Nicole Frank Talks Entrepreneurship & Leadership

Woman smiling in cute top

MP recently sat down with Nicole Frank, fashion entrepreneur, and Southern California native. Frank is a graduate of USC’s Entrepreneurship Program and started her first business soon after. She has always believed in supporting and encouraging women in business because there just weren’t many guidelines for female entrepreneurs back when she first started her company, Nicole Frank The Wardrobe Evolution.

MP: What inspired you to start your women’s clothing brand, Nicole Frank TWE?

NF: I’ve been interested in fashion since I was young and created a line of children and teen bags directly out of college. I manufactured my bags in Korea and sold them to many major department stores and boutiques in the United States and abroad.

Fast forward to five years ago, while I was a full-time working mother, I realized that despite my large wardrobe, I didn’t have stylish clothes that could take me from day into night. It lacked fashionable items that provided extreme comfort. I would wear Lululemon pants with a designer jacket. Then, for the evening, I’d change in my car to dress up my outfit and eventually decided this was ridiculous. 

I tracked down the finest performance fabrics from Europe and Canada and created a line of versatile clothing that made me both feel and look great. Other women liked what I was doing, so I manufactured a small collection in Los Angeles and, like that, Nicole Frank the clothing brand was born.

Your items are eco-conscious, interchangeable, and repel stains. They seem like the perfect addition to an entrepreneur’s wardrobe. What factors did you consider when making your items for each of these three things?

If I were going to create a new and unique line of clothing, I wanted to cover all the things I wanted in a brand.

Eco-conscious: I wanted to be the opposite of “fast fashion,” to create pieces that would last for generations. The mills I work with have BLUESIGN certification and use organic materials.

Interchangeable: I wanted to have a jacket that could be ten jackets and a dress that could go from the tennis court to a cocktail party, so I considered how to create pieces multi-functional pieces. I came up with the idea of using concealed zippers where you could zip different sleeves on and off, collars, dickeys, pouchettes, and hems to create different looks for the different occasions women need throughout their days.

What’s your typical day look like and how do you manage your work-life balance?

I wake up at 6:30, work out, make an energy smoothie, go through my daily sheet of important calls to make, orders to fill, customers to meet with, events to coordinate, fabrics and styles to review, social media, and marketing meetings to plan, and more.

I’m based in San Diego but often travel to Los Angeles for production meetings and inventory control.

I have two dogs and a daughter who rides horses. So on the weekends, I try to attend her horse shows and events along with charitable events that are near and dear to me. Family and friends keep me balanced and supported and I couldn’t do what I do without them. It’s a challenging balance but I love it!

What’s your greatest fear as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage that fear?

My greatest fear is that I let someone down. I find such tremendous joy in seeing people happy. That’s what I enjoy most about my business, seeing a woman that may have self-doubt put on a jumpsuit and feel like a million bucks. I love showing them how to dress with confidence. You can both look amazing and be comfortable. They’re not mutually exclusive.  

I manage that fear by listening to the needs of my customers and the current environment in which we’re living. I’m steeped in tradition that includes a chic vintage aesthetic but am a futuristic thinker. I like combining classic styles with cutting-edge fabrics that make women’s lives easier. Machine washable, stain-resistant, breathable, four-way stretch fabric and, of course, the zipper technology.

Be fair, inclusive, and kind to everyone.

What’re three obstacles you’ve faced throughout your career and how have you overcome them?

Not being taken seriously as a young female entrepreneur. I overcame this by staying curious, driven, focused, and listening to smart and experienced people along the way.

Finding the right people to work with. Honestly, it’s been a challenge from the beginning. I’m a very loyal and trusting person and have expected the same from everyone I work with. Unfortunately, there have been people along the way that took advantage of my loyalty and trust and weren’t honest or honorable. I learned to eliminate those people quickly and never look back. I only want to see the goodness in people. I keep moving forward, learning from mistakes, staying optimistic, and surrounding myself with like-minded people.

Juggling my work and personal life has always been a challenge. My business is small enough where I can take my work with me wherever I go. I exercise almost daily and spend time learning about myself and how to be a better person. I do as much as I can with my daughter and dogs and focus on giving them attention, love, and support every day. Planning and prioritizing are very important in both my personal and business lives.

What’re a few pieces of advice you can share with people looking to become effective leaders in their own businesses and why?

Stay true to who you are and what you stand for.

Help and encourage as many people as you can along the way.

Be fair, inclusive, and kind to everyone.

Work hard but maintain balance in your life.

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful leader?

You must have a strong vision for what you want to achieve, and you can’t let the negative energy of any kind throw you off your course or discourage you. Many people get sidetracked, lose their excitement for what they’re doing, or let others dissuade them. You must also be completely passionate about your idea or plan. It’s also very important to know that being a leader requires listening to the needs and ideas of others. It doesn’t mean that you change your way of thinking but be open and collaborative.

You only live once. Don’t have any regrets.

What questions should would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a new venture and why?

Do I absolutely love my idea and have a vision for it?

Do I want to devote every day to building and growing and nurturing this idea?

Am I ready to commit to this idea for a very long time?

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If you have a strong passion and vision that’s unique, pursue it, believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

You only live once. Don’t have any regrets.

Cover photo courtesy of Nicole Frank.