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Our first NicheCon Fireside Chat all started Thursday, March 9th by lugging five boxes of beer, wine, and snacks to the 8th floor of WeWork White House to kick off the NicheCon Fireside Chat Tour in Washington, D.C. last Thursday night. Oh, and don’t forget the 10 boxes of pizza.
We kicked off in full swing at 5:30 when guests from first-year college students to seasoned professionals from all industries arrived to mingle, network, and hear from our kickoff speaker, Noelle London, a Campus Manager at 1776.
After a quick casual happy hour and mingling, our 35 guests gathered for an interview-style chat, moderated by Niche Movement founder, Kevin O’Connell.
In her role, Noelle supports up and coming companies who are trying to solve the world’s biggest issues by connecting entrepreneurs with the right people and resources. But we were lucky enough to host her for a more intimate discussion about how she came to be in this position.
Noelle caught the entrepreneurship bug at a young age when she realized she needed money to buy Christmas gifts for family and friends but didn’t have much of an income. While working at a boutique in her hometown of Clemson, S.C., the entrepreneur in her was able to convince the store owner to sell her handmade, no-prior-training jewelry in just 6 months as an employee. And it was all a wrap from then on.
The intersection of meaningful work and travel were always important to Noelle as her parents, who were active in the community and did really cool work that involved traveling taught her, “Where other people find problems, you can be someone who finds a solution.”
After studying abroad in Argentina, the game was changed. Noelle became really interested in International Development and decided to join the Peace Corps. With a risk-taking, all-in mindset, she thought, “I’ll give up my life for 27 months even though I don't know where I'm going. Here we go!" This was where Noelle’s first big piece of advice began to unfold. “Just do it,” she said. “Taking risk is scary but do it while you're young. Life gets more complicated as you go on and on, so be bold because it's going to get so much harder. You have so much less to lose when you're young.”
Noelle was shipped off to Nicaragua after a brief stint doing water policy work. There, she used her jewelry selling background to give financial empowerment to local women by teaching them how to export and sell to tourists. This experience encouraged her to get a degree in global policy specifically in order to help entrepreneurs navigate public affairs.
Fast forward a few years and many amazing experiences later, Noelle stumbled upon 1776 and began volunteering with the organization. Her philosophy is that if you volunteer for the organization you want to work for, the opportunities can be endless. As a volunteer, you become aware of jobs before they are posted and your work ethic as a volunteer is valued so they will want you. So show up when they need you and always think about ways you can help people out. She told the brief story of a woman she interviewed who really listened to some of the ongoing projects and tasks to be completed and after the interview, the candidate emailed Noelle a follow-up with all kinds of helpful information. If you really listen to the interview, you can follow up with information, research or resources which will get you noticed.
She encouraged millennials not to panic if they don’t have everything figured out. “My friends who had everything figured out way back when have trouble doing something different now,” she said. There's a lot of soul-searching after college and anxiety about getting the job of your dreams. You may find yourself making copies but you better be the best damn copy maker they've ever had. Be humble. Don't act like you're above the work. Our culture incentivizes confidence but you also need to be flexible and a team player.
Needless to say, Noelle’s journey has been one that always stayed on track with her passions. It was always important for her to believe in the work she was doing, and this remains true today and for the future. She suggests instead of following societal pressures, stay curious. Continue asking yourself questions. Continue learning about yourself. Ask what drives me? It's easier than ever now to be curious with so many classes and other opportunities in comfortable and inviting environments. Spend one evening a week to do something new and hold yourself accountable to that. It's easy to get stuck but pull yourself out by asking yourself what you care about.
For Noelle, that was an innate sense of entrepreneurship and using her solution-oriented traits to solve issues for people around the world. To her, entrepreneurship is in your habits. If you’re reading a book about it, you’re doing it wrong. There is no normal day in the life for Noelle’s role and that's what attracts her this field. In her role, she’s across the board from maintaining partnerships to mentoring new entrepreneurs.
The risks and leaps of faith you may take on your career journey are meaningful and “it all becomes a part of your quilt.” Noelle’s powerful words, not mine.
After a brief Q&A session, guests were invited to stay and chat with Noelle and the Niche Movement team. More connections were made and Noelle invited guests to contact her after the event.
And I’d like to do the same! If you’re interested in learning more about Noelle or speaking with her about her career journey, advice, entrepreneurship, or more, feel free to contact her at twitter: @NoLinNica.
Our next NicheCon Fireside Chat will be held at WeWork Bryant Park where we’ll host Bryan Campbell, staff writer for Gear Patrol. Learn more here.