sHeros: Nicole Zabal is changing the world of athletic wear one woman at a time
“Perfection killed the entrepreneur”. I actually got this piece of advice from Shark Tank (I’m obsessed with that show). I always remember Barbara Corcoran saying: “perfection killed the entrepreneur” and I literally think of that on a daily basis when I’m stressing out trying to make my website look perfect or fix a typo, and then I tell myself, no one is inspecting my work, it doesn’t have to be perfect…move on!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Zabal, founder of NICOLE ALEX — a lounge wear line made in Los Angeles. After graduating from the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York, Nicole spent fifteen years honing her fashion industry expertise with the goal to one day launch her own brand. A self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast, Nicole fell in love with the concept of the built-in shelf bras she found in her workout tank tops — but those tops were often too tight, unflattering, and not ideal for wearing outside the gym. Nicole realized there was a need for casual apparel that had the comfort of athleisure and the functional support of a built-in shelf bra. Frustrated with not being able to find her ideal styles anywhere, she decided to take matters into her own hands, debuting her first collection in the Spring of 2018.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mom was very fashion forward and subscribed to all the glossy fashion magazines in the 80s and 90s. When I was a little girl, I would go into her closet and try on her amazing designer dresses and shoes just waiting for the day that they would fit me. She was an artist and interior decorator and naturally, I ended up loving art and all things creative. My dad was the founder and CEO of a software company, and I like to think I got his business mindset combined with my mom’s artsy side. When I was a freshman in college, I interned at an apparel company in New York City and it became clear to me that my goal would be to one day launch my own line.
Can you share the most interesting thing/experience you have had since you started your career?
The most interesting experience I’ve had is seeing people’s reactions to my products and getting feedback from friends, family, and complete strangers. When I initially launched my eCommerce website, I would get nervous every time I shipped an order at the thought that the customer might hate their purchase and want to return it. At first, I would take it personally and now I just accept it as more knowledge to help me make better decisions in the future. It’s still so hard for me to believe that people actually buy my products and most of the time love them!
What advice would you give other women who want to take that next step and following their dreams or either running or starting their own company?
My advice would be not to let your fear of failure stop you from starting! I’ve always been a perfectionist, which is the worst possible thing to be if you are running a company. You have to just let go and be willing to try and maybe even fail, and then learn and grow from those experiences. I had so much anxiety before I launched my clothing line because I was scared to fail, but now that I’m actually doing it, I realize that it’s not as scary as it seemed.
Is there a funny story that you could share that happened to you since starting your company?
I was misquoted in an article once, and my mom called me freaking out about it. The article basically alluded to me being much older than I am, and my mom wanted me to call the editor and have her change what she wrote. I was like “mom, it’s really not that big of a deal!”
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you tell her and why? What message(s) would you like for her to know?
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to believe in herself, and not be afraid to shine and be in the spotlight. I was bullied and teased a lot as a kid and those experiences have made me extremely hard on myself. I would love to tell my younger self not to take everything so seriously — and just have fun!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“Perfection killed the entrepreneur”
- I actually got this piece of advice from Shark Tank (I’m obsessed with that show). I always remember Barbara Corcoran saying: “perfection killed the entrepreneur” and I literally think of that on a daily basis when I’m stressing out trying to make my website look perfect or fix a typo, and then I tell myself, no one is inspecting my work, it doesn’t have to be perfect…move on!
“Never be afraid to ask questions!”
- As an entrepreneur, there are so many things you have to figure out and Google isn’t always the answer, though I definitely ask Google at least 20 questions a day! I usually try to figure things out on my own and I’m told that I like to do things the hard way. Since launching my business, I’ve finally realized that if you ask questions, people are actually very eager to help you, and the question can often lead to an amazing conversation!
“You don’t have to be an expert before you start.”
- Before I started my business, I was in an endless black hole of researching — to the point that it was getting in the way of actually starting. I had this fear that if I didn’t know everything before I started, I wouldn’t succeed. I finally decided to pull the trigger and I now realize that I’m capable of figuring things out along the way.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?
Although he may not know it, my dad has always been my mentor since day one. He started his company before I could even walk, and I watched him make it a success and eventually sell it. I’ve always been very driven, and I attribute that to watching my dad over the years. When you start a company, there are so many unknowns and so much you have to learn on a daily basis, and my dad is always a phone call away to give me guidance on what to do since he was once in my shoes.
I also listen to this great podcast called “How I Built This” in which a different entrepreneur is interviewed on each episode, and I always find that listening to stories of how they started their businesses gives me motivation and confidence to keep going.
International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8th. Are you planning any specific event(s) geared towards celebrating women or anything special? If so, please advise and how can our readers participate?
On March 8th we are having an online promotion for International Women’s Day and when customers use code WOMEN2019 they will get 30% OFF their entire order plus free shipping.
I will also be hosting a private sample sale at my apartment with a bunch of my girlfriends.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would want to inspire a “compassion movement”. I just don’t think people have genuine compassion for others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandma used to always say this to me when I was a little girl: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
That quote is relevant to so many different aspects of my life. From transferring to a different college, to changing career paths, moving to a new city, breaking up with boyfriends, getting hurt in a car accident — I’ve always been the type of person that just gets up, gets over it and starts over without dwelling on things.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Instagram: @shopnicolealex
On Facebook: /shopnicolealex
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!