Designer Nichole Lynel Went From Broke To Certified Boss Status In A Year

People often talk about how lonely it is at the top, but what they rarely talk about is how quiet it can be during the climb.


People often talk about how lonely it is at the top, but what they rarely talk about is how quiet it can be during the climb. For Nichole Lynel however, it's a feeling she knows all too well. As we chat, the quietness that surrounds her while sitting on the floor awaiting movers to arrive at her old showroom serves only as a reminder of her own entrepreneurial journey. "Everybody is willing to help you when you're the underdog but when you have a chance of really succeeding, it gets a lot quieter," she revealed.

It was a little over a year ago that she took the last that she had, quit her job and decided to go full fledge in the direction of her dreams. And as with most people who go against the status quo and quit their unfulfilling 9 to 5, she encountered those who were apprehensive. She explained that while she had encouraging friends and family, in the beginning, they were more vocal about their concerns than supportive. "I've always wanted to be a fashion designer, so I went through a lot. I had a support system but they wanted me to play it safe. I had always been told 'no' or pushed in a different way or told how hard it would be. But I realized the only thing that was really hard was going to work every day and hating it. If it's going to be hard, it might as well be hard while doing something I love."

And what is that something, you ask? These days, Nichole Lynel is the owner of an online store filled with designs aptly named after herself. You see, fashion, as she explains it, is the one thing that came easily and naturally to her. From her younger days when she would sketch her original designs and play dress-up, Nichole always knew she was a fashion girl. It was a way for women and people in general to become whoever they wanted to be.

Fast forward to now though, and "fashion it girl" feels like a more appropriate title for the bonafide boss woman. Recently, xoNecole got the chance to chat with her and we found out exactly how she manages to slay and stay focused on her entrepreneurial journey.

Courtesy of Nichole Lynel

How did you get your start with your online boutique and how did you conceptualize the idea for your business?

I had an online store but then I left that store and launched Nichole Lynel last year and I just kind of went for it. I always wanted to be a fashion designer but I've always been told "no", or pushed in a different way or told how hard it would be. I was always told how hard it was, but I realized the only thing that was really hard was going to work every day and hating it. If it's going to be hard, it might as well be something hard that I actually love.

I started at the top floor and knocked on every door until someone told me "yes". It took months between the initial idea and the actual launch date. Stepping out on your own is a whole 'nother thing… It took a while, but what really happened was I got broke. Then I had to do something because I ran out of money. So I put my website together myself, the one I still use today and when I really made the decision to really go for it. It took me a week to get everything up and running.

Courtesy of Nichole Lynel

"If it's going to be hard, it might as well be something hard that I actually love."

What were some of your major setbacks when owning/running your business? How did you overcome them?

In the beginning, I was going through a lot. I really took a big risk, I used my last to launch my business. Even now, growing my business, I feel like the higher you climb, the quieter it gets. Everybody is willing to help you when you're the underdog but when you have the chance of really succeeding, it gets a lot quieter, especially when you're shaking it up. And you don't have a guide to this. Nothing can prepare you for solely profiting off your creativity. That in and of itself is a struggle every day.

Courtesy of Nichole Lynel

"Nothing can prepare you for solely profiting off your creativity. That in and of itself is a struggle every day."

So how did you go about scaling your business and growing it to what it is today?

I'm still doing it now, I've been doing my brand for a little over a year now. So I'm still in the beginning stages. But as much as I make, I put it right back; I invest it right back in. I don't believe in taking a large salary too soon and from day one I've had my accountant, so I'm all about doing revenue-generating activities. I want to invest in things that are going to produce results or growth. It has to be growing my business or has to be profitable enough for me to be putting my energy into it in it. And I am serious about my goals, I seriously put in the work overtime.

Speaking of putting in the work, your grind and hustle seems to light a fire under a lot of women to go after their dreams. What’s something you wish more people understood about the grind of entrepreneurship?

I wish more people understood what it takes to be an entrepreneur. It's so much that goes into creating something and you can't beat yourself up for it. It takes time, you can't expect things to just happen overnight. It's crazy what it takes mentally [and] financially. I wish people really understood what it takes to produce something great and then to produce something great consistently.

Courtesy of Nichole Lynel

"I want to invest in things that are going to produce results or growth. It has to be growing my business or has to be profitable enough for me to be putting my energy into it in it."

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own fashion label?

Number one, trust your gut. I wish I had listened to myself so many times because I always knew. Every time something blew up in my face, I always had this gut feeling in the pit of my stomach. Number two, get your paperwork right. People are all interested in the creative part of it but, fashion is a business and you really need to do your research. Get your paperwork right, talk to an accountant, talk to an attorney -- make sure that you are structured properly. Not making money is one thing but making money and not being structured properly will take you out quickly.

Number three is do the work. It's the most important thing but it's the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself. I didn't really find confidence in myself until I completed this and I always felt like there was a hole in my heart and something missing. And now I'm so full of because I found my purpose and what I'm here to do.

Courtesy of Nichole Lynel

"Not making money is one thing but making money and not being structured properly will take you out quickly."

What are some major lessons you’ve learned thus far on your journey?

Don't be cheap when it comes to your business because you'll end up paying twice. Appreciate people. No one works harder than when they feel appreciated. You're on God's time not yours. I talk about the waiting room all the time; we're always waiting, we're always thinking that someone should tag us in the game. But we're on God's time and I never got a seat at the table until I had something to say.

What can we expect next from your brand?

I have new denim coming and I have NL the Label coming! I'm also moving into an amazing showroom downtown LA and I cannot be more excited to just show the world what I really can do.

For more of Nichole Lynel, follow her on Instagram. Check out her boutique here.

Originally published on April 22, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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