We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Snell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
My career has taught me several important lessons, but the one that stands out the most to me is the lesson that your path is not always a straight line and that you may never have all the answers. I’ve had more than one career in my life, the first being a TV Line Producer for 12 years. I never imagined that after having a successful and productive TV career that I would ever walk away from everything I knew and start fresh with sexual assault prevention training which is an entirely different industry. And yet, that is exactly what I did! And now I am the owner of Girls Fight Back which is yet another twist in my career story. If you would have asked me in college what I wanted for my life after graduation, I would have responded with a plan that started at point A and ended at point B. However, my life nor my career, took that nice straight path and I think it’s important for others to know that is the norm and not the exception. Sometimes we may not know what our true passion is, or it takes time for us to uncover it after years doing something else. We may do all the research we think we need to do in order to find what drives us, but that may not manifest itself until we’ve jumped around a bit and experienced life. Point A to Point B may look less like a line drawn by a ruler and more like a squiggly, looping, swirly line drawn by an excited toddler.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’m the CEO of Girls Fight Back and my company is dedicated to teaching women and people of all genders how to protect themselves with simple, practical and empowering self-defense techniques in a live interactive seminar. I am incredibly passionate about this work because I believe that not only can everyone benefit from learning the basics of how to defend themselves, but that everyone deserves to walk through the world feeling safe, powerful and confident.
I am excited that my company is able to educate people on how to harness their own power and realize that they have options when it comes to their safety and that their own body is enough. When I hear feedback from participants that my sessions have helped them feel more confident, or that they saved their life with a skill I taught them, it motivates me to work even harder because I know that I am changing lives. As part of my desire to empower others with self-defense knowledge, I started an online series called Outdoor Defense where I offer self-defense strategies to help people feel more confident exploring their world for solo hikes, backpacking, camping, etc. This series was born from my love of the outdoors, solo hiking and solo traveling combined with my passion for teaching people self-defense to open up their world. For years friends and family had tried to convince me to start a series like this and finally in 2019 I had a friend who really gave me the final push I needed to get started. I have produced/edited 34 episodes so far with a new one coming out every other week! Several things set Girls Fight Back and me apart, including the fact that Girls Fight Back is a Black woman owned business!
My events are high energy, dynamic, interactive and empowering. I emphasize that self-defense is more than just the physical moves! I can’t remember the last time I heel palmed someone in the face, but I set boundaries with people in my life almost daily. The verbal and physical techniques I teach combined with the boundary setting skills can be used by anybody of any gender, age, body type, etc. and in a variety of situations which allows me to make self-defense an accessible topic for everyone. I teach techniques that are realistic and practical so that someone leaving my event can immediately start to apply them to their everyday life. I have several programs to meet the needs of any group including a program I just created that is specifically for people who want to learn self-defense strategies for outdoor adventure activities like hiking, camping, running, cycling or traveling!
My mission is to help people live their lives freely, without limits, without fear and without worrying that they won’t know what to do if they are confronted with danger. I believe we are each worth fighting for and we are our own best protectors. Girls Fight Back was founded in 2001 by Erin Weed in honor of her friend Shannon McNamara and for the last 20 years we have empowered over 1 million people worldwide. I was introduced to Girls Fight Back in 2015 and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a speaker for them and travel to colleges around the country presenting this program. I emailed the owner and asked for a job and three months later I was attending a training session to become a speaker which included a 20hr self-defense class with IMPACT Personal Safety.
After graduating as a Junior National Speaker, I started my speaking career and within a year I was promoted to Senior National Speaker. For 6 years I presented live keynotes around the world, including to several villages in Fiji, while helping the owner develop new programs. In 2020, the opportunity arose to purchase Girls Fight Back and I knew that I had to be the one to do it. I had put my heart and soul into this company and our mission for so many years and I knew that I wanted to continue the work, keep Shannon’s memory alive and take Girls Fight Back to new heights and new communities. Although buying a company and now being solely responsible for its success or failure was one of the scariest decisions of my life, I am so thankful that I did it. Sometimes you have to push past your comfort zone in order to open the next chapter of your life.
Prior to COVID19 our business model was booking live events and I would travel around the world delivering live keynotes and workshops to colleges, K-12 schools, companies and private groups. When I took over the business in 2020 I had to pivot to virtual training since live events everywhere were cancelled due to COVID. Taking over a business during a pandemic was an incredible challenge because I had to shift so suddenly to a new platform for business and quickly develop plans for an online model.
After weeks of research and Zoom meetings I was able to develop a virtual program that kept the high energy, engaging, interactive nature of my events that I’m known for, while still delivering important life skills that can help keep people safe. During this time, I was asked to be a collaborative partner with Difference Makers (10 Strong) and through that connection, I had the deep honor of being invited to present my new online program, Boundaries for Personal Empowerment, for 3 different branches of the US Military: the Air Force, Coast Guard and Army. It was such a privilege to serve our military service members in this way and I was humbled to receive a Certificate of Appreciation for my virtual presentation to the 8th Army SHARP Summit in Seoul, South Korea.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m incredibly passionate about the outdoors so anyone visiting me in LA would need to strap in for an adventure! If my best friend was visiting me for a week, the first thing I would do is take her on a hike to Parker Mesa Overlook in the Palisades. After the 8 mile leg-burner we’d eat at Patrick’s Roadhouse in Santa Monica before heading to the beach to watch the sunset. The next day I’d take her to breakfast at the Griddle Café in West Hollywood for their monster pancakes. Then we’d hit the trails of Griffith Park for a horseback ride from Circle K Stables. For dinner, since we would have skipped lunch from being full from the pancakes, we’d head to one of my favorite Thai restaurants, Joom Bangkok Café. It’s almost sticky mango rice season! The rest of our week would be filled with adventures including a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park to hike the Lost Horse Mine and check out Keys view among other great sights. We’d stay until dark so we could see all the stars and grab food at The Natural Sisters Café for dinner. We may even get in a sound bowl session at the Integratron! During the week I’d also take her to brunch at Paradise Cove in Malibu and we’d stay for a bit and sit by the ocean before heading the Venice Beach for some rollerblading on the boardwalk. At some point we’d go to my favorite spot for acai bowls, Rawberri in West Hollywood. And no trip to LA is complete without an obligatory hike to the Hollywood Sign. And if theme parks are open, I’d probably make sure we got in a trip to either Disneyland or Magic Mountain! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to Gina Polesetsky. Gina has held many roles in my life throughout the years I’ve known her. She started out at as my boss, then became my mentor, then a colleague and along the way she became one of my best friends. Her council, support, love, and wisdom have led me through some tumultuous times both with business and with life. I can’t thank her enough for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to take a leap into something greater than myself- Girls Fight Back.
Jeff Lagrone Yenny Garcia