From Ottawa To Kingsville: Nicole Nicholson Couture Design Comes A Long Way

Tuesday September 6th, 2011

Posted at 12:15pm


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Having her own business has allowed Nicole Nicholson to spend more time with her son James as he grows up.

Starting a business is never easy, but doing it twice? That’s even harder.

Still, it’s essentially what 25-year-old Nicole Nicholson did upon returning from Ottawa. Launching Nicole Nicholson Couture Design in Kingsville, she brought her skills in graphic design and printing back home. Of course, there were some challenges along the way.

Offering print design services, from business to personal and special event products, Nicholson maintains that her company can do pretty much anything made from paper or printable materials. She generally uses vector graphics but also loves experimenting with different textures like feathers or flowers – Nicholson says she’s like a kid in a candy store when picking out paper, her mind always working overtime. When not doing this, she’s usually designing graphics for projects on her tablet.

Oddly enough however, none of this was in the cards when she began.

“I started the company in 2010 while I was studying Print Media at Algonquin College in Ottawa,” said Nicholson. “I signed up for the course hoping I could transfer into the Public Relations program when a spot became available but I ended up really loving it and staying. It really began as a hobby and something that I did for friends and family. It didn’t take long before I was getting inquiries and referrals from those projects from people I didn’t know and I slowly began to turn a profit.”

Despite being offered a position at the studio she’d interned at, Nicholson turned it down and opened her own business, Miss Nic Media. She didn’t feel it was fair to learn from them and eventually become competition. Nicholson’s time there convinced her to get into the industry however and she never looked back. Still, Starting Miss Nic Media was a case of trial and error.

At the time, Nicholson believed focusing on paperwork and administrative duties were all it took to make a business successful. Becoming more experienced as an owner, she soon learned otherwise.

Nicole Nicholson and her son, the reason the young entrepreneur turned her business, Nicole Nicholson Couture Design, into a full time job.

“In reality the paperwork is just the beginning of what it takes to run a successful business,” said Nicholson. “Business knowledge is a great foundation to start with but it takes a lot more than just that to be successful. It’s really a wicked combination of that and skill in my profession, paired with my passion for my work that makes my business continue to grow every day.”

Turning her hobby into a part-time job, Nicholson gained hands-on experience and extra cash on the side. Working between class and after her son went to bed were added bonuses – she tackled different graphic design jobs like creating logos, flyers, newsletters and invitations. Doing engagement photos and headshots for business cards or websites also set Nicholson apart.

Honing her skills, she began assembling a more diverse body of work. One job in particular for an Ottawa client sticks out in Nicholson’s mind however.

“One of my absolute favourite projects was a book that I put together with a client as a proposal for his girlfriend (now fiance) – it was so much fun to plan and put together, “ she said. “It was a collection of stories and photographs from their five-year relationship – the story of how they met, memorable dates and vacations, almost like a scrapbook – and it ended with a beautiful proposal. It was such a wonderful idea and a beautiful keepsake.”

A final push into her self-owned business came from the Entrepreneurial Moms of Ottawa. Becoming a member, Nicholson found knowledge and made connections while receiving an extra boost as well.

“The things I learned from the talented women in that group really gave me the confidence to begin working for myself,” she said. “There’s a strength that comes from gathering with like-minded women and learning from people who are in the same position as you but who have very different perspectives.”

Nicholson eventually came back to Kingsville, providing a unique opportunity for her business:Free of Ottawa’s market over-saturation, she could relaunch Miss Nic Media and make it a full-time job. Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes though, Nicholson created a five-year business plan to map out her progress. New goals were made and she renamed her business – essentially restarting from scratch.

“It was difficult to adjust to starting at the beginning again but it’s been very rewarding to ‘rebuild’ here,” she said. “Since I was basically starting over from scratch, I made the decision to change the business name from Miss Nic Media to Nicole Nicholson Couture Design. I think I made the right decision with that because I feel like it more accurately describes what I do without being too specific – it leaves room for expansion in the business.”

Familiarizing herself with aspects of the new market – such as using social media differently – Nicholson is already looking towards the future. A prominent facebook and twitter user with her own <a href=””Etsy shop, the young entrepreneur isn’t stopping there. She’s currently setting up a blog and youtube channel to give a behind the scenes look at how projects come together and will be at all 2012 wedding shows.

After receiving so much support in Ottawa, Nicholson also hopes to give back to others here.

“I am currently planning a small business networking night, which I am hoping to turn into a monthly or bi-monthly event,” she said. “I love what I do and I love to teach people about it – I’m planning a series of winter workshops that will teach people some of the skills that I use in the invitation design aspect of my business. I’ll give them the knowledge to be able to create their own handmade invitations and accessories.”

While in Ottawa, Nicholson's diverse photography skills helped set her apart from her competition. (Photo by: Nicole Nicholson)

Continuing her own expansion, Nicholson hopes to open a retail store in the new year. From there, she expects to branch out into event and wedding planning services; perhaps hiring a photographer and decorator for her team to create a one-stop wedding shop.

As passionate as Nicholson is to serve her clients though, one aspect of her business (and a big reason for her return) excites her even more.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is that I will be able to take [my son] to the bus in the morning and pick him up from his bus stop in the afternoon once he starts school in September,” said Nicholson. ” I am able to work my schedule around any of the important events in his life and that’s something I might not be able to do otherwise – it was my primary reason for going into business for myself full-time.”

Despite challenges that come with juggling single parenthood and having a business, Nicholson also said she thinks it makes her a more responsible business-owner. Looking out for her son, she is more cautious, does more research and can’t afford to take risks with his well-being at stake. In the end it benefits Nicholson’s clients and leaves her feeling lucky about where she’s at in life.

“All in all, it makes me feel very lucky to have the opportunity to live the life I have and run a business of my very own, especially while he is so young,“ said Nicholson. “I get to be a part of his life every step of the way and that’s worth more than any other part of being a small business owner.”

The following is a list of some of the things Nicole Nicholson Couture Design offers. For more information on her products, those interested can contact Nicholson by phone (226-344-1440) or e-mail to make an appointment.

Event Design Services

•Wedding ceremonies
•Wedding receptions
•Engagement parties
•Bachelor/Bachelorette parties
•Bridal showers
•Rehearsal dinners
•Vow renewals
•Anniversary celebrations
•Baby showers
•Graduation celebrations
•Superbowl parties
•Corporate events
•Life celebrations
•Memorial services

Corporation/Business Branding

•Business announcements
•Greeting cards (holiday, Christmas, Thanksgiving)
•Custom event maps
•Custom monograms
•Envelope seals
•Welcome guest bags
•Event itineraries
•Envelope addressing
•Logo and personalized napkins
•Event programs
•Thank you notes
•Corporate favours and gifts

Personal Stationary

•Calling cards
•Custom monograms
•Envelope seals
•Greeting cards
•Monogrammed napkins
•Personalized napkins
•Personalized thank you notes

Wedding Ensembles

•Save the dates
•Bridal shower invitations
•Rehearsal dinner invitations
•Custom wedding maps
•Custom monogram designs
•Envelope Seals
•Welcome Guest bags
•Wedding itinerary
•Envelope addressing
•Ceremony programs
•Escort cards
•Menu Cards
•Personalized napkins
•Reception Programs
•Seating charts
•Table numbers
•Thank you notes

This lime and black ink wedding invitation, printed on white metallic paper and white matte cardstock, is one of many eye-popping creations from Nicole Nicholson Couture Design.

With a crystal embellishment on the chandelier graphic, this bridal shower invitation is another eye-catcher -- printed on metallic white paper and layered onto matte black cardstock.

Piles of wedding invitations aren't uncommon as Nicholson assembles them for one of many original projects: These feature a Ruby coloured cardstock backing with white metallic layer and feather embellishment.

Ready to be packaged for the customer, these table numbers feature an ornate floral graphic that bleeds off opposite corners of the product's print layer.

One of Nicholson's favourite thank you cards, "A Star Spangled Thank You" was created for a client looking to show appreciation for North American and overseas members of the military. Inspired by colours and shapes from the American flag, she has one based on the Canadian flag too.

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