by KRISTIE RAMIREZ | photographs by CARTER ROSE
The sky is cornflower blue and cloudless on this crisp fall morning in Cresson, Texas, just south of Fort Worth. In the distance, a white Porsche 911 GT3 is quickly weaving its way through a hilly, winding racecourse at the members-only MotorSport Ranch. The whir of the engine grows louder — and then chest-thumping — as the driver pulls up, parks and opens the light-as-air carbon-fiber door.
A neon-orange helmet comes off and Nicholas Boulle announces that he’s sweating.
The 23-year-old son of Denis and Karen Boulle — of deBoulle, the tony jewelry boutique on Preston Road in Dallas — is tall, good-looking and charismatic. Yes, his name gives him platinum-card entrée to a world of privilege, but Boulle’s ambition and drive to make it on his own terms fuel his life.
Boulle wanted to race by the time he was 10. “I sat in the passenger seat of a Ferrari at Texas World Speedway in College Station,” says the Southern Methodist University graduate. “From that day on, I knew this was something I wanted to do.” At 12, he began cart racing and by the time he was 20, he was racing around speedways for Volkswagen. “My passions in life,” he says, “have always been for sports where I am able to take complete responsibility and ownership of my results.”
Today, Boulle’s adrenaline-pumping passion for car racing has become a weekend hobby: He has traded motor sports for competitive cycling. Last year, he won the Texas State Criterium Championship in the 23- to 29-year-old category — despite debilitating asthma, an unexpected side effect from a lingering chest infection. On any given week, he rides as much as some people drive: 300 miles, over five or six days.
Now Boulle is focusing on his new online-marketing firm, WowBirds, launched with fellow SMU alum Geoff Stupay. The WowBirds office on Greenville Avenue is small and spare, and, for a 10-month-old startup, already a well-oiled machine. Every morning, Boulle suits up, grabs his grande iced coffee (with soy milk) from the Starbucks in Highland Park Village and heads to said office, to connect with clients and work on search-optimization techniques. Although the business success of his South African father and English mother helps ensure a bright future for Boulle and his younger sister, Emma, he refuses to piggyback on their coattails. “I do want to have an involvement,” he says about the family business, over a low-key lunch at The Rusty Taco, “but I feel like I need to do my own thing first.”
After graduating from Episcopal School of Dallas in 2007, Boulle was set to study business finance and mathematics at the University of Southern California. But when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the course of his life changed. Boulle couldn’t bring himself to head west. “I planned to stay [in Dallas]while she went through treatment and head to USC after my first semester at SMU.” But the solid friendships he made forced him to rethink that plan. He decided to stay in his hometown to finish his degree. It’s here, too, that he met Stupay and here where they hatched their business plan. Now, less than a year into the business, the partners have a roster of clients — retailers, nonprofits, blogs, restaurants — and an intern in the corner of the office.
The transition from boy wonder to the business big leagues is in full swing.