By Mia Soto ‘20, Alyse Saucedo ‘21, Isabella Barba ‘22, Katie Sunstrom ‘22
As March is National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight a true Architect of Change and an inspiration to all of us, entrepreneur Courtney Shaddow. Founder of Nobelrags, a women’s clothing store with the mission of “Fashion For Philanthropy,” Shaddow’s goal is to contribute to the welfare of humanity.
Although she originally pursued a career in the medical field, Shaddow allowed her love for fashion and aptitude for creativity to guide her and she opened her own clothing stores. In 2008, Shaddow was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and her multiple high-risk surgeries and chemotherapy forced her to place her health above her businesses. Confronted with this new life, Shaddow was forced to confront her views on MS. She decided she needed to see it as an awakening rather than a disability. From this, Nobelrags was born. A store with unique clothing made for spreading kindness and positivity. One dollar of every purchase goes to 1 of 6 charities of the customers’ choice. As Ms. Shaddow states, “We take the ‘IM’ out of impossible and make things possible.” In the following interview, Shaddow shares some inspiring insight on how to change the way you view your capability and how to make something ordinary into something extraordinary to better the world.
Q: After working hard as a Pre-Med student, how did you find the courage to leave behind medicine and pursue fashion?
Shaddow: There was something about running my own business that fueled my passion and creativity. The medical profession is really a business too. You still have to manage employees, pay salaries, lease or buy a building, etc. But my heart was evolving and my will to do something in fashion to feed my creative side was what I knew was going to make my heart happy, and knew I would thrive and be able to maximize my personal and professional potential. Medicine, although a very needed profession, wasn’t going to be where I could feel alive and excited to do something amazing.
Q: Was the transition from selling clothing through your family clothing business to now selling jewelry through Nobelrags difficult? If so, how did you overcome the challenge?
Shaddow: Very challenging, and the amount of jewelry inventory I had to have by size, style, material, and color was crucial to generate interest from a marketing perspective. I feel that clothing was easier because the styles were easier to manage. Because I was starting over, I had to consider my space limitations. That’s why I chose jewelry. I literally started with two sawhorses and a sheet of plywood as a table four years ago. Due to the limited space I had to work with and my small budget, jewelry gave me a chance to get more merchandise in that small footprint. The real blessings in selling jewelry, although it’s a lot of work, my ability to use inspirational sayings, and other pieces that display something positive or motivational gave me opportunities to hear people’s stories and to help them to tell it!
Q: What is the most important lesson you learned through your experience with multiple sclerosis, and how do you hope to inspire others who are also experiencing MS?
Shaddow: The initial diagnosis was terribly depressing. When that happened for me, I had a choice…to either cave in emotionally and become a victim to this awful disease, or I could aggressively pursue a cure, support groups, and expert medical advice to get out in front of this disease. I chose the latter! The most important lesson I learned was to always stay positive, to stay physically active, and keep your stress to a minimum. MS feeds on the day-to-day stresses of life, and it manifests itself in physical pain. My goal is to be an example for every one I cross paths with, especially my brothers and sisters who are battling MS. I will always be a cheerleader for people with MS in the hopes that they too will team up with people like me to fight back!
Q: What is the mission of Nobelrags and how has its creation influenced your perspective on life?
Shaddow: My company’s mission is “Fashion For Philanthropy.” My goal is to give $1 dollar of every sale to one of our 6 listed charities, and we also give back to those charities during the holidays or other special occasions. My little company has certainly changed me philosophically. I’ve learned that there is more to making money for profit, and being driven for a cause is significantly more rewarding and beneficial to humanity. Kindness is free, and spreading my love and kindness is just another universal message that I send with the actions behind my company.
Q: What is your vision concerning how women can create businesses that prioritize people over profit as Nobelrags does? How would you see this vision implemented in a high school setting?
Shaddow: The easy answer is; I don’t need to be validated by any person regardless of my gender. But GIRL POWER is alive and well at Nobelrags! I’ve learned that if you take care of people, the profit will come. It’s when you become too focused on your bottom line that you stop doing your best work. Young women need to start young using their creative minds to build businesses that will thrive. Take some risks, follow your heart, and build a business plan. You don’t have to be an adult, you can get your business license in California at age 16. Don’t wait! You will never succeed at anything you never attempt.
Q: What advice would you give to young women like us that hope to make a difference in our community, and especially find the motivation to use our challenges as a way to educate and help others?
Shaddow: Love what you do. Identify areas in your community where you can make a difference. Develop a clear vision. Work Hard. Be patient and understand that nothing happens overnight. Never be apprehensive at asking questions or for advice. Be good to people and never burn a bridge; you may want to cross it again later in life.
**Nobelrags is now hiring (and gives commission too). If anyone that loves to sell or would like more information about this initiative of “Fashion for Philanthropy”, see below.