We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Mattson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is something I always used to try to avoid. I saw it as this terrifying unknown and as a result of my aversion to any kind of risk (emotional, physical, creative, financial), I allowed my anxiety to control me. My fear of doing anything less than perfect stopped me from trying new things, and I felt so disconnected from my ideal life and the present moment in general. I finally reached a breaking point where I became so stagnant that I realized something needed to change. That’s when I first heard the phrase, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” And it completely changed the way that I saw myself and interacted with the world around me. Rather than running away from discomfort or the unknown, I started leaning in. I consciously decided to stop playing small (with quite a bit of internal resistance, I’ll admit) and began to see risk as the key component to connection, growth, and a life full of learning. Yes, risk is scary. It’s uncomfortable and vulnerable. But treating it as a friend rather than the enemy is the only way to take those courageous steps towards the future you want to create for yourself. It’s inevitable that we’ll make mistakes as we take risks in our lives and careers, but I’ve seen first hand the beauty that comes from taking those messy, imperfect first steps – like becoming a business owner; constantly pushing myself creatively; trying my hand at new, surprising skills; and breaking out of the preconceived notions of who I am and what I’m “supposed” to do with my life. I’d rather live a beautifully adventurous life that may not make sense to someone else over one in which I’m constantly “should-ing” on myself!
What should our readers know about your business?
The road to where I am today with my business was certainly not a smooth one. As a spreadsheet-obsessed planner, I’ve had to learn to appreciate the detours just as much as my neat, organized itineraries. And to be honest, a graphic design business certainly wasn’t in any of my career plans at first. In fact, I went to school for my bachelor’s degrees in cultural anthropology and psychology. I was “supposed” to continue on to go get my PhD. But one too many existential crises after graduating led me to the realization that I’d been funneled through academia my entire life, and even though I absolutely adored the fields I’d chosen (and I hope to go back to school one day), I needed to go off on my own and try something different. So I started exploring all of the passions that I’d quietly hidden away throughout my life with each layer of shame and judgment I’d built up around what a “respectable” career should look like. And I kept finding my way back to my artistic/creative side that was dying to be unleashed. As I worked a variety of other jobs to pay my bills, I threw myself into online graphic design courses, and soon enough, I found myself working with my first few freelance clients on Upwork. As I built my portfolio, I was able to get more intentional about the kinds of projects and clients I accepted, and I slowly uncovered the aspects of graphic design that truly lit me up. That’s when my own branding and web design studio, Nicole Mattson Designs, was born. It all clicked as I found a way to weave the unique perspectives from my formal education into my creative work. I loved being able to combine the bigger-picture brand strategy and story-telling into every small, nuanced detail of my designs. Isn’t it crazy how all too often, the very same unconventional backgrounds that make us feel insecure at first turn out to be our main superpower or secret sauce later on? For me, my anthropological/psychological lens allows me to connect with my clients on a much deeper level—helping me bring out the vision they have for their brand even if they aren’t sure how to communicate it yet. And it also allows me to better understand the dreams, motivations, fears, barriers, and thought processes of their target audience so that I can create designs that they feel are speaking directly to them. Today, everything I do is rooted in intentionality, engagement, deep listening, and sound research with the ultimate goal of empowering my clients to feel confident in how they express themselves. Through this journey full of rough patches and detours, I’ve discovered that my passion lies in helping motivated entrepreneurs follow their dreams and connect with others – and I want to make my services and educational resources accessible to people from ALL walks of life!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I suppose the answer to this question has changed significantly in the past year because of the pandemic, hasn’t it? Before the pandemic, for a yummy breakfast spot, I like to take people to Lucille’s Creole Cafe or Denver Biscuit Company. Some of my other favorite places to eat are the Denver Central Market, Moose Hill Cantina, and Park Burger, just to name a few. And if we needed to find a killer cafe to work from for the day, I’d recommend Sweet Bloom, Stella’s, or Monk and Mongoose. Of course, being the music nerd I am, I’d have to take them out to experience some live music in Denver – I’m thinking cocktails and jazz at Dazzle, seeing an up-and-coming band play the Marquis Theater, or checking out an open mic night or swing dance class at the Mercury Cafe! There are plenty of fun, free activities to check out too, like the First Friday Art Walks along Santa Fe or a yoga class outside in Wash Park. But no trip to Colorado would be complete without venturing up into the Rocky Mountains. For something close, I love hopping over to Deer Creek Canyon just outside of Morrison. But for some real mountain magic, it’s worth the trip to head toward a town like Crested Butte or Silverton surrounded by less-traveled peaks waiting to be explored! And my favorite thing to do on my way home from a long hike is to head to a brewery like New Terrain in Golden to enjoy some good beer, great company, tons of outdoor seating, and some much-needed food from one of their food trucks!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh gosh… I could go on for days trying to express my gratitude for every single person and resource that has guided me throughout my journey. Feel free to start playing the music when it’s time for me to wrap it up, alright? First, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the unconditional love and support of my friends and family, especially my mom, dad, and identical twin sister. They’ve always encouraged me to be true to my own heart and instilled a deep-rooted sense of self-efficacy and trust in my ability to handle any situation. Their examples of courage and vulnerability inspire me everyday to step out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams unapologetically. I know they will be there by my side through all of the highs and lows that come with being human. I’d also like to thank my friends Jessica Jacobson and Nandi Camille (two incredibly talented business owners and life coaches), who welcomed me into their hearts and created a sense of community for me when I was first beginning my entrepreneurial journey. I’m sure all of the entrepreneurs reading this know how lonely and at times isolating it can be to try and figure out how to bring this crazy idea you have in your mind to fruition when no one else around you is doing the same thing. Jess and Nandi made me feel seen and helped me realize that I didn’t have to do this alone! I’m forever grateful that I made the decision to spontaneously show up for one of their Meetups in Denver, and I understand now just how important it is to prioritize connection with a community of other growth-minded creatives.
Other: Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/NicoleMattsonDesigns/