Nicole Patrice De Member was managing owner of Effigy Studios, which was purchased by Eminem in 2007. She has been involved with everything from charities to charter schools, has founded multiple companies, and is currently rockin’ as a woman Founder and CEO in the tech space.
Mindie: All right, my friends, we have a special treat for you today. Our friend, Nicole Patrice De Member, is here with us and I am super excited for this conversation just because she’s such a rock star and I enjoy hanging out with her and I’m super jazzed to introduce her to our audience. So Nicole, thank you so much for joining us.
Nicole: Thank you for having me. Very excited to catch up.
Mindie: Absolutely. It’s our pleasure. One of the ways that we like to begin these episodes is to talk with our guests a little bit about their journey. And you have had such an interesting and dynamic, and I would say just unique journey as an entrepreneur and as a woman founder and person in business. I mean, there’s so many different ways that we can go with this, but if you could just give a brief overview of a bit of your journey to get you to where you are today.
Nicole: Okay. Well, I think a constant theme has been being kicked out of stuff. And of course with that, being frustrated and then what came next was always better and it’s still kind of like have to remember that sometimes. But I had a lot of really unexpected opportunities. I didn’t really have a direction or thought in mind. And so it’s just been interesting to like kind of that old phrase like the door closes and a window opens. I think that really applies. So when you look back over it, it seems amazing. But then of course as always in between, there’s these spots where it’s like you felt like the world was gonna end. But yeah, I’m very thankful for all the doors that shut.
Mindie: Can you talk a little bit about some of those? Anytime somebody gets kicked out of something I’m like, well that’s a good story, I’m sure…
Nicole: So one is a story that up until maybe eight years ago, I really struggled with. I was kicked out of the same university twice. And interestingly enough, the ever-lovely Beth Comstock pointed out to me last summer, she was like, no one gets kicked out of the University of Arizona. She’s like, that’s really impressive. But I had a very clear direction on what I wanted to do going in there. I was going in for political science, taking econ classes and looking at working somewhere in the state department. It was something I had looked into through high school. And so, they were very clear with me. They found me to be very difficult and some of the professors found me to be very difficult and they felt they should find a new program.
And I had talked my way back in the second time and by the end of the next semester, they were like, we are definitely not the program for you. And so I got up in arms and telling my mom how I’ll convince them again to take me back. And thankfully, this lovely woman who birthed me was like ‘why don’t we try something different?’ And that led to me working on a whole variety of different things and got very involved in starting a company pretty early on the internet in like the mid/late 90s. So I was very appreciative of… Had I finished the university program I probably would have been quite miserable.
Mindie: Yeah, for sure. Can you talk a little bit about some of your various companies or what your biggest interests have been along the way?
Nicole: So I ended up doing a lot of stuff in the music industry and I always like, it’s interesting because I see a lot of people that have tried to get in the music industry and that wasn’t my intention.
But there was people having some problems. Part of it was watching people throw these outdoor rave festivals in Arizona, in Tucson. They were getting busted. And I had been to one of these events with my cousin up in Canada, a guy, he was using a moniker at the time called Plasticman. He’s Richie Hawtin. I’d seen and really understood his structure after talking to people through that and understanding they were doing. And so when I got back to Tucson, friends were getting in trouble and, understanding enough about how governments run, it was like, Oh, you just need permits. And so we started hiring off-duty cops, which I knew some from some of my classes and we hired some EMTs we found were important. We were doing permits under family reunions and all sorts of different religious-type things we could kind of loophole in.
And then that led into doing a bit of an early social network, very flat. A messaging board that waterfalls called raves.com. And then we had a ticketing company, which we started as Rave Pass to sell tickets online. We were seeing Ticketmaster at like, I think $8. This is like ’97, like $8 a ticket, which I think they’re now up to $11. Not that Ticketmaster wanted to deal with anyone doing like possibly illegal offsite venue shows. But it took off. It was really neat to see communities come together and it was really great to see a lot of like just oddballs who later now are still friends, like 20 some years later, and some of the most interesting like coders, human rights activists out there. So, it was a neat time to be a part of and we were all kind of learning on the fly.
Sean: So, Nicole, I know a little bit about your career just based on what you’ve shared with me before, but what fascinates me is I feel like you’ve had multiple lives in this lifetime. Like the more I get to know you, the more I’m like, is she for real or is this like a character that she’s playing? I mean, you certainly don’t remind me of a white girl. That’s just my honest opinion here. Can you explain to the listener why would I say that? And you know that it’s playful tongue-in-cheek here, but what is it about your multiple lives in this lifetime and how have you done that and what are some of the lives that you would explain here?
Nicole: It always kind of still blows me away. I had a chance this week to hear some musicians I’ve known and you know, after getting involved with these raves that are now kind of known as EDC dance party stuff, I ended up getting involved in hip hop and I got to work with Jay Electronica and Mos Def and Erykah Badu and Eminem. Just some really crazy wild poets that aren’t just musicians, but I think huge thought leaders and to be in these rooms, in Detroit, with people and many times being the only white person in there and just cultivating really deep-rooted friendships and learning so much… But I know it’s something very, very special to me that I was welcomed into the rooms and I was trusted. Dealing with people’s recordings and you know, these are like precious gemstones they’re creating. And how they got released and who got to hear them first and early. And I’m still very touched by that.
Sean: So looking back on all the living legends that you’ve had the pleasure of working with and collaborating on from the business perspective, when the outside world hears these names, I think they have probably a lot of assumptions that are incorrect. Can you talk to what have you seen from the incredible geniuses that you work with? What are some of the traits that you would notice that would be present in them that maybe not everybody would assume or be aware of?
Nicole: You know, I think we all hear this at times and like one of the kind of gossip mags. Maybe People. They’re like, they’re just like you. And it’s like, but they are. And it’s like, you know, we’re all human. We have this need for oxygen we need enough blood to survive, and we sleep, and we eat nutritious foods hopefully to survive. You know, you see people do these life things. Like I remember a time that Em was late to the studio and which, it was like one time, and I was like, Oh no, it’s fine. You know, whatever. We’re used to artists running a little bit late or changing schedules. They’re like, Oh no, we just want to make sure you know, like he’s taking Hailie, his daughter, to a math tutor.
Like she’s having a little trouble in math and he wants to meet the tutor first and make sure that’s going to be useful. And you’re like, okay, that’s like the best reason ever to be late. Like math is important. And the fact that he could be seen as like a very hardcore rapper is picking his daughter up from school and you know, interviewing math tutors with her and you’re just like, okay, that’s cool. I think there’s a lot of those scenarios that happen that people don’t always see behind the scenes or realize that everyone has bad days and good days and gets up and you know, has those nights you have trouble sleeping. And I don’t know… I think it’s always just good to put in perspective that it’s nothing… Maybe there’s a few aliens lurking out there amongst us, but at the end of the day, we’re all just human.
Mindie: That’s a perfect segue into one of the questions that I have for you. So, our intention in this podcast and in talking to all the various people is to look at the intersection of happiness and wealth and specifically for you, because you’ve had, as you just talked about, all of these different connection points with a variety of people where you know, a lot of folks probably would have a certain assumption about them, but also you live in San Francisco and I think there is such a perception of wealth and tech and Silicon Valley and everything there. I want to talk to you about that wealth and happiness thing because we think you can have both, but a lot of people that we know are either wealthy and miserable or happy and broke. So could you touch on that dynamic, especially in that San Francisco realm?
Nicole: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely… I came out to San Francisco 11 years ago. My first time visiting was ’88 as a family trip. But I think we’ve definitely gotten like a pretty amusing kind of moniker, whether it’s wearing the puffy vest or the scooters or I dunno, on and on and on. In any of the industries I’ve been in, whether it be the banking stuff or the music or just even within volunteer groups, I see the people who really appreciate what they have, whether it be like some super fancy sports car or just having like a close relationship with living family members. And I think there’s a lot in the attitude, which is one thing I really always appreciate with you guys. You know, it’s something that I think sometimes to be reminded to be happy, to appreciate what we have, or just take that time to recognize it.
And I’ve seen that in a difference of… You know, and there’s always a thing like someone could be very talented or someone could be born into a lottery of a lot of money, family money stuff, which all of those are going to have its problems with it. And I guess it’s like what side are you going to focus on? And I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good childhood, but it was at times a bit meager. So it’s definitely a reminder to appreciate what we have. But I’ve also been able to make a bunch of money and lose a bunch of money, which are all crazy feelings. And when you go from high up to low down and then you start going up again, it definitely takes a few rounds to very much appreciate. I still appreciate the fact that I can order an Uber car, the direct one to get to a meeting, and that I can go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of food. And these are things that are definitely not lost on me. I want to always… I like talking about this because it reminds me to be aware that I do have these opportunities.
Sean: So, one of the things that I admire about you is what a strong woman you are in business and on this planet, and in social issues. What I’m curious about is how are you seeing the landscape changing in tech and business with women? Do you feel like there are more women, there are not enough women? What’s your personal opinion on that?
Nicole: I’ve definitely said this out loud a lot in the last especially six months. I think this is an amazing time to be alive. I’m 42 and I feel like I can at least identify and recognize a few generations before me that fought so hard that I could be where I’m at. And seeing and identifying the difference. And even the last few years, we’ve had huge breakthroughs, not only here in the United States, but we’re seeing it through a lot of other countries. Whether it’s women being able to drive or being able to talk openly about having periods. What we would like to think is very basic is not everywhere. And seeing this change and seeing these conversations be more open, but also realizing at times I thought I had it really good and I looked back and I’m like, I was definitely making a quarter of what everyone else was making, but I didn’t know that. Nor did I know to ask for more money. I think I’m getting a much better eye, and I hope others are too, of what is available to us and in the rooms that we do completely deserve to be in. I don’t know, I think the last few years have been a nice change of pace.
Mindie: What would you recommend to somebody who, especially a young woman today? You know, cause I love what you just said about like, you didn’t even know to ask. You didn’t realize that that’s the situation you were in. What recommendation would you have for someone who’s younger who might not have the perspective that we have, in our forties when they’re in their twenties or thirties? What would you say to a young lady?
Nicole: I would say that if you’re invited into a room or you can figure out a way to get into the room, never feel like you don’t deserve to be there. And I know that can be hard and you might have to repeatedly tell yourself that and talk with others about it. But, and remember, we’ve all been there. There’s been times that it’s like, wait, what am I doing here? Will people think I’m a fraud? Just sit and listen and take it in. But something I found useful that was recommended to me was listen, especially if it’s a speaker, very diligently and do your research prior on them so you’re educated and then think through and try to come up with a smart question and don’t hold the floor, don’t overtalk about it or make statements, ask a question. Get into a conversation with them.
And I think we can all be drawn in when someone starts bringing up things that we’re interested to talk about. But I also think too, not being afraid… I don’t have the best vocabulary and I consistently am in rooms of people who have some wild, crazy Harvard-like, vocabulary, and I have to consistently ask, what does that word mean? I would get frustrated when I first would do this and people would be like, I can’t believe you don’t know this word. Or they would laugh at me and I was just like, no, that’s why I’m asking you. Like I don’t know what this word is. And it’s taken a while and I still, every once in awhile I’ll catch someone almost kind of making fun and it’s like that’s not cool dude.
Like I just want to know what this word means. I think showing up too is really important and taking the time to take care of yourself and then be there. Don’t feel too frazzled. I was actually talking with someone about this today. We were talking about how to get a mentor and I need to look into this further, but I had caught Cheryl over from Facebook, had said something to the effect of, and I think there’s truth to it and I don’t understand yet how to express it. So if you don’t mind, I’ll give it a go here. But the idea of, it’s one thing to go up to someone and be like, Hey, will you be my mentor? It’s another thing to do some research, find some questions, reach out to them, whether it’s through Twitter or email, get someone to introduce you, find them at a conference, and start the conversation. Say, Hey, can I follow up with you as I look further into this? And I’ve been practicing more in that way and there’s loads of people I’d love to have more regular conversations with. And I took her advice on that and some of these people like it kinda dead-ends and some people we’re a year into having a pretty regular conversation. And I think finding those mentors that are gonna benefit you and trying to find like a nice mutual growth of friendship with it.
Mindie: Yeah. So you mentioned enjoying talking about the things that interest you and one of the segments that we love to talk about with our guests is curiosity. So I will ask you, what are some of the things that you are curious about and maybe if you can list three to five because I’m always fascinated by, we even think we know some of our guests pretty well and then they’ll say something and we’re like ‘really?’ You’re interested in that? That’s awesome. But we just didn’t know. So it’s such an interesting question.
Sean: What are you curious about?
Nicole: So this is amazing because earlier today I was doing some research and I’m like, I wonder if I’ll be able to talk about it with them. So one of the things today I’ve spent trying to figure out how to do is how to make flower crowns. I’m going to a wonderful friend’s home tomorrow for a summer solstice event, a gathering. And I was like, what can I do? And I was like, Oh, I’m in Seattle, I’m going to go to the flower markets and figure out how to make flower crowns. So I’ve been on YouTube and reading people’s blogs about this. And so that’s something that’s just kind of fun and it was a kind of cutesy thing to prepare for the weekend to share with friends. But something of maybe a little more deeper and longer term I’ve looked into for a while, based on watching many of the Captain Janeway Voyager episodes of Star Trek, was figuring out in the last few years, how does this become a possibility and a reality? And talking with people over at SpaceX and especially seeing their growth the last five years… When are we going to have something that can house about 30 to maybe 100 people and go deep space? Like past Mars, pass out of the solar system with most likely the idea that anyone on it isn’t coming back.
We don’t know if we’ll be able to get them back. And what does that mean and what’s out there and who goes and why do they go? And are they willing to commit to this, like possible, rare earth, live funeral for themselves before leaving and how does their family feel? And so I quite enjoy talking about that with people and seeing who’s even open to it. I know Baratunde Thurston is definitely into it and he’s open to the idea of it. But we’ve learned, some of our other friends as we’ve talked to them, are a very hard “no” about it. So that and I like to travel and I like to figure out… From Seattle here, I found I could take the Amtrak train to Montana to go to Glacier National Park. Never been. And so just kind of figuring out like, how can I get on these little mini adventures? And I like that. I like kind of seeing new places and I definitely like being in the mountains.
Sean: Love it. So, Nicole, there’s a segment that we do that I’m hoping you enjoy as much as we do and we call it the HERB method, H E R B. Share as much or as little that comes to you. I’m going to give you each letter to prompt your response. The H stands for habits. What are some of the habits that you have that created your businesses and your overall wellbeing?
Nicole: Okay. I think something that at times I had heard was bad. And now I’ve realized where it’s good is stubborn and having this habit of not giving up and not relenting. You know, that doesn’t always work. If it’s something that’s not helping. I definitely have a bit of a sugar habit and have to really check myself on that. But, keep showing up. You get knocked down, people tell you “no” and you just keep at it. Finding something once I’m fixated on it. It’s like you have to keep pushing and keep pushing and I think it’s really easy to stop or make excuses or give up. And at times I think it’s okay cause it’s clearly not the interest you have, but when you have that opportunity to just keep pushing on something, it’s super magical.
Sean: So the E stands for environment. How do you keep your home, your office, your vehicle, whatever it may be? And like what do you keep in and what do you keep out of your environment to better yourself and your businesses?
Nicole: Well, this is straight from my father who’s a lovely man. He was always like organized office, room, desk, whatever… Organized mind. And of course, I fought him very hard on that because I thought my messy space was very lovely. And now I’m very, very good about that. And I do find to wake up, to come home, to sit at my desk. Any of these things, I feel better and it just doesn’t weigh on me. And so I do think to have some order. I do keep some chotchkies around and trinkets that remind me of family and friends. But I try to keep a fairly clean space, just objects around. But I also like to keep everything very, very clean, you know, dust free, wipe down, stuff like that. Folded, tucked away.
Mindie: Before you move on to R, I have to ask you, did you read the book called Messy?
Mindie: It’s fantastic. I loved it because I…
Sean: Because it justified her behavior.
Mindie: I keep my desk in a little bit of a mess. And this book was brilliant about the connection points with being a little bit messy and creativity.
Nicole: I’ve definitely had times where I’m like going through stuff. I keep all my notebooks. I’ll roll out huge things, usually wrapping paper, like the real white shiny kind and I’ll write with markers on it and do that over a dry erase boards cause I can wrap them up and keep them. So there is times like the walls are covered, there’s stuff everywhere, note cards. And I know where everything is. So anyone to walk in is most likely overwhelmed, but it’s like my whole brain is all over the room and I do like that scenario where I can spend a few days re-going through stuff.
Sean: So from the E, we’re going to move to the R, which is resources. This can include books, courses, audios, coaching, whatever it may be. What are some of the resources that have developed you as a leader, as an entrepreneur, and just in your own personal life?
Nicole: I think one I’m going to give a shout out to is public libraries. I really feel many times they’re overlooked. I encourage everyone listening to this right now, please go out and get a library card. Most areas now have eBooks you can get, so you don’t even have to step foot in the library. But there’s just loads of interesting magazines. My ultimate favorite gem that some libraries aren’t carrying anymore, but most city libraries will have is microfiche. I have the ability to usually out-Google information and run to the bottom of it. And so I usually find if I can get into, whether it’s the San Francisco city library right by our city hall, I can pull up so much more information through the microfiche. And it’s just kind of a fun system that I think people might not know of if they’re not of a certain age or might seem a little outdated, but it’s still in use. And you can actually pull up a lot of interesting stuff from decades ago.
Mindie: You pretty much just elevated yourself to the coolest person in my brain right now because I’m like “yes” to everything you just said.
Nicole: I love that.
Sean: For the millennials listening, microfiche is something that you needed rocks and sticks to get moving. No… So basically it was like a film strip on crack where you could whip through articles and, what would you say, periodicals?
Mindie: It was like scans of newspapers.
Sean: Yeah, I spent many a day in the library with the microfiche.
Nicole: Great. I’m glad we’re all in the microfiche club here. I’m very excited about this.
Sean: Next up, we’re going to talk about the Dewey decimal system. No… So then we’re going to move on to the B, which is beliefs. What are some core beliefs that you have about humanity, that you have about yourself, that you have about money? Success? Just share as many beliefs that bubble up in this moment as you can that have really defined you.
Nicole: Okay. Well, I was very lucky. My parents, my mom, Marguerite always said over and over and over again, anything is possible. Like just that one phrase. And to repeat that and hear that all the time really helped. And then my dad was really good about “what’s the worst that can happen?” And they just really sent us off into the world with that mentality. And I think my brother and I really showed that. Also, I once worked for this gentleman who I know can be a bit controversial, Peter Thiel, but he had a byline in his foundation, I think it’s still on the website, that no human should live in fear. I think that’s just a really nice, simple way to put it. And that obviously applies to a lot of things. And then I had a nun for an aunt, that’s where my middle name, Patrice, is from. Sister Pat.
And she always just encouraged me to be a good person and really think through what that means. I’ve really gotten a better understanding in the last 10 years of the idea that we’re living in an abundance. I mean I know that doesn’t maybe apply for everyone, but getting into more of an abundance mentality and really thinking through what that means and just knowing we can always find another seat at the table, or there’s enough food or you know, we’ll figure out if we need to help someone out with something, it’s really possible I think. And too many times, I have to admit, prior to that, through my twenties, I was really living in a scarcity mentality at times and all it did was stress me out. So I definitely believe that really identifying that and getting away from that has helped me a lot.
Mindie: That’s awesome. So I want to go back to happiness and being a woman in the industries that you’ve been a part of. And as you mentioned earlier, being kicked out of a variety of different things. I want to talk about happiness in hardship or maybe not hardship, I don’t know if that’s the right word… But in conflict or situations, and I know that you’re really big on women and helping elevate the status of women. And to me, there’s a lot of frustration there. There’s a lot of anger in that. And yet I don’t see you as an angry person. That doesn’t resonate in terms of how I think of you. So I want to use that kind of guiding aspect of happiness, but then looking at maybe some of the harder conflict parts of your life and just talk a little bit about that dynamic.
Nicole: It’s interesting. It’s come up, gosh, this was maybe a year ago, a gentleman named David Sauvage, who I think is becoming very well known as an empath, and we were having a conversation and he’s like, I see this side of you that you want to show up and you enjoy working and you want to really do stuff. He’s like, then there’s this other side of you that Oh gosh, I forgot that side. I’ll keep thinking about it. But he’s like, but there’s also this teeny little angry woman in this back room that you’re trying to shut out. And he’s like, and it’s okay. Like it’s okay to express your anger and frustration and you know, use this as a fuel and use it towards good. And I think there is, and I’m still trying to understand that, cause some people that may listen to this that know me will have definitely seen a temper-side of me and it’s something I’ve had to understand how to work with and use.
But also that’s helped me in the last year think through I don’t need to shut it out. We’ve all heard some of the most horrific stories in the last few years, whether it be about, you know, rape or human trafficking or mental and physical abuse. And I think that I’m always fascinated to meet someone who’s been through what seems to be some of the worst stuff ever. And they are clearly forgiving and they are clearly like, you know, working towards themselves, but they’re choosing to live this very happy life. And I’m talking like people who’ve been in prison for 10 years and like terrible, gnarly prisons and I just so blown away by them and I find that if I’m feeling, Oh, whether it’s a bit of poor me or I’m kinda down on the dumps, I think of these people and I was like, wow, like I have an opportunity to identify and process why am I feeling like this and how can I move past it? And you know, I think it’s could be a life long work in progress, but definitely the last year I’ve spent a lot more time on it.
Sean: Awesome. Nicole, if somebody wants to learn more about you or wants to have some kind of interaction with you or some of the projects you’re working on, where do you want to send them?
Nicole: I like Twitter. I’ve used it pretty regularly. A lot of times it’s just me rambling about nonsense, but I always answer people in my DMs are open there. And then there’s different stuff on the internet in general. I like social media. I’ve actually tried and left it open my Instagram for probably five months. I was a little nervous. I don’t know if that was a good idea, but I’ve actually really enjoyed meeting new random people and you know, we get to kind of see little vignettes and insights to each other’s life. If you ever run into me in public, come up and say hi, please. I’ll socialize and hang out at different events and music concerts and stuff. Yeah, I’m open. I find people to be very lovely and interesting and it’s always nice to explore and meet new humans out there.
Sean: Sure. Well, you just sparked a closing question and that I wasn’t even thinking to ask. Of all the people you met in your career and your life and your travels and everything, who are one or two people that you were like, Holy cow, I learned so much or I was so moved, like somebody that really just made an awesome impression on your soul?
Nicole: Well one, you know also, and he’s since passed, is Richard Nichols and I remember we were together in his suite on a boat. He was the manager of The Roots. He had discovered them and worked with them through so many amazing things. And a couple of years ago he passed and everyone I know still thinks so fondly of him, but he really looked out for me. He really changed my perspective on a lot of ways I was looking at the world. He always was very encouraging of myself and so many others I know to just give us that… Like you can do anything. Get out there, you’ve got this. I know he’s very missed, but I am very thankful that I got that time with him.
Sean: That’s awesome. And tell us again your Twitter handle.
Nicole: It’s @NPDeMember. So NPD are my initials De Member is my last name. De Member is like remember, but a D instead of an R and that’s my handle for all social media.
Sean: Perfect. Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, your energy, your love, with us. We know that we are better people having you in our lives and we are so grateful that you spent some time with us today.
Nicole: Oh, I’m just so honored. I quite always enjoyed the two of you. You have such a magic together and separate.
Sean: Thank you.