A favorite topic here at All Sorts Of is paint colors! So we were thrilled to sit down with Nicole Gibbons, Founder and CEO of Clare. After years of being an Interior Designer herself, she knows just how overcomplicated choosing the perfect shade can be and came up with a solution that takes away all the guesswork. Can we get an amen?!
Not only is she disrupting a male-dominated industry, but she also became 1 of just 34 black female entrepreneurs in the U.S. to surpass the million mark in capital fundraising. Read along to hear more about her journey from Fashion PR and Blogger (where Amber was her first-ever post!) to Color Genius and how she’s paving the way for women everywhere.
Tell us about your journey in creating Clare. What was your aha moment when you realized there was a gap in the market?
I worked in fashion PR for 10 years, and while in that career, in 2008, I started a blog to explore my passion for design (I even visited Amber at her very first home to shoot her space back in 2011 for what I believe might have been her first-ever blog feature?!).
In addition to running my blog, I dabbled in small design projects on the side, and in 2013 I left my day job to pursue being a full-time designer and entrepreneur. I was building my profile as an interior designer while also juggling both television work as a design expert and content creation. I was on a show on the Oprah Winfrey network called Home Made Simple and appeared regularly on morning shows. After about 5 years of this balancing act, I wanted to evolve my brand into physical products, but instead of licensing, which is what most designers typically do, I wanted to build a company from the ground up. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and am most excited when I’m challenged, plus the upside is far greater when you’re building a company yourself. I saw a white space in the paint industry to simplify and improve the shopping experience. Going to a big box home improvement store to buy paint is a hassle. The stores are uninspiring, the color selection is overwhelming and any sort of guidance for the customer is severely lacking. With Clare, we bring interior design guidance into the experience — from beautifully curated colors to tips and advice to help you choose a color with confidence. With a seamless online experience, expert guidance, and everything you need delivered straight to your door, we make the process of paint shopping easy, inspiring and convenient.
We’re beyond inspired by the way you’ve broken barriers and succeeded in more ways than we can count. Tell us how you’re continuing to pave the way for more women in this predominately male industry.
There’s so much bias in the industry, not just in paint and home improvement, but in the startup world. The best way to pave the way is to continuously break those ceilings and demonstrate that I’m building something with tremendous value. Every door I open or ceiling I break paves the way for another woman to bust through also.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while starting Clare? And of course, what about your biggest accomplishments?
Raising capital was something I’d never done before, so I had to learn the ins and outs of venture funding and what raising capital entailed. Of the tens of billions of dollars invested in startup companies annually, women receive only ~3% of those funds. And for black women, that number sits at an abysmal ~ 0.2%. To get the business to where it is today, I’ve raised around $4.25 million but raising capital alone isn’t the biggest accomplishment. It’s really getting this company built, getting our product out into the world, and creating something that people actually want to buy. Taking a business from idea to execution and then growing that business at a fast clip is incredibly difficult to do. And I’m doing it! We’re still a small, young company, but what we’ve accomplished so far is incredibly validating.
2020 was tough. What are your biggest dreams and goals with Clare in 2021?
When I think about the legacy paint brands that dominate the market, these are brands that have been around for 100+ years. I hope that someday (sooner than later!) Clare will be a household name and have just as much brand recognition as the major players. I hope for the brand to outlive me and still be around 100+ years from now.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, either professionally or personally?
Cliche but figure out what you love and what you’re passionate about and turn that into a career.
What keeps your hustle going every day? What motivates you?
There are a few things that are fuel for my fire. One is our customers. Hearing their feedback and enthusiasm for the brand keeps me incredibly motivated. Also, as a black female founder, I feel I’m constantly underestimated and doubted. Breaking down those preconceived notions and demonstrating that “I can”, when I’m constantly underestimated is also incredible motivation for me. Finally – achieving a good outcome for the business and our employees and reaching that end goal is motivation. It’s like the Drake lyric. “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.” We still have a way to go until “we’re here,” so that eye on the prize mentality also helps me keep pushing!
What’s a daily ritual you swear by?
Coffee & wine!
What are five things you can’t live without these days?
What’s next for Clare?
Stay tuned for some new colors and product extensions launching later this year!