We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicola Clarke and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nicola, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?

After being forced into lockdown at the start of the pandemic and losing my design job in San Francisco, I started illustrating as a creative escape. I began where a lot of artists start, with pet portraits. After totally exhausting cats and dogs, I moved on to images that inspired me more – all things feminine. I‘ve always been enchanted with the female body probably due to growing up surrounded by three sisters in South Africa.
I was drawn to the illustrative quality of design from a young age and, early on, I fell in love with the iconic Hermès scarves. At one point I thought I wanted to design a series for Hermès – that was my initial goal. After finally finding my illustration style, I thought, “Why don’t I just make my own scarves?” Both my parents started their own businesses, as well as my older sister, so it felt natural for me to follow in their entrepreneurial footsteps.
At its core, the inspiration for starting Cocobaby came from celebrating female empowerment, diversity, playfulness and imperfection. The scarves allowed me to turn female-focused art into apparel. I wanted to celebrate femininity through the power of creativity and storytelling. Female empowerment is deeply-seated in growing up with lots of sisters and two very strong mothers. The scarves allow me to make people’s lives more playful, exciting and colorful.
I launched Cocobaby in Aspen, and within the first couple of months I sold out of my first round of inventory. It’s been full steam ahead ever since. Currently, Cocobaby is sold in local boutiques in Aspen; Kemo Sabe, Pitkin County Dry Goods and The Art of The Cozy.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I started my career in South Africa as an Art Director in the challenging and often harsh advertising industry, Ogilvy & Mather. After that I moved to San Francisco and worked as a designer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is where I learned to take deadlines seriously and push the boundaries in creating conceptual, creative work. After working on many influential brands, I started longing to create my own brand. I learned everything I needed to during hours walking in the Embarcadero, listening to the “How I Built This” podcast.
My biggest challenge when starting out was wanting to do a million different things. A friend at the time said to me, “Start with one thing” – so I chose silk. The next challenge was my initial investment in inventory. I took a massive risk on a huge order of silk scarves from a vendor in Singapore, having no idea how the graphics would translate onto silk. Luckily the scarves came out perfectly and I thanked the universe profusely! (I’m still thanking the universe).
The challenge now is to scale the brand and possibly diversify the product line.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

For the best time ever? Go straight to Aspen, you (probably) won’t regret it!
I love and appreciate food and in my family, everything revolves around meal times. Where to eat: Bear Den for their eggs with benefits, French Alpine Bistro for their escargot and gnocchi, Ellina for their artichoke heart bruschetta, Local for their oat milk lattes, Aspen Tap for craft beer and pizza, Campo di Fiori for their espresso martinis and The French Pastry Cafe (Aspen Business Centre) for their almond croissants.
Catch a live show at Red Rocks, (if you can’t get to Red Rocks, The Belly Up will do), hike American Lake, cycle to the Maroon Bells (with an ebike, obviously) and paddle board on the Roaring Fork River. Aspen is one of the few places that is extremely dog friendly, so if you own a pooch, take it to Wagner Park aka “The Dog Park” at 5 o’clock for doggie social hour. Be prepared to be social because you’ll undoubtedly meet some interesting people!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate this Shoutout to Cocobaby’s Photographer, Alexis Ahrling. Alexis has supported Cocobaby right from the start and has completely influenced the brand’s aesthetic. Alexis is one of the most talented and memorable creatives I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Since the beginning we’ve shared a common vision for a female-focused mentoring group. We’re now in the process of creating a women-supporting-women, entrepreneurial community.

Website: www.cocobaby.love

Instagram: cocobaby.love

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cocobabyaspen

Other: https://www.pinterest.com/nicolaclarke/_created/

Image Credits
Alexis Ahrling

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