Tell us about Nandi Nicole.
Nandi Nicole is a service-oriented, delivery only retailer that prioritises premium hair, skin and health products for the Afrocentric community. Our intent is to bring a fresh overhaul to this retail segment by centralising the best-in-class products under one house and solving the commercial retailer shortage. We will promote responsible beauty and self care brands, deliver information that is lacking on the high street, provide a steady range of products and intelligently support the buying process using smart language and segmentation technology. Nandi Nicole is inclusive, energetic, contemporary and edgy. We aim to provide wider access to the brands that commit to loving us right back.
Why did you join the Barclays Black Founder Accelerator?
I joined this coalition to be apart of a local network of Founders whereby we can create and cross pollinate our ideas, resources and energy as rising business owners. I also feel it is a great privilege to gain access to the insights of the business development experts across Foundervine and Barclays.
What would be your desired outcome from this programme?
I would like to come out of this program evermore prepared to lead my entrepreneurial journey. I am confident that I will be amongst a highly intelligent and talented class, for which I hope to gain some long term associates in business.
Which entrepreneur inspires you the most and why?
Angel Rich. I remember first reading about her perseverance to launch her first app Credit Stacker. As impressive as her qualifications were, people undervalued her when she was an employee and then again as an entreprenuer--it's a quintessential underdog success story. When investors declined to back her product, she launched anyway--and this was at a time that pre-dated acknowledgement and support for minority and female access to funding. She was literally in a league of her own back then. She's a trailblazer and her work continues to further close the opportunity gap. I admire that.
What has been your biggest win in your entrepreneurial journey?
Keeping a tight purse. I've been most proud of what I have been able to accomplish thus far by taking an ingenuity first approach to resource spending. There have been a few times where I have replaced having to pay someone else a fee with commiting myself to some extra sweat equity and creativity to bartering or figuring it out for myself. I don't advise that for everything, but sometimes with a little research you learn the barrier isn't all that much a barrier beyond your own capabilities.
And your biggest challenge?
Capital raising, at seed stage and coupled with Covid, is very difficult--almost impossible. I've had to modify my financial plan four times and am now launching with savings and help from private resources to get off the ground. It wasn't my plan and isn't a perfect one-source arrangement but it will work. I am betting on myself which is enough security for me.
Where did you go for business advice and how did it help you?
Multiple channels: simplybusiness.co.uk; the Business Support Helpline and I just joined the Federation of Small Businesses. I am also in business groups and follow entrepreneur/business development accounts on social media. All of these resources have helped me to get organized, direct me to the right contacts and prepare me for scenarios and protections that I otherwise wouldn't have had top of mind.
What drives you to make your business a success?
The resolution to what Nandi Nicole would provide for our community drives me every day. There's such an obvious disconnet in the market for anyone who takes pride and concern for their hair, skin and wellbeing. Black women especially suffer these grievances in silence, typically only disclosing it during kitchen table conversations with their girlfriends or within online interest groups.
What advice would you give other founders thinking about starting their own business?
There is no glory without really, really hard work. There will no longer be someone to keep you accountable for when you start your day and how much time you spend being productive. Critically consider whether you can embrace that responsibility to keep up the pace without someone commanding or even acknowledging your effort. Your commitment is yours to own, fully.
Why did you want to start your business?
My business is personal. It's a response to my own frustrations with not having access and not knowing the products I could use to care for myself. I have always had very sensitive skin (combination, acne, sun-sensitivity, you name it!) and an obsession about my hair health. I think every Black woman has an overstored cabinet of tried and failed hair products. In 2020, there are better products and more information IF you can find them. That's the challenge that still remains. I think it's time our community had a consistent, non-performative retail advocate--to be a reliable source for us as our tastes and unique needs require.
What do you do to relax when not working?
I cook. I often like to try new recipes and experiment in the kitchen. I will also put on a face mask, light a candle and sip herbal tea to decompress.
How has covid made you pivot your business?
As a new entrepreneur, Covid has caused me to be even more guarded about timing when spending capital. I find myself treading more carefully and building in additional contingencies to my financial plans. I am also constantly thinking about the flexibility and adoptability of how we plan to carry out the physical aspects of the business. Even the space we are letting for inventory has been designed to be compartmentalized if need be.