Fashion’s Secret Weapon: Meet Serial Entrepreneur and Savvy Branding Genius NJ Falk

From fashion to female empowerment, mentorship to being a mogul, there truly isn’t anything that NJ Falk can’t do. The serial entrepreneur, known for her innovative marketing strategies, business savvy and ecommerce expertise, has pioneered the ways in which consumers engage with brands, from introduction to purchase. 

NJ’s unique and unparalleled understanding of branding, luxury strategy, and the shopping experience has helped multiple companies develop unstoppable approaches for elevating themselves in saturated markets. NJ has lent her voice, knowledge, insight, and personality to help fashion brands grow and thrive, proving herself to be a valuable asset and highly in-demand resources for companies eager to obtain influence, maintain relevance, and go the extra mile.

The jill of all trades spoke to Galore about her career path, complimented by her it-girl confidence and charisma.

Can you share a little bit about your background and how you got into fashion?

I am a Webby award-winning creative and serial entrepreneur with a focus on luxury and emerging fashion brands. I am currently the Managing Partner of Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL), the Founder & Chief Mentorpreneur® (a term I trademarked) of The Forward Female , a coaching and creative agency for emerging female entrepreneurs, and a former Contributor at Forbes and ForbesWomen.

I’ve had a circuitous and exciting journey in the industry, but it all started with my mother. She was a graduate of Parsons School of Design and had an exciting and creative career–she sparked my love for fashion. We were always discussing design–from the history of fashion to designers and their collections. She supplemented this by constantly taking me to New York and Paris to see shows, stores, museums, and collections as part of my “fashion education.”

Working with brands and clients within the industry has been a highlight of my career. I have had a deep, innate love of the industry which stemmed from my creative beginnings going to the NYU Tisch School and the Journalism School, numerous internships in New York City, and later executive roles at Lippincott, American Express, MGM , Universal Studios, The Wedding Channel. I was also the Founder and Editor-in-chief of the now sunset Webby award-winning fashion blog, The Blonde and The Brunette, and Founder and Chief Creative Officer of  my award-winning advertising, branding, and interactive agency, The UXB.

Since the industry has given so much to me, part of my vision has always been to find ways to give back. My work as a creative and as an e-commerce pioneer has given me the opportunity to become an angel investor, mentor and strategic advisor for female-focused luxury and consumer brands including 11 Honoré, Starface, Bumo Work, Artha, Modern Picnic, DeMarson and The FLOORR. This has been a particularly rewarding experience as I have also learned so much from my mentees.

Over the years, I’ve also become deeply involved in the fashion world and the creative community as a member of the IAVA (International Academy of Visual Arts), an Executive Member of the IADAS (International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences) as well as a Board Member of the NYU Stern School of Business Luxury and Fashion Council, Fashion Trust U.S., the Women’s Cancer Research Fund (WCRF0) and The Luxury Council. One of the most recent pivotal moments for me was being honored as one of YOTPO’s 2022 Amazing Women in Ecommerce, and Cupshe as one of their Women Making Waves. Joining these communities has allowed me to get even more involved with other fashion entrepreneurs including participating in the first class of the YOTPO GROW program, which is an incubator for brands of the future. It was a full circle, giving-back moment.

How do you find work-life balance between being an entrepreneur, creative and journalist?

I’m a master juggler. I use a very specific productivity methodology to craft a strong work-life balance. I’ve spoken about this many times, but I use a distraction list to help me plan my day. If you are not familiar with this incredible technique, it helps you manage major tasks of the day while planning the rest of your week. The way it works is you simply list distractions that are on your mind —from less important emails to phone calls, and anything that can distract you that you can do later. By using this methodology, I work on all the A-list items first before noon. I also use it to plan my active lifestyle. I do my daily one to two mile run and weightlifting at noon or later in the day, (in my APL’s of course) and then I typically only eat between 2 PM to 8 PM. By having a consistent structure, it allows me to achieve a maintainable work-life balance.

What is the most rewarding part of your career? 

Anything I do creatively– the ideation process all the way through the final execution. I love working in collaborative, team environments to achieve specific goals and outcomes. The ability to network with so many talented individuals in our industry is truly inspiring to me. I’ve had so many pinch-me moments in my career.   

What’s the secret behind your drive? Have you always been ambitious and career-driven?

My goal is always to be part of the conversation. I am curious and engaged with everything that is going on around me–work and culturally. This manifests itself in me being both ambitious and career driven. However, these traits are really a byproduct of my constant pursuit of innovation and excellence at work and in terms of my personal growth. I never want to stay stagnant. I always want to keep learning by continually challenging myself to acquire new skills, stay on top of trends, and expand my network. This way I am always experiencing “teachable moments” and taking personal responsibility for expanding my skill set as things change around me. It’s the secret sauce to an interesting life.

What’s your top three tips you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

First, don’t get started without a clear understanding of your target market and what problem you are solving through a distinct market niche, category or approach. Second, build your business plan and raise as much money as possible. As part of this, work towards profitably versus just being in pursuit of relentless growth. Be prepared to pivot, pivot, pivot. Not everything goes according to plan and there are always lots of “no’s” along the way. Don’t let this deter you. It’s a journey. Everyone goes through it. As part of this, I always recommend setting short term milestones, usually in 90-day cycles, that are broken down from your major objections. This makes them more manageable and achievable. It also allows you to celebrate the small wins.  Finally, keep moving forward. Build your network and community. You carry it with you for a lifetime and it can support you in so many ways in achieving your goals. Lastly, in the midst of all this, perfect your elevator speech and fall in love with selling and storytelling. It’s one of the key skills you’ll need to successfully launch and sustain your business. 

 How has the fashion industry evolved from when you first started?

Profound cultural and technology shifts have spurred seismic change in our lifestyles. The domino effect has completely altered the industry and consumer demand from when I first started my career. Comfort, inclusivity, diversity, fast fashion, and sustainability are at the center of this new dialogue along with the impact of technology via online shopping, AI, conversational commerce, social channels, influencers, and celebrities. For me, one of the most noticeable shifts is how power dressing and work wardrobes have changed significantly. This struck me when I recently watched Suits for the first time on Netflix. Although it debuted more than a decade ago and ended right before the pandemic, so many of us are just now watching it for the first time. Personal style versus corporate culture is now at the forefront of wardrobe choices. This has impacted the industry in the most profound ways as designers and brands have so much more to consider as part of their design, manufacturing and marketing process as we all embrace hybrid work and personal lifestyles. 

As we break into fall fashion– what are you excited to see more of this season?

I love the “downtown cool” combined with the “uptown chic” look!  It’s manifesting itself in new and exciting ways – from Miu Miu micro miniskirts to wearable and often monochromatic, transformative work wear, power dressing from Khaite and other brands, great midi coats, to FFORME for luxury so quiet it whispers. I am also loving all the evening glam looks that explore rebellious black in new and daring ways. It pairs well with all the dazzling gowns and metallics, from designers like Toni Maticevski who balance “an intrinsic sense of femininity with avant-garde innovation.” I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how “Venditti Chic” is about to take over the Holiday season with the upcoming release of Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Capote Vs. the Swans. The new generation is going to get a fascinating look at high society influencers who were “like the original Real Housewives.” At the time, it was one of the few ways for women to wield power. 

 What’s one accessory you can’t live without?

Aside from my APL’s  (which are critical to my active lifestyle), I’d have to choose my diamond or pearl stud earrings with my go-to signature Stefere diamond choker.

Who are the best-dressed celebrities in 2023?

My top ten, in no particular order are Margot Robbie for her Barbiemania escapades, Kendall Jenner for embracing exciting, risky choices, Jennifer Lopez for her consistently iconic style, Naomi Campbell for her always unexpected edgy glam, Letita Wright for her classic elegance, Black Pink and Beyoncé for their on-stage style inspo that ripples into our lives, Zendaya, who has literally never had a miss, and Nicole Kidman & Olivia Wilde for their effortless street and evening style.

Can you share a few of your favorite designers? What makes them so memorable for you?

I am a hardcore Monse Maison O.G. I love Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia’s work for their deconstructed tailoring, graphic prints and emblematic looks. My other go-to favorites include Prada for its cutting-edge style, clean lines, opulent fabrics, basic colors and the totally unexpected; Rosetta Getty for her minimalistic and modern designs that seamlessly transition from day to evening. I also love statement pieces and accessories from Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Khaite, A.W.A.K.E Mode, Miu Miu, Area, and David Koma.

Are there any upcoming projects you’re currently working on? What’s next for you?

It’s a very special time for me right now! I’m thrilled for the opening of APL’s new Flagship Store on Prince St. in New York City this Fall. An enormous amount of team effort has gone into this project bringing the World of APL to life. Additionally, my networking events with the Forward Female are a hit! I’m very excited to expand this unique opportunity in the future.

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