank you. Great to be actually here because I saw, as we first talk we had this nice camera set up and I know this office from very first.
Ali Mirza: Yeah.
Nico Wilmes: And now, I’m actually I’m the first one who’s actually here on this couch and I’m real!
Ali Mirza: Yeah, yeah. I know you were the first one that’s actually been on the couch. Everyone else is on virtual.
Nico Wilmes: See there’s two people on the same room.
Ali Mirza: So, now you know it’s real. So, now you know and so… so okay, so as Nico mentioned he actually flew in from Mexico. So, you can’t fly in direct from Tulum so Nico have to…
Nico Wilmes: Cancún.
Ali Mirza: Yeah. So, Nico had to drive from Tulum to Cancún, fly from Cancún to Atlanta and then I picked him up and I think I was about only like 5 minutes late picking him up, right? You know my [00:02:09.23] [Unintelligible].
Nico Wilmes: It’s all good.
Ali Mirza: It’s all good. Yeah.
Nico Wilmes: It wasn’t a zero emission car but it’s nice driving the car, yeah.
Ali Mirza: I don’t know why that’s such… okay. So, okay for the people that don’t know why is that first thing? Why is that the first thing that you bring up that it’s a not zero emission car?
Nico Wilmes: Yeah. Because we care about the environment, we got to. But our mission is to actually what we do in Tulum is want to make a positive impact for a more sustainable Mexico. I’m from Germany and there’s a lot of things we can do. If you go to Germany you see like the most of the rooftops are covered with solar panels but there’s actually no sun. So, I got to Mexico and said “Wow! What a great opportunity to make a positive impact”. Tulum is growing a lot so we thought, okay grows with us or without us but how can we make a sustainable development, push the market in the right direction.
Ali Mirza: Okay.
Nico Wilmes: It’s like they get sort of all the cars builder it but it makes sense to make cars the factory motors that’s powered by sunlight and then you have a pretty sustainable approach. The same which align to do in Tulum because there’s so much technology available right now. You just need to bring it together and we didn’t see anyone who makes that happen in Tulum. And I saw that this is a nature destination, why not doing here to showcase to international people from all over the world with big money? So, if for instance coming, seeing the stuff and if you get the excitement there we can really impact globally.
Ali Mirza: You back packed to Mexico, you see an opportunity. Now, I want you to tell the story of how Los Amigos got started. How?… because I hear all the time from people, I don’t have money, I don’t have this, I’m not this and I’m not that or I’m with this skin color or I don’t come from this background. I hear constant complaining. And sometimes it’s true, right? Sometimes people are the disadvantage but what are you going to do about it? So, I want you to tell me a little bit about. You get to Mexico, you barely speak the language, you have some money but you don’t have enough money to start. I mean like you’re doing some massive projects right now. How did you get there? Tell us a little bit about the creativity of how you started with.
Nico Wilmes: There we had its greener state so it’s connected to money. Now we need actually less money than at the beginning. In the beginning no one with have good amounts of money. So, we could have provision but no rebuying to it.
Ali Mirza: Yep.
Nico Wilmes: Now we showed that we do great projects not only… they don’t only look great and also sustainable, they also really profitable for the people who invested in. And this time if you have nothing to show off, yeah you have to invest with the old one and our budget was like $50,000 each. So, it was just me and my twelve buddy and that’s why we called the company Los Amigos because it’s true, we do it with friends.
Ali Mirza: With your friends.
Nico Wilmes: And we said, okay the vision was just make… let’s make a single family house with and tried to get it that $50,000, the $9,000 to $12,000 budget. And so, there it goes. If you move after us that’s why we came to Tulum, I said “No. That customer in which we can tell [00:05:00.09] [Unintelligible]”. So we were waiting the arrangement and no one really know development was and we could start with our little budget. And after one year, after the, land making a license, finding construction team and architects and everything. After one year going with going through all of that the house was actually there. And the worst, we didn’t know anything about it and as we said we can actually lose because worst case I’ve talked to my business partner and friend. As a [00:05:27.28] [worst] case we have 50% of the house in agreement. Well that’s not bad, right? And then yeah, you can go back to United States and keep working and at least you did something, you risk at something. But the reward if it works and it’s tremendous because if maybe it works, you can do another project, another project would actually happen. So, we saw just potentials so have the vision and you just need to go forward. And if you’re really excited and passionate about the vision then actually no one can stop you.
Ali Mirza: What something that other people with your sales team that wasn’t possible? What’s something that you are trying to change in Tulum with your sales team?
Nico Wilmes: Yeah. That’s interesting. Yeah, we have… usually developer ask more and then no one has a team in Tulum. There’s actually no one in this job.
Ali Mirza: Yeah.
Nico Wilmes: So, we have the big cities, Mexico City that’s [00:06:20.12] [effective] out of this common, they make business in Tulum but they make the design in Mexico City then, sets in Mexico City that the operation there and then they come and tried to figure out something there. And it’s very common to work just with brokers and a lot brokers they get high commission. And it’s okay because people trust this broker content and then they can look for the project. But all the project before is so special, we feel so passionate about it and so many features in the architects and the sustainability.
Ali Mirza: Sustainability.
Nico Wilmes: Then we actually explained about ourselves.
Ali Mirza: Right.
Nico Wilmes: So, we thought the quality even in the sales process at least to explain the product is better that we do it all of ourselves because we want to have the connection to the client. Because we don’t want to have someone else explaining our product because we thought no one knows our product better than we do. And that’s why we look forward to get in contact with the clients directly. Not only… not so much because we want to save money, we want to have the right product for the right client.
Ali Mirza: Right. Right.
Nico Wilmes: Because we think this is really important for the long…
Ali Mirza: Long relationship.
Nico Wilmes: Long relationship. Yeah.
Ali Mirza: So, then that’s one of the things that I noticed is as we’re working together is that a lot of your… a lot of people that you sold in Central Park are buying in your future developments.
Nico Wilmes: Right.
Ali Mirza: They’re buying… I don’t know what they’re buying and they’re good at buying in all of your future developments. What’s one thing? Because a lot of people that are listening to this podcast right now, they’re founders who they know in sales team. What’s something that you can help them understand how they can get repeat business, repeat clientele? People that… because it’s very expensive to sell somebody the first time but it’s a lot cheaper to sell them the second part of worth time.
Nico Wilmes: Right. Proven concept. Whatever you sell if you have proven concept you way have it. And in construction in the new era where no one has a proven concept, if you have the game that helps a lot. So, at the beginning it was just huge than that that’s why people came to “we got to sell something because it’s a huge demand, really?” And then we opened for this market and we said well, it’s really huge amount of people of buying and they’re trusting a lot. In Germany I couldn’t imagine to buy the apartment which is actually not there in Mexico.
Ali Mirza: Right.
Nico Wilmes: But, yeah people trusted us in the beginning so we’re forever thankful for that. And then they saw, “Oh wow!” they made 100% capital gains, they make vacation ran their money like 12%, 30% or something on depending when they buy. And so they’re really happy not only with their finishing or the quality they’re also happy with the 9%. So, they’re asking for more because the worst thing you can have is cash just sitting around and it’s still I think the best asset you can have to invest in real estate. But if you go in dynamic market like Mexico then your money really goes dynamic too.
Ali Mirza: Right.
Nico Wilmes: And we see a nice boom for the next 10 years in Tulum on from projects from projects and proven concept it just more obviously. So, at the beginning we made a lot of projection that people kind of view what they can make for return of investment. And now we take off all the [00:09:26.08] [projection center], here it’s all running real what they’re going to need to see. So, they see our projects now and that’s why I have now in the new project more than 50% sold and we just made it the first [00:09:37.15] [store] integration. So, this is a new regular thing the 50% sold and not even started construction.
Ali Mirza: So it shows not even at ground.
Nico Wilmes: No, that for me like it wasn’t I think a couple of years ago that people put so much trust anywhere.
Ali Mirza: Right.
Nico Wilmes: But they saw now it really works and then the amount to invest is and yeah, it’s proven.
Ali Mirza: So, would you say that that’s a lot because of what you were able to deliver on your previous developments you have the right reputation?
Nico Wilmes: Yeah! You need to have some reputation. If you complete it outside I think then it’s tough. I see now in Tulum there’s a lot of stuff going on there more than hundred developments right now at the time. So, if you come as a new client or you’re interested to invest you can go to developer, developer, development and it almost telling you the same story there that yeah it’s going to be great but, they have no proven concept. And to build in Tulum is actually the hardest area to build in Mexico so, you have no manpower, you have no infrastructure like it’s more of the hardest corners to operate in the country. If you build in Mexico City you have a great source of human capital and a great source of contractors or partner to work with you. But in Tulum you’re going to lead the job.
Ali Mirza: Right. So, what’s one thing and that I want you to end off here. What’s one thing that a founder that’s listening to this that’s leading their sales team they can learn from your experience that if you could do it over again you wouldn’t make the same mistake? Or just knowing what you know now running such a large operation, such a large development organization, what’s something that you could share for our audience here that could really help them that’s tactical and some action items?
Nico Wilmes: Yeah. It’s tough for me because we don’t have some tactic really, it’s all for me to do, right?
Ali Mirza: Yeah.
Nico Wilmes: And we have stood out, we’ve been there and I can go if it twist and everything and talk about our project. And I’m really passionate about to make somehow transmitted this passion and it’s all just [00:11:32.09] [regiment], it’s more on your real estate, it’s all real passion too.
Ali Mirza: Right.
Nico Wilmes: And I don’t know, yeah! Some other business if you need to be more strategic and maybe it helps us too, but we’re like… we feel like we’re the kids in a sandbox we’re having so much fine to do all the stuff with the client. And it’s tough if you’re in high tech or something completely from [00:11:54.22] [gain] I think. So, we actually… at the end of the training we say “You make this so many enough grace to make business today but to put our assets on then it comes always back to real estate.”
Ali Mirza: Right.
Nico Wilmes: So, you can make maybe a thousand percent in the tech company or something that it keeps up. You can use a lot of tools, it’s a whole a different model. But in real estate at this market is very, very hard. You can’t lose so it’s a perfect asset class because people love to put their money in there and now they goes “Wow! I thought this is a secure asset class” and it’s true but they had no idea how much you can take off in a large marketplace we have right in front of the [00:12:27.05] [Dormium], it’s a neighbor country.
Ali Mirza: Yeah. Alright brother. Thank you so much.
Nico Wilmes: Thank you.
Ali Mirza: I really appreciate it. Like, share, subscribe, catch up with Nico. Really appreciate everyone. Until next time we will see you. Thank you so much.
Nico Wilmes: Thank you guys.