SIMONE MICHELLE – The Jill of all trades

…creating her own fashion line, encourages young entrepreneurs to be resolute and open to learning

BY PAUL ALLEN
Observer writer

Sunday, June 23, 2019

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It's hard to put a label on someone who seemingly does it all and that's how many would describe Simone Neilson, a “Jill of all trades”.

Commonly referenced by her brand's name, Simone Michelle, Neilson has been steadily making a name for herself in the local creative industry for the better part of a decade despite being just 28.

“After I graduated from UTech, I got a job in my field of study, event management, at an event planning and decor company, but five months in, I felt like I needed to choose between someone else's dream and mine,” Neilson said. “I was far more interested in my own bag-making business, which was my focus at the time, than in event planning and decor. So, I decided to leave that job and focus on my own brand.”

That proved to be a pivotal point for the Immaculate Conception High School graduate who said that while she only explored her childhood dream of being a wedding planner and decorator for a short time, she realised it was not what she wanted to pursue.

Neilson's foray into design led to the creation of her creative house “by SimoneMichelle”, which now comprises several of her other passion projects. “It includes, miSimBeachBabe, my swimwear line which is what is my main focus; TimeFramed, my most recent venture, which is handmade wooden clocks; as well as SMxSM where I manage a few local businesses' social media platforms, also a very, very recent development in my business interests,” she shared with Sunday Finance.

Her ever-evolving brand, while strange to some more used to the static nature of personal and business profiles, has become an unexpected source of encouragement for others, Neilson shared. “From time to time, this surprises me to be honest, but persons tell me I'm such an inspiration to them, whether it's with my swimwear brand or my DIY (do it yourself) projects that I share via social media, so I think it has definitely given me the drive and confidence to do a lot more.” She does acknowledge, however, that this can be a double-edged sword as there are high expectations and apparent pressure to succeed at all she tries her hands at.

While her widely-admired sense of style and creativity seem to flow naturally from inspiration around her, she admits that the one thing she finds daunting, even now, is staying on top of her finances, she said with a laugh, adding “the industry I'm in involves a lot of overheads, procurement of supplies, flights to secure those supplies, and labour costs. So, finding time to manage and keep track of income and all the expenses is a little intimidating.”

As her business savvy grows, so too does her interest in other aspects of business as she is now focused on investing, something she wished she had been taught and encouraged to do sooner.

“Investing instead of just 'harbouring' money is really something I wish, I started right out of university or maybe even before. But it's never too late to start, which I have, and I'm investing more whenever I can.”

Despite her years of experience in the field, she remains passionate thanks to her genuine love for “trying new things and learning how to do them along the way”, she said. “Seeing the end result of something I created with my own hands is really rewarding. I've always said, if I could I would be a professional student, particularly at a vocational school, woodworking, welding, even cake decorating — any art which involves me making something.”

Her growth in the industry continues as over the past few years, she has seen her demand soar during the island's growing carnival period creating designs for numerous corporate brands and individuals but, more importantly, creating sections within the Xodus carnival band in Jamaica and, more recently, Xhosa in Barbados.

Neilson credits her success to her parents, especially her mother who inspired her move to start sewing. “She (her mother) was also very hands on with projects, fixing up her greenhouse or mounting a shelf or something and seeing her do that…made me unknowingly confident to try anything I wanted to.”

For budding creatives who would like to follow suit, she says entrepreneurship and its many related barriers can be “disheartening” but encourages them to be resolute and open to learning.

“Pushing through these obstacles are what make you better able to handle the more that will come. Having a positive attitude and being open to learn from those failures and hard times will also help to toughen you up for a hard but rewarding career.”


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