Episode 95
March 1, 2022

Painting the Future

with Nicole Gibbons, Founder and CEO of Clare

About this episode

Today, Lee spoke with Nicole Gibbons, the Founder and CEO of Clare, a modern paint brand that’s completely recreating the paint shopping experience with curated colors, technology enabled design guidance, innovative peel and stick samples, and everything you need delivered straight to your door. Nicole shares her journey from growing up in Detroit with dreams of becoming a pediatrician, to starting an interior design blog and services company that led to the concept of Clare. She talks about how a dinner with Tyra Banks led to a job working in PR, how she prepared to take the leap into entrepreneurship, how she came up with the name Clare, and her experience in raising an $8 million Series A round.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • What it was like growing up in a small suburban town in Detroit with entrepreneurial parents, creating friendship bracelets and earrings and selling them to friends and family
  • How the fascination with babies at a young age gave her the desire to be a pediatrician, but once she got to college and began taking advanced science classes, it led her to explore other passions and interests
  • How after college, her main goal was to just find something fun that she loved doing, and knew that one day she would end up creating something of her own
  • How couch surfing in college while doing two internships and making connections led to dinner with Tyra Banks, and landing a dream job at Victoria’s Secret 
  • How she finally decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship after five years of building a customer base with her blog
  • How being inspired form women like Martha Stewart gave her the determination and mindset to build a brand that was mass enough to go into Kmart or Target
  • How helping a friend pick paint samples online led to a terrible experience and sparked the idea of selling paint online
  • The challenges and experiences she faced in raising a Series A of $8 million dollars, from supply chain challenges, to team changes, and more
  • The lessons learned in hiring the right person and fit for the team
  • What she's learned in keeping the conviction of her business and how that keeps her focused on the main goal 

To Find Out More:



“My father always told me ‘whatever you do, don’t ever work for someone else your whole life, you need to have your own business’ and that was just ingrained in my mind.”

“You don’t need to have it all figured out in college, you just need to be pursuing a path that’ll give you options. Choose a path that can help build skills that are applicable no matter what you end up doing in the long run.”

“I pretty much spent all of my free time watching HGTV, buying coffee table design books, and consuming and reading everything design.”

“It was less about starting a business and more about following this passion than anything else.” 

“I started making friends with all the home editors and getting to know people in the design community and little by little I built credibility, and I built a name and I became really respected. It just sort of grew from there.”

“It’s the squeaky wheel who gets the grease.”

“I always had a plan, but I didn't have the steps in between. I didn't have the granularity of the plan, but I knew I was gonna start my own business. Once I became an interior designer full-time and started my design firm, I knew that I wanted to build a brand and have physical products.”

“Paint really felt like a broken buyer journey”

“Part of the blind optimism as a founder is just believing you can do it.”

“The further along you get, the harder fundraising becomes, even if you are the next hot startup idea in the beginning, you have to demonstrate that you have a business that has potential or else you will lose people very quickly.”

“Fundraising is like a game of FOMO. You're hot or not, and there's not a lot in-between.”

“Just being able to show up in a room and be your true self and not feel doubted, you know or feel like people are questioning your ability to build the business that you're building, and be able to focus on the stuff that really matters.”

“Maintain your conviction in what you're building. You are going to be met with so much rejection, so much skepticism. So many people who don't believe in what you know to be true, remain unwavering in your belief  around your business, what you're building and just never lose sight of your mission because that's what will keep you grounded and keep going even when things get really hard”

Read the transcript

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