Interview: Nicole Paggi Brooks, Founder + CEO Naomi Gray

I met Nicole years ago while living in LA and fell in love with Naomi Gray. I've had some sort of piece designed by Nicole on since then! Nicole is such a creative and talented woman who was an actress making jewelry on the side. Grateful to have met her years ago and happy to share her wise words below.

CD: When and why did you decide to become a jewelry designer?

NB: My background is in acting and I have a business degree. I really became interested in jewelry when I was living in New York City working on a TV show. I started making jewelry on my downtime as a hobby. I really loved gemstones, and would go explore the jewelry district to the wholesale gemstone suppliers and buy different beautiful stones to make pieces with. I always wanted to make what I wanted to wear because I had a hard time finding pieces that were just the way I wanted them. After a few years of making jewelry for fun, I combined my business background with my creative outlet to launch my jewelry line. I've always wanted a career with which I could be creative, but also wanted to be in control by being an entrepreneur. Most of my pieces are very sentimental, symbolic, and personal so I named the line after my grandmother.

CD: Can you walk us through a typical day for you? What is the best part of your day?

NB: Everyday is completely different for me, which is good and bad. I definitely could work on being a little more consistent and structured with my days, but it's been a challenge with an infant and toddler. I definitely try to squeeze a workout in when I can. I also love that I can be with my kids and have my own business. I am in and out of my house and office all day so I get to see them, and breastfeed, or put them down for naps. I like to feel like I'm not too far out of touch with them during the days. So I love that I make my own schedule. I really enjoy designing the pieces and seeing them come to life. What's best is when a customer tells me that their piece represents the most special thing in their life, and that they never take the piece off. That is the most rewarding part of my business for sure!

CD: What did you learn from your biggest failure? What would you have done differently?

NB: I was an actress for years and loved it but always wanted something that was just mine. So I think the challenges with that business led me to create Naomi Gray. I believe you can learn so much from the ups and downs everything leads you to exactly where you are meant to be. I know that my business will continue to evolve.

CD: What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?

NB: You create your own life and destiny. I'm always working on discovering my true purpose. It's all a work in progress.

CD: What advice would you give to aspiring jewelry designers?

NB: Figure out how you want your business to go and do that. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing.

CD: How do you stay healthy (physically and mentally).

NB: I have to work out. I try to work out most days of the week. It doesn't always work out like that because I'm either exhausted or there just isn't enough time in the day with the kids and work. But I would say physical exercise helps me stay sane, happy, and healthy. That, and just really striving to be balanced in all areas.

CD: You have two young daughters. Do you ever deal with mom guilt? Tips for making it all work?

NB: I deal with mom guilt non-stop. I feel like I can't always keep up with the needs of my kids. If my daughter is super grumpy or acting out one day, I feel like it's my fault because she didn't get enough sleep, or didn't eat enough, or whatever. I think as moms, there's always the opportunity to turn the blame back on ourselves. But I think the key is trying to figure out how to do it better the next time, without beating ourselves up if it's not perfect.

CD: What’s your favorite book?

NB:  Not much time to read these days, but I am reading Big Magic right now, which is inspiring me to continue tapping into that creative inner voice that we all have.

CD: Who would you most like to have dinner with?

NB: My husband. I love having dinner with him and taking that time to really connect. I also love our family picnics.

CD: What's your favorite vacation spot?

NB:  We went to Africa for our honeymoon and I can't wait until we can take the girls one day to explore the world like that when they get old enough to appreciate it. But for now, our go-to is Punta Mita and it's perfect. 2.5 hour flight, super pretty with ocean, yummy restaurants and totally doable with two littles!

Interview:  Nicole Paggi Brooks, CEO Naomi Gray- LIFE SMART by Carrie Dorr