We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Mitchell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is associated with fear, so I’ve training my mind to look at it as a “challenge” that I can overcome instead.
“Risk” spearheaded my small business venture to manufacture American-made 100% hemp luggage. Entering the hemp industry in 2016 was challenging since hemp was a Class-1 scheduled drug along with its cousin, Marijuana. Since there is no high demand for hemp fabric, the price per yard is 3-4x higher than other fabrics, and most factories did not have experience working with it. I had to weigh my choices and see if launching a new product with high labor, high supply cost, and limited resources were worth the risk. But what did I have to lose?
In the beginning, many people did not understand why I risked working with hemp since it had a negative stigma (at the time). Still, I saw the opportunity to educate people about the history and benefits of hemp as an alternative eco-product that our Earth deserves and needed.
After two years of R&D, those risks manifested in Urbane Luggage, making me the 1st black-owned American-made hemp travel bag brand. And now, we’re excited to expand our hemp product line to apparel and home goods with the launch of UrbaneGoods.com.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My background is in International Marketing and Brand Development. I build websites, conduct industry research, direct product shots, business cards, digital assets, or any promotional designs to help businesses develop their credibility and presence online. So when it was time to build Urbaneluggage.com it was easy to build my foundation based on my experiences. I was inspired by the lack of diversity and eco-friendly products in the travel goods industry and eager to pioneer visual scenarios to reflect everyday travelers’ diverse lives and cultural backgrounds.
Most brands focus on celebrity editorials with abstract product shots. Urbane Luggage has to be different; we want to share real lifestyles that our audience can relate to and also demonstrate the eco-benefits of packing light without sacrificing style. To “Be Urbane” is to travel with purpose.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I just finished celebrating my golden birthday celebration (28 on the 28th), and family and friends visited for about a week, so I’ll share some of my favorite spots I showed them.
I highly recommend checking out Leimert Park on Sundays to support local black-owned vendors (sometimes I’m out there) and stores, such as Harun Coffee, Nappily Naturals & Apothecary, and grab some Jamaican food from Ackee Bamboo.
A good day trip to Catalina Island is always worth the ferry trip to escape the city life to a quiet remote island where you can bike ride, zip line, snorkel, view the botanical garden, and so much more. Just make sure to purchase your ferry ticket ahead of time because it will sell out in advance.
I live in Korea Town, so my favorite happy hour spot is Escla In the historic Chapman Plaza Courtyard for their $5 bites, hip-hop music, and good drinks; mixed drinks are not on HH but get the Coco Loco! This is a popping area full of restaurants with a diverse crowd. I think the most fun thing to do in LA is exploring our coast of amazing beaches and parks and just enjoy it with some local food nearby and drinks and friends.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
From an idea to product development, a big shout out to Nikko Liwag, Urbane’s brand photographer, who has visually developed the mood and tone of what it means to “Be Urbane.” If you scroll to the bottom of @theurbanetraveler Instagram page, you will see when we had no products to our first duffel bag set and how our brand aesthetic developed. I’m genuinely grateful for Nick’s loyalty and creative genius as I grow this business.
Throughout this journey, I was blessed to have a strong creative group of friends and family who were able to help me bring my product visuals to life(with Nick). My models/actors such as Courtney Williams, Diana Vergara, Frank Lagmay, Fray Forde, and Catherine Dee Holly. My creative writers and team, Michelle Thomas, NyAsia Burris, and Sydney Sweeny, and production designer Lorr Volatier. Each person listed and many more have kept me focused and collaborated their genius with what we have today.
I also want to give a shoutout to one of my recent mentors, TJ Walker, Co-founder of Cross Colors and president of LATTC Industrial Hemp Alliance. Before the pandemic shutdown, TJ sat down to analyze my current work and strategize new ways to scale within the hemp industry. Our conversation opened my eyes and motivated me to keep going to become a pioneer.
And, I want to give the biggest shoutout to my Urbane customers as they have endlessly supported us during the pandemic. They helped market our products, wrote reviews and feedback, and tagged us in their photos which profoundly helped positioned our brand to scale and comfortably launch new products this season! The amount of love and support that surrounds Urbane Luggage is humbly the greatest reward I received yet.
Other: Launching this Spring Hemp Apparel & Home Goods Urbanegoods.com Instagram @urbanegoods
Louella Allen Nicol Biesek Nikko Liwag