Inspirational Woman: Nicki James | Founder, Just Brand You

Nicki James

At 30, Nicki James has achieved more than most people do in a lifetime. She currently runs her own multi-six figure Brand company, Just Brand You.

Specialising in helping other female business owners through a combination of strategy and branding expertise, Nicki James has already won a legion of clients’ thanks in part to her honesty and authenticity.

Having studied Graphic Design at University, her artistic talents were recognised on graduation and by the time she was 27 she had become the Art Editor for Olive magazine.

But knowing that something was missing, Nicki launched Betty Lou, a successful wedding stationery brand in memory of her Grandma, who had previously told her she was destined for greater things.

As soon as she was able to match her earnings from the business, Nicki left her 9-5 and the long commute to Hammersmith. Not long afterwards, she launched B by Nicki.

Within nine months, she started to earn six figures and has consistently done so ever since.

Nicki lives in Essex with her husband Rob and puppy Coco, and when not working with clients can be found enjoying shopping trips with her mum and on long walks in the country.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Nicki James, I’m 30 and I’m a brand expert at Just Brand You helping female entrepreneurs to put themselves in to their brand. I learnt a long time ago that you can’t hide behind logos and websites. You have to be seen, be heard and use who you are to help and attract your clients.

I didn’t have the easiest upbringing. My Dad was a violent alcoholic and for years it made me feel like I had to be quiet. To be seen but not heard. If I spoke up or gave an opinion about something, I’d be told off (or worse). But I realised that using my voice and helping others was what I was born to do. I believe that I should be seen and heard and so should other women. It’s why I empower them to stand out as the face of their business and use what makes them different to become a better businesswoman.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. I had a really interesting start in the 9-5 world. I was made redundant four times in under four years and it wasn’t easy. But I had ambition and drive and I wouldn’t let anything bad stop me, so I always found a new job quickly.

My biggest cheerleader was always my Grandma Betty. She too, had suffered abuse as part of her life and decided to choose what she paid forward. She was far from quiet and she would always be telling you how it was. But she had your back. Before she passed away, she told me that I had more to give than my nine to five. At the time I had no clue what she was talking about. I was happy. I was an Art Editor on a food magazine, doing photoshoots and I had a team working with me. It was amazing. What more could I have to give?

But something about what she’d said wouldn’t go away and a year later I launched my wedding stationery business named after her. I found myself a Business Coach, as I believe in the importance of investing in yourself and your business. Within seven months I had kissed goodbye to my nine to five and the lifestyle that went with it.

But there was still something missing. I knew I could help more, be more, do more. I knew I had lots of skills and expertise and they were going to waste. That’s when Just Brand You was born (formally Branding by Nicki). And it’s grown from there. Amazing launches, fantastic results for my clients and yes, I definitely do plan my year out now but I also quite like seeing what happens, being open to opportunities and using my drive to push forward.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

What happened to me when I was a child, meant I struggle when I was younger. I’d have nightmares and terrors and I’d find it difficult to build relationships with people outside of my immediate family. Friendships were hard at times and I didn’t always fit in and I’d be worried that I’d say the wrong thing.

I honestly don’t know when that switch flipped and when I stopped letting my past hold me back. I do think it had much to do with Betty and her belief in me, and it made me feel braver to have that “I’m going to prove you wrong” attitude. Because on paper I probably shouldn’t be where I am now. I know many who have taken very different paths and made very different choices. I just think I’ve used what happened to make myself stronger.

Even when I started my business journey, I faced barriers. I suffered huge imposter syndrome. I compared myself to others all the time. I’d find myself talking my way out of jobs, already thinking the competition would win the client over me and I spent a lot of time looking at what worked for others.

It wasn’t until I finally realised that I had all the skills and I knew things others didn’t or that I had completely unique things to say, and it was me who delivered results for clients that things really changed. I wanted to be the go-to expert and how was I going to break through that ceiling? Well, I was just going to be me.

I started showing up, getting my name out there, getting visible (despite the fact that I randomly got this nervous blink every time I did a Facebook Live in the beginning), and I put my twist on everything.

But let’s be real here, business isn’t always easy, and neither is life. We face hurdles, bumps in the road and complete blocks, but we get to choose how we pay that forward. If you are at a crossroads, you get a choice whether you turn left or right.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I know it sounds like a cliché but getting to empower so many women to be the face of their brand is my biggest achievement to date. The lightbulb moment I see happen when everything clicks and they are finally on a path that’s truly aligned to them, is a feeling like no other.

They stop feeling afraid to show up and they can start seeing the results in their business. I remember one of the best situations I’ve ever had is where a client took a complete pivot and was so nervous but on the day she launched her website, it was so spot on she booked four dream clients that day.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Being visible, showing up and just doing it as myself. I don’t feel the need to put on heirs and graces or a telephone voice, I can just be me. I share with my audience the highs and lows and let them learn from things that I’ve experienced. I am just real and honest. I think people relate to that more. I’ve just got a drive and a hunger to help people and I think that shows. It’s not about the money, that’s almost the by product. And let’s face it, people buy from people.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have mentored and still do mentor people including brand designers to help them to find their own unique way and business strategy. I think it’s really important to learn from the people who know the things you don’t know. I think to grow and get to where you want to be there needs to be a level of investment made to get there. I think when you have skin in the game you have greater chance of succeeding because you have put money into it.  I also think that I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t from having mentors. And that person who is mentoring you is also invested in your success too.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Shout about it, talk about it and make people aware of it. But that does not have to be in an aggressive way. To use our voices as a person is powerful. We have so much to give and together we can make a change. It’s not about being above someone, it’s about being an equal. It’s about having the same chances. Part of my upcoming book that I’m writing and also my signature talk is all about this. It’s about how from a young age and even going into adulthood, children, women and minorities are conditioned to be seen and not heard at the risk of being told to be quiet or even worse, told they’re aggressive or too opinionated. I think it’s important that we take centre stage and put our skills to use and support everyone (not just women) to not feel afraid to use their voices and share their opinions. Everyone should be heard.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To always know how being unique is a strength and not a weakness. To not fit in to what people say you should be and instead break the mould. Ask questions, be creative and always have ambition and not let anyone make you be anything else.

And also, to not be afraid to be who you truly are. To never hide away. There is someone out there waiting to hear what you have to say, so it’s important you say it. You never know who needs to hear it.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Writing my book and an epic launch. I am currently in the process of writing my personal brand book. Just another way to add an additional asset to my brand, a way to solidify my expertise in my field and most importantly a way to help women in whatever way I can.

Also, I’m going to be staging my next launch in September for my Group Program 100% Brand You. It’s a six-month program where I walk women through everything, they need to do to build a successful brand. We’ve got pretty big goals for this one.

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