Nic Hyl is the founder and creative director of New York’s newest emerging swimwear, clothing and lifestyle brand, Nic Hyl. As a lover of travel, fitness, fashion and having previously worked in the fashion industry for brands including Norma Kamali and Ralph Lauren, Nic has taken her experience, Jamaican roots, and Florida upbringing to create a brand inspired by her love of quality fashion and a vacation inspired lifestyle.
“It’s the beauty of fashion that I see on a daily basis on New York City streets coupled with my Florida roots and Jamaican culture, that has inspired me to create a swimwear and lifestyle brand, so that fashionable women can translate their personal style to the beach, pool or wherever their lives take them. My goal is to celebrate a wider definition of beauty for every body, everywhere; one uniquely beautiful garment at a time.” – Nic Hyl
Currently, Nic is working on including size inclusive styles and modest swimwear for women of all sizes to see themselves represented in their swimwear and lifestyle garment choices, to her current assortment of swimwear and clothing styles and sizes. These styles will launch in 2021.
Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Nic Hyl Clothing all about?
At Nic Hyl, I design and manufacture women’s swimwear, resort wear, and clothing utilizing traditional design and garment construction processes, in NYC’s garment district with an emphasis on promoting and focusing on the unique beauty of each person and a focus on sustainable practices that go against fast fashion while helping to further the efforts of other small businesses, where possible
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
I grew up in Florida and was raised by Jamaican parents. A travel inspired life is in my soul. As I was working in NYC’s fashion industry under various designers and brands, my desire to express my opinion on fashion grew, until I finally launched my own brand.
What was the biggest problem you encountered with your business and how did you overcome it?
Startup capital is by far the most difficult problem I’ve had as an independent designer. It’s very difficult for fashion brands to get traditional funding and access to capital was limited in my situation. When I was working my corporate job, I knew what my goals were so I saved aggressively in my company’s 401-k from the first day I could and for the entire time of my employment there.
When I left the company 6 years later, I took that money as the seed money to fund my business venture. I spent it on things like equipment, raw materials, images, and rent for a location to sell my goods at a local weekend market in Brooklyn, New York.
For help, I put an ad in the paper and hired 2 interns from local design schools. One to help me with the large amount of work creating designs and clothes and the other to help me write on my blog, which I used as a form of marketing.
Once the 401-k money ran out, I began waiting tables at a very popular restaurant in SOHO during the early morning/afternoon hours and operated my business and design work when my work day was over. That was extremely taxing and not for the faint of heart, but it gave me large amounts of cash I needed to fund the business without any loans and to help accomplish additional goals that require funding to help grow the business.
What were the top mistakes you made when starting your business and how did you overcome them?
As a designer, my forte is not marketing/advertising/PR. These are all things I’ve had to learn and teach myself along the way and to some degree have probably held me back slightly.
My best piece of advice would be to recognize what your strengths and weaknesses are early on. Whatever your weaknesses are, find help for that early on so that your business can have everything that it needs to prosper and grow.
What is one thing you do daily to grow as an entrepreneur?
There are 2 things I do consistently, alternating between the 2 of them daily. The first thing is self care. I eat properly, exercise, pray, and keep a healthy & positive space in my home and the people I’m around. I understand that being an entrepreneur will be the most difficult and rewarding thing I do. I need every ounce of energy I can get to do it at an optimum level. If I’m physically at an optimum level, then the work I create will be too.
The other thing I do consistently is learn. I’ve never stopped learning. It’s my opinion that as a designer, I can’t grow if I’m not constantly learning and evolving to the world I live in. As a business owner, this is also true. There are so many things that we as humans don’t know; constantly learning helps us to evolve and be better; in all we do.
What are three books or courses you recommend to new entrepreneurs?
I definitely recommend reading a book or taking a course from an expert in your industry. Just starting out in whatever your chosen industry is, there is a business to it that you may not know or may not know well. Learn from people who have done what you’re attempting to do. Learn from them. Improve on their process. How did they start? How do they fund their business? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if someone has already done it before you.
The second book I would recommend is How to Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. One of the most important things you’ll need to learn as an entrepreneur early on is how to get people to champion for you, to want you and your vision to succeed. If you’re not naturally a people person, then order this book now and learn how to be one. When you master your relationships with various people, who will inevitably be necessary for your businesses growth, you’re closer to success.
The last book I would recommend is The Achievement Factors by B. Eugene Griessman. I love this book because the author is trying to find a common thread of success and is asking the question of “How do successful people become successful?”. Griessman interviews various extremely successful people from different industries to answer his question. The interviewees are all very candid in how they accomplished their goals and successes. It’s a great read to see how successful people accomplish their goals.
What is one thing I wish I knew before starting my business?
One thing I wish I knew before starting my business is that not everyone in your life will be happy for you, nor is everyone in your life meant to travel on your journey with you. Nothing weeds out negative toxic people from your life like pursuing your dreams and success.
Figuring out early on what relationships truly serve you is an asset.
What has been the most effective marketing strategy to help grow your business?
The best marketing strategy I’ve done to help grow my business is a combined effort, and not one single thing. As a fashion brand in an extremely competitive market, I can’t compete with the larger brands and the larger budgets they have. So I’ve learned not to. I’ve learned to double down in what I can do well, and perhaps better.
Because of my business size, I can truly get to know my customers and offer world class customer service. I enroll in programs and in competitions that highlight my brand in a very positive way (I participated in the 2019 class of The Workshop at Macy’s and won The 2017 Small Business Administrations Home Based Business of The Year Award for the New York DIstrict). I try to do multiple, smaller pr initiatives to help create a buzz and spread the word about me and the brand. I also work with some micro influencers to create a buzz around the product and I’m active on social media. The combination of all of this is the marketing strategy, and lastly social media advertising. It’s a slower strategy, but it’s sustainable for my budget, and it’s a more comprehensive approach than just throwing money at one approach.
Understanding the industry you’re in and your place in it will help to craft an effective marketing strategy for your business. Don’t feel compelled to do marketing the same way everyone else in your industry does; it may not work for every type of business especially if you’re not going to be able to compete on their level as effectively as more established brands can.
If you only had $1,000 to start a business, how would you spend it knowing everything you know now about business?
Hmmm, this is a tricky question. I know how to make clothes, take great pictures, make patterns, style a look, build my website. So I would spend some of the money on fabric to make a garment I can show people and potentially sell. So, my breakdown would be:
- Fabric/trims for sample: $150
- Paying Model for Pictures: $25/hour for 2 hours= $50
- FB ads PRE_SELLING the garment: $15/day for 1 month= $450
- Web hosting and custom URL: $33/month
- Custom email address: $10/month
- Business Bank Account: Mine is free with direct deposit. $0
- Sign up for FREE social media accounts with your business name, making sure the same name (or as close to possible) is used on all social media accounts.
- With the remaining $307, look into trademarking your business. You may have to pay some out of pocket costs, but it’s worth it.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Understand that this is a marathon and not a race. You’ll need endurance. Endurance of self, of finance, or mental fortitude, of building relationships, of knowing your customer, of learning your place in your industry and how to best navigate the path from where you are to where you want to be. You can do this!
How can we get in touch with you?
I also hold bi-weekly chats on Clubhouse called, “Exposed: BTS of Building A Brand” every Monday and Wednesday at 6pm est. I interview various business people and we share tips and hacks on specific topics for each episode that help new entrepreneurs and anyone in business navigate their way in building their brand. I’m @nichyl on Clubhouse.
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