For a magna cum laude International Relations graduate of George Washington University, establishing a career in politics would be the next, predictable step after turning the tassel. Luckily for her growing client list, nothing Nicole Corbett does is predictable. Nicole has been an entrepreneur since the day she graduated from GWU in 2008 and refused to get a “real” job.
Corbett is the CEO of Worn, a creative agency that empowers women to lead. Worn works with female leaders and their allies across various industries to design bold brands, produce brave content, and catapult women to the top of their industries. Worn’s work ranges from brands found at Whole Foods to Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Over less than a decade, Corbett grew Worn from a print publication into a full service creative agency and is determined to advocate for all women through Worn’s work.
Since 2009, Nicole has grown a community of women leaders that support each other in the hustle. Worn produces F*it, an evening where female leaders share their stories of triumph and wisdom. F*it encourages women to share professional advice from a female perspective so it can be shared with younger generation of women leaders.
When she’s not flexing her photography muscle, which she honed in the photo departments of Vanity Fair and US News, or enjoying newlywed life with her husband and puppy, Nicole is 110% dedicated to the hustle. The multilingual and multitalented CEO recently took some time to share her experiences with Her Agenda.
Her Agenda: You have been an entrepreneur since the day you graduated college. Why did you refuse to get a traditional job post graduation?
Nicole Corbett: Why would anyone get a traditional job if they could invent their own job? That’s what I did. I was working on a passion project, a print and photography magazine called Worn Magazine right out of college. I loved everything about working on that magazine, from building teams, to designing and writing, marketing the magazine, etc. I decided I needed to find a way to make this my job rather than getting a “traditional” job, which would have probably been in government since I was living in D.C. and had studied International Relations in college. So, I turned the magazine into the creative agency I lead today and it was the best decision I’ve made to date, short of marrying my husband last year.
Her Agenda: How did your undergraduate experiences and education prepare you for entrepreneurship?
Nicole Corbett: To be very honest, I don’t think college prepares you well at all for entrepreneurship, however, I did spend a full year studying abroad in Seoul, Korea and that did prepare me for entrepreneurship. Moving to a country you’ve never been to, where you don’t speak the language and have never even tried the food and [have to learn to] get comfortable with the uncomfortable on a daily basis, is great prep for being an entrepreneur. In entrepreneurship, the moments where you are completely relaxed and are totally comfortable in what you’re doing are extremely rare, at least for me. The second most valuable thing I got out of college was writing. I do a lot of writing in my job today and college did prepare me to communicate succinctly and professionally. You can’t underestimate the basic value of that. I’m not sure it was worth the tuition though.
Her Agenda: What inspired the concept of Worn? Why does the world need Worn right now?
Nicole Corbett: Women entrepreneurs are at a huge disadvantage in the world of business today. They are starting companies at faster rates than men, yet they have much less access to capital, not to mention the blatant sexism that still exists in the business world, which contributes to making it much harder for women to build successful businesses that create jobs. We still do [build successful businesses], we just have to work much harder at it. At Worn, we focus our creative talents on women-led businesses and organizations because we can see the chain reaction that results. If women-led companies grow, they will create jobs and hire more women, over time women will have a larger influence in the business world, and as their companies contribute to the economy, it benefits everyone, not just women. So believe that the more people and companies that play a role in this chain [reaction], the better. Worn could be like every other agency whose sole focus is how many Fortune 500 companies they can work with. That’s not our focus. We measure our success by how many women we’ve impacted.
Her Agenda: How do you manage your team?
Nicole Corbett: I think I’m a leader, a teacher, a coach, and a tiger mom all at the same time. I make sure we celebrate everything worth celebrating, a work anniversary, a birthday, an exciting new client. It’s too easy to blow through your goals and never stop to celebrate. I’m also very transparent about what it takes to grow the businesses and how everyone on the team contributes to us reaching our goals. I try to bring the spirit of entrepreneurship to everyone on the team.
Her Agenda: What role does mentorship play in your life and career?
Nicole Corbett: I firmly believe that no one achieves success on their own. I personally have had mentors walk me through the first steps of starting Worn and I’ve turned around and paid that forward to other women who are coming up too. I don’t see business as a zero sum game and whatever I can do to help another woman, I’ll do it. I’m also a mentor to a 15 yr old girl in Brooklyn through Stoked. They are a former client and I majorly drank the Kool-Aid.
Her Agenda: What keeps you motivated?
Nicole Corbett: My team, and the idea that I can make a difference in women’s lives. The best thing about leading Worn is our team of compassionate and dedicated women who bring such positivity, love and passion to Worn everyday. It’s my personal utopia, and I have sat in a cubicle as an intern before so I appreciate our light and puppy-filled work environment immensely. The mission of Worn, to help women to become successful in business, has also become my personal mission in life. I know that whatever the next chapter in life brings down the line, I’ll be working to help women in some way.
Her Agenda: What would you say is your personal motto?
Nicole Corbett: DROOM – “Don’t run out of money” is my entrepreneurship motto and I just heard this one from Luvleen Sidhu founder of BankMobile the other day, “tough times don’t last but tough people do.” I love that one.
Her Agenda: What’s next for Nicole? What’s next for WORN?
Nicole Corbett: Funny, when I read this question I realized that I never think about what’s next for me separate from what’s next for Worn. Personally, I just got married last year and then got a puppy six months later. Those were some big moves for me. I also just joined cohort XXI in the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Businesses program and I’m graduating in August along with 29 other entrepreneurs. As for Worn, we’re constantly finding new ways to impact more women, so we’ll be working on that intensely over the next year.