Every so often, we come across an entrepreneurial concept so genius and so perfect that it makes us stop in our tracks — why didn’t WE think of that!? Paint company Clare is one such concept.
Founded by the super inspiring Nicole Gibbons, Clare is redefining what it means to give your home a facelift — bringing the ease and comfort of a design-savvy BFF into the process of painting the rooms in your home.
At the helm of this incredible project sits Nicole Gibbons, who’s about to be your new #1 career mentor. After working her way up to Global Director of a well-known fashion retailer, she went off on her own — using her PR skills and business savvy to take the interior design world by storm. Here, read more about Nicole’s career journey, her amazing company, and just how she gets it all done.
What was your first job, and how did you land it?
My first job was as a PR Assistant at a well-known fashion retailer where I rose through the ranks from assistant to Global Director over the course of 9.5 years. I landed that job through hustle and hard work. I finished Northwestern a quarter early and came out to NYC during that last quarter and worked two simultaneous internships — one working three days a week as PR intern at Interscope Records and the other two days a week in the PR department at Kiehl’s. While I was interning I was constantly networking and looking for a full-time role in PR, and I landed my PR assistant role after an introduction from someone at one of my internships.
I landed that job through hustle and hard work.
Your professional career began in public relations. What skills do you think are necessary to succeed in PR? Were they skills you gained through experience, education, or through your own natural skillset (or some of each!)?
To succeed in PR you need to have excellent communication skills and be great with people. You also have to be really strategic, yet creative, and often those two things don’t always go hand in hand. I happen to be someone who’s really creative but also a strategic, analytical thinker. For the most part, those were all skills that came pretty naturally for me which is why I think I was very good at my job, but I definitely learned a ton and honed those skills tremendously through real work experience.
What lessons did you learn in the world of PR that you took with you to the design world?
PR helped me master the art of pitching and storytelling which has been incredibly helpful both in building my former design business, but also in my new startup, Clare. Design is all about vision and you have to be able to sell your vision. My PR skills also helped me to build a really strong personal brand which in turn helped my business grow. Also, I happened to be doing PR for a huge multi-billion dollar global retailer which prepared me well for understanding the retail and e-commerce landscape, and informing my perspective on the kind of company I wanted to build (which has been extremely valuable in launching Clare).
My PR skills also helped me to build a really strong personal brand which in turn helped my business grow.
Speaking of which, how did you transition from public relations to interior design? Walk us through that thought process and timeline.
The process was a very organic. I grew up with a decorator mom and loved design, so in 2008 while working in PR, I started a decorating blog as a creative outlet. The blog really sparked my passion for design and inspired me to transition careers. That was during the recession, however, so I wasn’t ready to quit my day job. I set up an LLC and started dabbling in small side projects at night and on weekends as a way to explore my passion for design and test the waters of operating a business. I was also able to establish a name for myself in the design world through my blog and social media presence, but it took 5 years before I took the leap to focus on building my design business full-time. My goal was always to position myself as a design expert and build a brand that would one day be bigger than just my design firm.
I started pursuing opportunities in television and appeared for three seasons as a designer on the DIY makeover show Home Made Simple on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I was also featured regularly on morning shows — like the Rachael Ray show. I wanted to share my aesthetic and design point of view with a broader audience, and spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of brand I wanted to build. While I loved the home industry, I didn’t think the home space was very innovative, so I felt there was a big opportunity to do something different and disruptive. I was really inspired by emerging direct to consumer brands — like Warby Parker and Casper — and loved how they found fresh ways to sell products that were painful to shop for and created a fantastic customer experience. So all while I was building my business, I was dreaming up ways that I could similarly disrupt the home space.
How would you describe your personal design style?
My personal design style is a modern take on tradition. I’ve always loved using color in fresh ways in my design project and it became somewhat of a signature to have a vibrant dose of color in every space I designed.
How has your design style evolved over the years and throughout your time in the design industry?
My style used to lean a lot more traditional and feminine, and definitely had a more-is-more approach — a lot of layering and a lot of mixing of styles, colors and textures. As I’ve matured and my life has gotten more hectic, my personal aesthetic has evolved into a more clean-lined and less-is-more approach — but still grounded in the same basic design principles of mixing up decor styles and using color in fresh ways.
While I loved the home industry, I didn’t think the home space was very innovative, so I felt there was a big opportunity to do something different and disruptive.
Tell us about your company, Clare.
Clare is a modern paint brand that’s making it easier and more inspiring to shop for paint. As an interior designer, I wanted to create a brand that would help people everywhere make their homes beautiful, but also truly solve a problem. Paint is such an important part of the design process, but shopping for paint has always been a hassle. The process usually starts with sea of a thousand paint chips which is totally overwhelming, and the store environments are completely uninspiring. There’s also a lack of design guidance throughout the process, and you end up going back and forth to the store way too many times just to pick a color.
At Clare, we’ve done all the work to curate only the best colors, the highest quality paint, and the best tools and supplies — and have worked to simplify the entire paint shopping experience. Our palette of 55 expertly-curated colors features the most beautiful colors you’ll love, and if you need a little help finding the right color, we’ve created Clare Color Genius — a digital color consultation based on a high-tech algorithm that delivers an expert color recommendation by analyzing information about your space. We’ve also made sampling paint colors easier than ever with our Perfect Color Swatch. Just peel & stick and you can sample our paint colors in a instant, no manual labor or mess required!
What makes Clare different from other paint companies?
We’re a much easier alternative to the traditional way of buying paint. Shopping at Clare is like having a design BFF to guide you through the entire paint shopping experience. We’ve literally thought of everything to make your life easier — from our curated colors that helps finding the perfect one really easy, to premium quality paint — plus all the best painting tools and supplies, and we deliver it all to your door.
We also offer lots of editorial content to keep you inspired, and we’re there for you at every step in your painting journey. Another differentiator besides being an easier, better way to shop for paint is that our brand is full of personality, which is something people are really connecting with. We channeled this through things like really inspiring photography as well as super fun paint color names like Avocado Toast, Rosé Season and Blue Ivy.
We’ve also made sampling paint colors easier than ever. Just peel & stick and you can sample our paint colors in a instant, no manual labor or mess required!
Tell us why you chose the name Clare.
Clare comes from a latin root word meaning bright and brilliant. So there’s a lot of fun word play there — bright speaking to color, and brilliant speaking to how the brand is breaking new ground in an archaic industry. I wanted the name to sound like the polar opposite of everything that you’re used to hearing from paint companies, which typically have very masculine names and an overly-masculine marketing appeal. I intentionally wanted a name sounded more feminine, but also friendly and approachable, and a name we could build a personality around. Clare fits all of that criteria perfectly!
Walk us through a typical day in your life.
I usually wake up at 7, do a daily ritual like meditation or making my bed, make a daily harvest smoothie, then head into work. Once I get to work, my schedule is usually pretty full with either team meetings or meetings with external partners. If I have free blocks of time I’m either working on strategy, investor relations initiatives, business development, or often putting out all kinds of fires — which are inevitable in the world of early stage startups. No day is really typical!
What surprised you most about entrepreneurship? Anything you wish someone had told you before starting out?
I became an entrepreneur to build an awesome company, but never expected it to be a channel to build community and friendships. I’ve met so many smart, talented, inspiring people through this journey, and that’s been a pleasant, unexpected bonus. In terms of what advice, I wish someone could tell me the secret to finding balance! Being a startup CEO is a pretty intense job and I’m still figuring out the whole balance thing!
Being a startup CEO is a pretty intense job and I’m still figuring out the whole balance thing!
Which of your (many!) professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Launching Clare has definitely been a highlight! I channeled all of my expertise as a designer into creating this brand, raised $2 million in venture capital, and I’m excited that through this company I can help people everywhere create a beautiful home they love.
What advice would you give to your own younger self?
I would remind myself that the things that matter most in life are things that can’t be quantified. As I get older, I realize more and more that cultivating relationships with loved ones, taking care of your health, and other similar intangibles are what matters most. A great career won’t comfort you when you’re sick or down. You have to nurture both yourself and your relationships with others constantly.
A great career won’t comfort you when you’re sick or down. You have to nurture both yourself and your relationships with others constantly.
Nicole Gibbons is The Everygirl . . .
Favorite of your paint colors?
I’m going to go with Penthouse, only because I just painted my living room that color!
Favorite room in your own home?
My bedroom. It’s the brightest room in my apartment and I get so much energy from all the natural light that pours in.
Go-to workday lunch?
I’ve been using MealPal which lets you order a pre-set dish from a nearby restaurant every day. I eat whatever healthy-ish option is available each day, I’m not too picky!
Iced Green Tea Lemonade
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Beyonce. Because she’s amazing and I have a dream we’ll be BFF’s someday 🙂