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
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Writer. Empath. Escapist. Young, gifted, and Black. Shanelle Genai is a proud Southern girl in a serious relationship with celebrity interviews, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and long walks down Sephora aisles. Keep up with her on IG @shanellegenai.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic’, though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let’s do first things first — let’s define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of “What does platonic mean?”, the first thing that you’re (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of “of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex” (Merriam-Webster), “designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity” (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, “purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes” (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I’ll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word “platonic” actually come from? From what I’ve researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled “Symposium.” In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire; one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: “Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry.” A write-up on Merriam-Webster’s site stated that, “The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships.” Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that’s another article for another time, though (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”).
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word “platonic” is kind of used in “broad strokes” these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be “just friends,” I’m going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I’m pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally, even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I’ll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He’s super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often and some have told us that they assume that we’ve had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: “I told him, ‘He’s my brother. We would never mess around.'”
My Friend: “Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it.”
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: “Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives.” (That reminds me: check out, “Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?” when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: “Girl, yeah. If I didn’t want to keep you in my life long-term, I would’ve tried to holla a long time ago!” And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these “for real?!” exchanges is, even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a “dormant seed” lying around somewhere…whether it’s one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life, we’ve had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren’t exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you’re not sure about “his”…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you’ve got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you’ve never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he’s someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it’s one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who’s been together for more than five years and I’ll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out “Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?”).
Yeah, just because you’ve filed someone in the “I see him as a good guy” category, that doesn’t automatically mean that y’all’s friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don’t get it twisted — I’ve considered him because, on so many levels, we “fit.” So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are “good friends” yet it’s not exactly platonic.
I’m not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would’ve been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn’t make you want to throw up in your mouth, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there’s a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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