Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Nicole Musselman, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Nicole Musselman, founder and owner of KOCH, is an American fashion designer known for her mission to get girls to make their mark on the world by being joymakers and risktakers. KOCH is recognized for its playful casual mix of patterns, her inspirational messaging, and dedicated KOCH community of followers.
Nicole Musselman attended SMU where she received her BA in Advertising and studied for her Master’s in Humanities with an Emphasis in Literature. In addition, she has a degree from the LNV program at Harvard Business School.
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July 20, 2020
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Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and how Koch became what it is today.
I believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things and in order to do this, you have to believe in yourself and the world at large. You need vision, the kind that wants to make the world a better place and with this vision, you must apply determination, laughter, and resilience. I believe this applies to my entrepreneurial journey with KOCH and with my journey of life.
What’s something you’re most proud of since starting Koch?
I am most proud of our mission which is to get girls to make their mark on the world by being joymakers and risktakers. I am not from the fashion world and wanted to create a place and world that believed that the girl in the clothing was more important than the clothing and for too long fashion sent a message that didn’t resonate with me. I wanted to build a community that co-created together and encouraged people to be a force for good so that good could come to them.
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Koch’s philosophy is all about “joymaking” and “risktaking.” What do those things mean to you?
KOCH is a brand for joymakers and risktakers. We believe that when you identify what brings you joy every day that you will find it is usually on the other side of hard work and it is the things that make you feel connected to the goodness of the world. By doing this you can focus on what truly brings you joy and eliminate the things that do not. We also believe that when you make friends with your fear of failure and start with small acts of courage like being first to say hi on an elevator you are on the road to feeling a sense of joy. We are letting go of fashions quest for perfection and giving girls permission to take risks, fail, laugh, and repeat. We are on a mission to get girls to push themselves out of their comfort zone and try new things.
What inspires your designs?
My main inspiration in life comes from reading. I love disappearing into novels and worlds created through the imagination and the written world. I also believe reading gives you an understanding that no matter what kind of technology we have the things that connect us today or in 1920 are the same, love, loneliness, courage, loss, laughter, and joy. My other main source of inspiration comes from walking with podcasts and music. My best ideas come from taking long walks in nature. No matter what the temperature is: freezing, hot, or perfect, when I walk and listen to music I get a sense of clarity and strength.
Walk us through a day-in-the-work-life of Nicole Musselman.
Wake up, mediate with Sam Harris waking up app, write myself a text about what I want my day to look like when I go to bed. Go into my son’s room, take him to get a bagel and to school and read his text about what he wants his day to look like, long walk and listen to a Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss podcast, eat an egg white with bacon and avocado and iced tea. Go to the KOCH House and talk about how we can create a company with my team that is a breakthrough company. Pick my son up, eat dinner with him, jump on my trampoline, play with my dog, Read, write, visualize what I hope KOCH can accomplish. Laugh a lot along the way. Say my prayers with my son and talk about what brought us joy that day.
You’re a CEO, a mom, and so many other things. How do you balance it all?
It is so hard. I am a single mom and it’s always a balancing act. One moment you think you are doing a great job and the next not so much. Most of all I tell myself over and over life is working for me not against me and it wants the best for all of us. I love life deeply and believe in all its moving parts even the ones that are difficult. As Cormac McCarthy once said, “Life is pretty damn good, even when it looks bad”
You’ve got the whole day off—tell us your dream itinerary.
It is really the day I described above except my breakfast is with friends, my walks are by the ocean, I add a great movie in, and I get to be with my family—my mom, dad, son, brother, sister- in law, niece, and nephews.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to start their own business?
Have your own voice, know who you are, believe life is working for you, be willing to fail and understand resilience is the chance to play the game again in the morning and you will need to do this over and over, dedicate yourself to something bigger than you, be 100% in and imagine a better future and go create it.
What’s next for Koch?
Build a bigger community of girls who make their mark on the world by being joymakers and risktakers. I believe in women and the ability to change the world for good.
If you had to buy one thing from KOCH what would you recommend and why?
The most iconic item I have designed is the Erica skirt, it is made for girls to live life in, to make their mark in the world in, to create joy in, and to take risks in, and it is made in America!!!!!! We are proud to be part of the 2% of all clothing here.
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