Every decade the world seems to fixate on a particular buzzword. In the 90s, that buzzword was power. During the 00s as the world was slowly becoming smaller and people felt more connected than ever, the word social started being used a lot. As that connection deepened, words like empowerment, inclusion and diversity turned from being just simple, meaningless expressions to indicators of how society has evolved. Sure, there’s still a long way to go, but hey, you have to begin somewhere right, and to us it seems like women empowerment particularly is a solid starting point.
Ever since starting Bastet Noir, we have always strived to empower women, either through the choice we make of selecting the right production partners and vendors or the clothes designed to support you in every endeavor, but mostly by building a community of women whose life stories we find inspiring and insightful. This edition of Cool Faces of Bastet Noir is no different, as we cover the story of yet another incredible woman whose drive, passion and tireless hustle has turned her into one of the most aspiring women entrepreneurs. Jackie Courtney, former fashion PR who has worked for the prestigious marketing agency Karla Otto is the founder of Nearly Newlywed, or as Fashionista called it the “Cool Bride’s Amazon of Weddings”, which she started back in 2012. One year later, her business made it to SharkTank where she even received an offer by Mr. Wonderful. Today, as her business grows, so does her influence on social media and it seems like Jackie is on her way to become a shark herself. So for this issue, we sat down with her to discuss her transition from a fashion publicist to a bonafide tech-entrepreneur. Read more as she shares valuable advice for every business woman out there.
BASTET NOIR: Jackie let me start by saying, it’s an absolute honor to have you be our cool face this month. Thank you so much for your support. So, for someone who’s had a pretty impressive fashion career, from working as an intern at Vogue and Barneys, to working as a PR at Karla Otto, I’m curious to know who would you say Jackie Courtney is today?
JACKIE COURTNEY: Thank you so much. Honestly, I am still figuring it out and as much as I constantly want to ‘arrive’ at some certain place where I think I have made it and fully understand who I am and what I am about, I also recognize that it is the evolution, the learning, the growing, that really matters, however uncomfortable that it may be sometimes. Before I started my company Nearly Newlywed, I was very defined by my fashion career and jobs, and walking away from that was incredibly hard, humbling and isolating. I didn’t really know who I was without those jobs and those things to define me, I felt so lost. But then I started my company, and being an entrepreneur, and an innovator in the sustainability & wedding spaces came to define me. It sounds simple, but it isn’t and it was a very hard road to navigate internally. So when I look forward, and try to think, who am I now and who will I be, I know better than to think that I really know. I am now very defined by being a mother, a wife and a friend. Those roles are forever roles and mean more and more to me every day. And I have been lucky to be able to mentor and advise some other female entrepreneurs, as well as to write more. Those are both things I would like to do more of and have define me more. But the truth is, I don’t know what the future holds, I just know that I want to continue to challenge myself to be better and to lean into things that scare me, because the other side of that is always transformative.
BASTET NOIR: You’re the founder of Nearly Newlywed or what Fashionista called the “Amazon of weddings”. You went through stocking and selling the wedding dresses from your apartment to establishing a fully fledged business, which is not an easy task to do. Can you tell us a bit more about the platform and what was the biggest challenge you faced while trying to get your business off the ground?
JACKIE COURTNEY: This last year, 2019, has been a pretty pivotal year for Nearly Newlywed. We launched our designer storefronts, inviting young and international designers to sell their products to our audience of over a million brides-to-be. In doing that, we opened up our partners and expanded our product mix beyond wedding dresses and engagement rings to also include hair accessories, veils, earrings, t-shirts, gifts, garters, jackets; so many other fun things that help create more fun and style around a wedding and the events leading up to it. Looking back, we were always heading to this place, and beyond, even starting out with just 50 used wedding dresses in my apartment. The most difficult thing was convincing the industry to accept that what we were trying to enable was sharing and sustainability; that we weren’t trying to necessarily ‘disrupt’ the industry but rather help it evolve… I saw that women wanted to resell their wedding dresses, many wanted to buy a used dress so that they could afford a better dress and/or wear two dresses. The idea wasn’t so much to disrupt the industry but to enable it to create higher quality products, and for more people to be able to enjoy them. Communicating that, and getting any businesses and designers to work with us, in the beginning, was very, very, very hard. We were very unpopular in wedding circles and industry events for a very long time. But we kept at it, and we had the customers, the women, behind us supporting us and helping to push us along. We have never really advertised, hardly at all, so we are almost entirely build by word of mouth on and offline, which has been amazing but takes a lot of time, and work.
BASTET NOIR: What’s your morning routine? Do you have one and what do you do in the mornings to get yourself ready for a busy day at work?
JACKIE COURTNEY: Hmmm, I don’t have a really great morning routine, to be honest. I have always wanted to create one and I really do try on settling into one, but I can’t ever really get there like I would like. I have dreams of getting up early, working out before my son gets up and reading some articles, meditating… but usually it is much more my son waking me up far too early, rolling out of bed to make him breakfast and guzzle some coffee, and then getting ready with him and my husband all together. I do play with my son for awhile and then I walk him to school, which is a special time, and when I walk back from that I do my daily gratitude, both because it helps keep me grounded and happy, and because after I take him to school and reflect on how he is growing into this little person, I do feel, profoundly, grateful.
BASTET NOIR: As an entrepreneur, I’m sure often times you’re facing days when everything seems to fall apart. Any productivity hacks as to how you manage to pick yourself up and keep on going despite the challenges during those days?
JACKIE COURTNEY: This is so true, it happens honestly a lot. I think to everyone, especially entrepreneurs and business owners. I have a few mantras and quotes I try to recite, and taking a quick walk around the blocks especially in Brooklyn and New York City can really clear my head and reinvigorate me.
One that I like to say on the hard days is ‘courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is the voice at the end of the day that says ‘Iwill try again tomorrow’that one really sticks with me and I think is important, because you can get caught up and a bad day can turn into a bad week and on and on. And businesses, buildings, empires, they are not built in a day, or a few days. They are build over time, little by little, brick by brick. Bad days, failures, insecurities, they will find you and sometimes knock you over. That is a given. Choosing to let that roll over out, accept it as it happens and then get back up and try again the next day…. that is success.
BASTET NOIR: What would you say by far was the most important milestone in building up your business?
JACKIE COURTNEY: That is a tough one. The truth, in business, is that the really seismic and ‘big things’ aren’t actually what make the business. It is the smaller, not milestone, milestones, that actually incrementally add up to change, progress, revenue, success… That said, going on Shark Tank in the first year of our business was really huge, because suddenly millions of people knew the name of our company and what we were trying to build. Crossing our first million dollars in sales, was also really huge. But it really, truly, is all relative, because in many ways, selling the first dress was perhaps more of a feat…..
BASTET NOIR: Advices you would give to your younger self?
JACKIE COURTNEY: Give less F*** — love yourself. Stop picking yourself apart, though I doubt my twenty something self would have listened. That, for me, is the growing and compounding beauty of aging I’ve discovered and to a certain degree, also motherhood. I just turned 36 and the biggest thing I love about aging is that whether through time or practice or the physicality of the aging process, I love and accept myself, on most days ;). It’s work and a process but it does get easier and if I could have understood and accepted that years ago I would have been so much happier and more effective.
BASTET NOIR: Favorite female empowerment speech
JACKIE COURTNEY: Not perhaps a speech, but I particularly love ‘Behind every great woman, are great women’ , because I think it sums up what we all need to do and be for each other; support, stepping stones, sounding boards, shoulders. Together, the world is ours and even more than that, we are so very, very strong. I also think sharing in someone else’s success is much more satisfying, and beautiful, than just my own. It feels better and just, means more, in many ways, so I am all about finding ways to foster and build that amongst the women I am lucky to meet and connect with, near and far.
BASTET NOIR: What the future holds for Jackie?
JACKIE COURTNEY: Immediately, we are adding new storefronts and designer partners to Nearly Newlywed every week, so expanding that and creating an increasingly globalized presence as the place to shop for your wedding, is pretty big on my to do list, along with continuing to expand the practice of reselling & buying preowned items for your wedding alongside new ones. Hopefully more writing, more mentoring and consulting with other businesses, quality time with my son and husband, some belly laughs, and lots of fun fashion. I still just love fashion and clothes, for work and personally.
BASTET NOIR: What’s in your Bastet Noir cart?
JACKIE COURTNEY: All of it! I really love some of the other long sleeve silhouettes, like the Maiara Dress and the Halona Dress. Also not in my cart per say, but I love what Bastet Noir is doing for bridesmaids and into bridal, and can’t wait to see where they take that. Always on the lookout for talented designers and fashion designers getting into bridesmaids and bridal and helping to elevate that experience and fashion globally.
We love strong, confident and self reliant women, so if you think you got what it takes, send us an email with your Instagram account and the story you’d like to share and you might just become Bastet Noir’s next cool face.
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