This founder and interior designer shares her advice for getting a business off the ground.

By Kier Holmes
June 08, 2020
Nicole Gibbons and product from Clare paint
Credit: Courtesy of Clare

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

"Frankly, shopping for paint has always been a huge hassle," says Nicole Gibbons, the designer behind the direct-to-consumer paint line Clare. And she's spot on. Sorting through an endless sea of colors and product lines is overwhelming and frustrating, plus store environments are uninspiring and design guidance throughout the process is non-existent. "Over my career, I've heard so many horror stories about people's paint shopping experiences," Gibbons says. "A friend told me it took her two months and six trips to the paint store just to pick a color she hated." An experiential problem existed in this traditional home category, so Gibbons completely reimagined the experience of shopping for paint and created a whole new model where Clare is the go-to paint brand for everyone who wants to make their homes beautiful. Gibbons says, "I founded Clare to create an easier, more inspiring way to shop for paint. Our mission is to help people who are passionate about their homes, who value convenience and curate, create spaces they love."

How does this direct-to-consumer offering work? From a 55-hue palette, Clare will send you peel-and-stick paint swatches that can be stuck to your wall to determine your best color and are easy to remove. Many of them have playful names inspired by pop culture: Money Moves is a sage green that's an ode to Cardi B; Prince is a majestic purple in honor of the artist by the same name; Nairobi Blue is a nod to Lupita Nyong'o's iconic Oscars gown of a similar shade. And if you're still stuck, try Clare's Color Genius technology, which asks you a series of questions about scope of project and personal style to help you decide the perfect hue.

Lessons Learned

When we asked Gibbons what she would have done differently with her business, she replies she wouldn't change a thing. "I believe everything happened in perfect timing and each step in my career progression led to the next in a very organic way," she says. When Gibbons worked in public relations, hustling behind the scenes, working on her blog, taking on small design projects, and trying to build her brand, she took the leap when she felt ready. Then, when she was running her design firm, she spent time thinking about how she could leverage her experiences and personal brand to create physical products. Gibbons raised $2 million for the company's start in about two months, drawing inspiration from business models similar to Casper and Warby Parker. "My decade long career in PR prepared me well for fundraising, hiring, and basically getting those involved fully invested in the mission."

Most people know that success doesn't happen overnight. However, some see a new project, like the launch of Clare (from the Latin word "clarus," meaning "clear, bright, shining,"), and perceive it took off in the blink of an eye. Gibbons says, "Truth be told, I've been planting these seeds for a decade." Her best advice? "Never waver in your vision and have one thousand percent confidence in what you are building," she says. "One of the big determining factors of whether you'll succeed and provide innovative solutions to today's problems is not how smart you are or how qualified or accomplished you may be. It's how much grit you have to keep going and keep pushing through to realize your vision."

Where She Finds Inspiration

"I've always been influenced by fashion," Gibbons shares. "There's so much inspiration in the color palettes seen on the runways! I always like having a very fashion-forward point of view when it comes to design. I believe your home should reflect your personality and spirit, and that we should aim for timeless, highly personal and style-forward décor choices to create a home that truly feels like you."


Be the first to comment!