How Nicole Kosmayer Found Her Seat at the Table

The path to entrepreneurialism is not always clear and straight. This was especially true for Nicole Kosmayer, Co-Founder and COO of Bookmark. One thing is sure; her grit and determination led her from a corporate career to being the co-founder of a tech start-up.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Nicole to hear her story, talk about what the path looked like for her, and what excites her about the future of Bookmark.

Tell us how your career started.

Much of my career was inspired by my dad. He was known at work as the person who could solve and grow anything and build relationships with anyone. This served him well, and he was chosen at work to move (our family) to Korea to turn around a business. I was in high school at the time and old enough to notice how much of an impact that skillset can make. It fuelled my desire and ambition to apply to the top business school in Canada, Queen’s Commerce. Despite having top grades, I didn’t get in, so I applied and was accepted into the Arts program at Queen’s with full intentions of switching into Commerce my second year.

This was very difficult to do, but I was determined to get in, so while everyone else was out partying, I was studying and building relationships with the guidance counsellors. I applied for the Commerce program again and didn’t get in. This time, I marched down to the admissions office to find out why. In the end, it was all because of a paperwork error, and I was accepted into the program within an hour.

This moment was pivotal because it solidified everything my dad had taught me to build his career.

Don’t rely on other people to do things for you, build relationships, and know that you are in control of your destiny.

Walk us through what happened next.

After graduating from university, I knew that I wanted to become an executive in the Cosmetics industry. I remember sharing this with a guidance counsellor. They told me it was super competitive (women in cosmetics) and a bit lofty and encouraged me to pursue other industries. I knew I was at a point in my life where I could go after what I wanted and didn’t let this feedback deter me. I literally hit the streets with my resume and made a connection with a person managing a store of a major beauty brand in Canada. Her kindness connected me with the corporate team that hired me as an executive assistant at the company. Even though it wasn’t the most conventional start, I knew that I would grow in the company and that it was a good step forward. Within three months, I was promoted.

I worked tirelessly, putting in evenings and weekends and travelling all over. I took on projects that most people didn’t want to do. When I transitioned to a new company, I helped scale beauty boutiques from 30 locations to over 300 in Canada. I was involved in every aspect of setting up these boutiques. It was rewarding building this business and new relationships along the way. Also, I was also fortunate enough to meet some fantastic mentors during this time that supported me then and in the future.

I did reach a point where the physical demands of my role were becoming tiring. I was thinking about moving on. That’s when I received a phone call from an old boss that wanted me to join her in expanding a famous U.S. lingerie company into Canada.

So, did you take the job?

Yes, the role was more about training and development versus product (which was my focus before). But after meeting the team leader I would work with, I knew I had to make the switch.

She was an incredible woman and someone I still admire today.

It was definitely fun to be a part of the launch of this brand, I met so many great people that I still keep in touch with today, and I was able to grow in the company.

Towards the end of my time with them, I decided I wanted to start my own interior design company. I had been in the corporate world for a while and needed a break. I was also in a serious relationship and thought about what would work best as my personal life changed.

How did that business turn out?

Well, my relationship didn’t turn out as planned, and I wasn’t in a position to start a business from the ground up on my own, so I had to pivot. It was a really humbling experience.

Fortunately, I had built a strong network in my career. So I started calling all of the people I had crossed paths with to see what was out there. I ended up back in fashion for a while, and then I got another phone call from an old boss about a marketing opportunity for an international cosmetics company.

It was a dream come true, and it made me think of that time in the guidance counsellor’s office talking about wanting to be an executive for a cosmetics company. This was the company I wanted to work for.

When did you cross paths with Bookmark?

I started dating Dave (Founder and CEO of Bookmark) just before transitioning to my last job. While I was working for my dream cosmetics company, he was building a company from scratch, and I remember being so enamoured with his vision for Bookmark. I started giving him marketing advice and input, which turned into strategic decisions and directions. After the birth of our firstborn, I became further involved with the company. Once my maternity leave was up, I decided to leave the corporate world and join him in building Bookmark.com.

What skills from your corporate career applied to your transition to entrepreneurialism?

Thinking outside the box, having an open mind, and building relationships.

There has been an element of creation in all of your past roles. What excites you the most about creating at Bookmark?

Bookmark is a platform that makes business owners’ lives easier and is an essential piece of how the future moves forward. We’ve created a solution for small-business owners that need help getting online right now. We have core team members who care and who want to succeed. It’s exciting to be a part of that.

You talk about having so many strong women mentors in the past. How have they influenced your leadership style?

The mentors that resonated with me the most were the ones that were both firm and kind. They showed me that you no longer had to harden your personality to get ahead as a woman. I don’t compromise who I am because of them.

I can be the woman I want to be and find a seat at the right table.

That’s what I’m doing here at Bookmark.

A beautiful aspect of your story is that there was always room for error, which didn’t scare you.

My dad would always remind us that it was “the shots on net,” that matter when we were upset about something, and I’ve carried that with me. If you don’t get them in the first time, you’re not going to score unless you keep shooting. Failure is always a part of success.

Yeah, and such a vital piece of that for women is being resilient- and having strong support systems.

What is something that you would thank your past self for?

I would thank my past self for being resilient and always knowing that I will get to the other side of something.

So much of your life right now is about giving to other people. What are some ways you support your mental health?

I don’t spend time dwelling on things. No matter what happened the day before, I always wake up knowing that today is a fresh start. This mindset helps me because it can get pretty chaotic building a business and a life at home with your husband.

I also spend as much time as I can with my friends and parents to ground myself.

I love watching a good reality tv show too, we all need an escape sometimes.

Last question, what should we ask you that we didn’t know enough to ask?

From a resilience standpoint, there is one thing that I didn’t share. As a kid I was always involved in sports. I wasn’t overly athletic, it didn’t come naturally to me, and I had to work extra hard to win. But I continued with it even though I wasn’t the best because I liked being part of a team. It taught me to find the role I fit within the team.

Failure is okay because it leads you to the right spot.

Any final thoughts that you want to share? Words of wisdom or quotes that have stuck with you?

Simon Sinek’s Infinite Game resonates with me all the time. The infinite game always keeps the game in play no matter what comes up. Whatever day you had today, there’s another one tomorrow, changes and challenges that happen aren’t always for the worse, and it’s all about the long game and gradual betterment. Success is realized in constant steps, not grand leaps.

We hope you enjoyed reading this interview. Follow Nicole on Linkedin today for more inspirational and helpful posts and stories!

Originally published at https://www.bookmark.com on March 8, 2022.

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