Inspirational Woman: Nicola Mari-Alexander | Optometrist & Co-Founder, Peep Club

Nicola Mari-AlexanderNicola Mari-Alexander is an optometrist and co-founder of Peep Club, a new range of natural solutions for dry eyes.

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

I’m Nicola, the other co-founder of Peep Club. My first degree was in Economics and I started out in Investment Banking working on the Technology sector. Pretty quickly I realised that big corporate environments weren’t for me and jumped ship to join as employee four of a quirky, creative Clean Energy start-up. That launched my love of working in scrappy small teams and I spent eight further years working in sales at various start-ups.

It was incredibly fun and exciting but after almost a decade I wanted a new challenge and decided to go back to university to retrain as an Optometrist. This is not as random as it sounds! I’m surrounded by doctors and my father, who is my personal hero, is an Optometrist – he was actually the first person in South Africa to ever get a PhD in Optometry! While studying Optometry I noticed many patients, especially women, coming of complaining of Dry Eye symptoms – including Tasha, who was convinced she’d have to quit her job if she couldn’t get a handle on her eye issues. We set out to try everything on the market together and along the way Peep Club was born.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Definitely not! It was a completely random series of events that led to the founding Peep Club and most of the time I felt lost in the career wilderness without a map! When I decided to start over from scratch by switching to Optometry from a successful career in tech start-ups, I think many people thought I was crazy! And being at university as an undergraduate again, with students who were a decade younger than me, was definitely a humbling experience. But at the end of the day, if you trust your intuition, I always feel like the path reveals itself to you.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

All the time! Tasha and I both juggled multiple jobs while starting Peep Club and trying to balance everything has been very tough at times. The thing that I most appreciate about Tasha as a partner is her great sense of humour on those days when we hit brick walls.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

The biggest ‘pinch me’ moment was when we discovered that one our icons, Mary Greenwell, was a fan of Peep Club and when beauty legend Inge Van Lotringen included us as one of her top 10 beauty brands of the decade! But I think we are both most proud when we get emails from women who’ve struggled with Dry Eyes for years and years saying that Peep Club has changed their life.

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

Being surrounded by inspiring and supportive friends and family is the most important thing. On those first days of launch, when you see orders coming in from your friends and family; it really makes you want to do your best. Starting a business is definitely a team sport and I’m lucky to have the best partner in Tasha; I am impressed by her on a daily basis. The core value that Tasha and I share that has been the most impactful in growing Peep Club is believing that there is no one right answer, there are multiple ways to reach any outcome and the one we both pick and commit to is ultimately the decision that will be the most successful.

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

I have also been so lucky to have the benefit of incredible guidance and wisdom, especially from my mentor Tara Poseley, CEO of Paula’s Choice. Tara has such grace, compassion and energy that she sets such a wonderful example for female leadership. Having someone you trust to turn to when you need solid, honest advice changes everything.

Tasha and I went to an all-girls school that has championed female empowerment for over a century, we were very privileged to always be surrounded by examples of empowerment and respect that goes both ways. I think equality and understanding starts with our education – especially diversifying the sources of knowledge that children learn in the classroom.

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

Tasha and I went to an all-girls school that has championed female empowerment for over a century, we were very privileged to always be surrounded by examples of empowerment and respect that goes both ways. I think equality and understanding starts with our education – especially diversifying the sources of knowledge that children learn in the classroom.

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

Trust your instincts! Try to drown out the noise around you and just focus on what your intuition is telling you to do.

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

We are so excited about expanding Peep Club to new areas of eye health; we’re working on some really innovative new products for launch at the end of this year! In the future, we would love Peep Club to be the go-to eye care brand for the modern consumer and have our eye spray be part of every screen-users daily routine; just like brushing your teeth!


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