Entrepreneur Nicole Gibbons joined this episode of Behind Her Empire to talk about how to leave your corporate job and do your own thing.
Gibbons is the founder of Clare, the only Black-owned paint brand in the U.S. Her journey from fashion to striking out on her own into interior design and ultimately to starting her own company is filled with lessons on timing and perseverance.
"I spent my time for five years side hustling, building my confidence and learning the design, trade, learning how to operate a business and gaining enough competence to then take the leap to do my thing full time," said Gibbons.
Right out of college, Gibbons took a public relations job at Victoria's Secret at 21 and worked there for almost 10 years, but she knew it wasn’t where she wanted to be.
Gibbons took on side projects, including starting a blog about home décor, more to satisfy her curiosity than to establish a business.
“None of my friends cared about design. No one in my life, I had no one to nerd out with about furniture and decor,” she said. “And that's really why I started the blog.”
From there, she found herself helping people with their home spaces and establishing herself as a voice in the interior design industry. Eventually, she took on some interior design clients and decided to make the jump to start her own business.
“Initially I had this sort of chip on my shoulder of like, ’I didn't go to design school. I don't have a formal education in design. So how am I going to ever have enough credibility to be taken seriously?’”
The first year was difficult, but over time, her business picked up, and her hands-on approach to helping users pick paints gave Gibbons an idea for a direct-to-consumer business. But she ran into many investors skeptical of her idea of disrupting an industry that was dominated by staid paint companies run mostly by older white me.
"If I pitched you, and you told me it was a silly idea. I'm like, 'You don't know what you're talking about. [On] to the next person who can see the light.' And that was just my attitude," said Gibbons.
As a first time CEO, Gibbons acknowledges she's still learning and isn't afraid to ask for help Gibbons added, "Feedback is a gift."
dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.