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Niall O’Connor
Eller Business Management and Marketing ’03
Co-owner, Nalesniki

Nik Turner
Eller Business Management and International Business ’04
Co-owner, Nalesniki

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Back when they were Eller students, Nik Turner and Niall O’Connor batted around business ideas. “We never saw ourselves as 9-5 cubicle types,” O’Connor said. “But our ideas never translated into action until our fateful trip to Krakow in 2005.”

Nik Turner and Niall O'Connor

Nik Turner and Niall O’Connor, co-owners of Nalesniki, have used their business management degrees to tackle the operation of a restaurant in a Krakow, Poland.

Turner had always been fascinated by Poland, particularly the Piast Dynasty. “If it sounds boring, it’s because it is,” O’Connor said. “I’ve listened to him drone on about King Casimir III more than I’d care to remember!” They travelled to Eastern Europe right after graduation. “Then I fell in love with Krakow, too,” said O’Connor, “And long story short, we decided to stay, despite the learning curve in the language.”

Turner had relatives in Wroclaw and was fairly fluent when they arrived, but he also had a habit of asking the Polish translation for common words. “It turns out that the Polish for crepe is nalesniki, which when you hear it, sounds like both our names, Niall and Nik,” O’Connor said. “We took this as a sign — probably from the underworld given how much work we’ve had to put into the place over the past few years! — and we bought an old crepe shop with Nik’s trust fund money.”

The two have faced many challenges with owning and operating a business abroad. “Obviously labor laws have been difficult to navigate — both in terms of our ownership and the employment of Polish citizens,” O’Connor said. “Realty laws have also been interesting, but we’ve been able to navigate that by subleasing from a citizen.”

He’s also working to catch up with Turner on the language front. “I needed to attend summer courses at the Accent School of Polish,” he said. “It caters to immigrants wanting to learn the language. Now I can hold my own with customers besides just requesting a beer and finding a bathroom.”

They’ve also hired their first employee. “Piotr handles our marketing messaging and customer service issues,” O’Connor said. “There would be no Nalesniki without him. If you’re interested in opening a business abroad, I would highly suggest finding a local who can help with the day-to-day.”

The pair opened Nalesniki in 2007, and now, said O’Connor, “After years of blood, sweat and tears, Nik and I finally have our heads above water and are looking to turn Nalesniki into a chain.” They have their sights set on more locations in Krakow, but eventually plan to expand into other Polish cities. “Who knows, maybe we’ll even expand into neighboring countries to key in on local versions of our delicacies,” O’Connor said. “In the short term, we’re testing new menu items, including the Old Pueblo, which is stuffed with apples and covered with chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, and whipped cream.”

O’Connor said he’ll offer an Eller discount to fellow alumni, but that particular menu item might be going by a new name in the near future. “It’s kind of a funny story, and a good lesson for current Eller students thinking of opening a business abroad,” he said. “It turns out that ‘Pueblo’ spoken in Polish sounds roughly like their word for a woman of the night. So we’re going to have a rethink on that one!”

Learn more about the variety of international programs offered by Eller Undergraduate Programs.