Meet The Woman Behind The Cover Of The Latest Issue Of Money Central Magazine: Nikki Clarke, The Founder Of Cadenshae

Starting a business with newborn or small children is not an easy feat, especially when you have to look after four of them. All Nikki Clarke initially wanted to do was make a bit of extra money on the side to feel comfortable financially. She didn’t actually start out to revolutionize the way mums looked and felt about themselves. She started Cadenshae with a $20k order of bras. She financed the entire project herself, as it was important for her not to rely on investors so she could still keep full control of the business. At the time, she had an 11-month-old baby and another one on the way, so it was certainly a risk, but one she knew would pay off as she’d stumbled across a niche market that was not being catered to properly at all. In less than five years she had 2 more kids, yet in the process, she somehow managed to grow Cadenshae into a multi-million dollar global empire.

MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Nikki to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?

I was born and bred in Northland, New Zealand and I have one older sister – Jacqui. My parents are Steve and Sharon and they rock! I’ve always loved exercising and have felt passionate about it from an early age. Growing up I would work out with my Dad in the garage (he was a Policeman) and I always knew exercise would be an integral part of my life.

After school I took on a bunch of different roles, I was a medic in the NZ Army, a beautician, and a personal trainer, to name a few. All of the jobs I took on allowed me to help others in one way or another. Helping others has always been extremely important to me, it’s just part of who I am, and I am so proud of that.

As to how the business came about, as aforementioned – before I became a mother, I was a personal trainer, and so once I had recovered post-birth, I decided to head back to the gym to catch up with clients, show Caden off, and do a bit of a work-out. As I was working out, Caden got fussy, so I went to feed her and this is when my ‘ah-ha’ moment came about! I battled my sports bra, trying to pull it up over my breasts to feed. I was left infuriated. “This is impossible! There’s got to be a better way!” I thought. So, as soon as I got home, I went online to look for some quality nursing sports bras. There was nothing.

“Why has no one thought of this? How can mothers be expected to keep active and breastfeed when there’s nothing practical out there to do it in!”

I decided there and then if no one else would make the gear mums needed, then I’d give it a go! I had absolutely no experience in fashion design, but I knew what was needed, so I began drawing.

Fast forward to 19 months later, and Adam (my partner in life and business) and I have just welcomed our second baby girl, Ryan into the world! Four days later, $20k of nursing sports bras arrive from China, and are emptied onto our front lawn…here we go!

This year we’re set to turn-over close to $6 million (despite Covid-19). Cadenshae (named after our firstborn Caden, her middle name is Shae) now employs 16 staff and is recognized as the leading activewear brand for pregnant and nursing mothers, worldwide. Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, and Canada are our target markets.

Also – we now have four children and one on the way! Caden – 6, Ryan – 4, Kace – 3, Jackson – almost 2 and another wee girl coming soon!

Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?

As mentioned, the journey started six years ago when I first had Caden and I couldn’t find any suitable nursing sports bras. When I started, I didn’t think it would become this huge, no. I knew it would be somewhat successful as there was a gap in the market and from the chats I’d been having with other mothers, it was clear they would purchase activewear products for pregnancy and postpartum if it was nice! I thought I’d go alright in New Zealand, but the global success has been a very amazing and a pleasant surprise.

What is your main source of income?

Profits from sales.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

It’s a funny old time with Covid-19 in the mix. Before the pandemic, we were on a serious upward trajectory and had plans for global domination! We still do have these goals, but we’ve had to change our focus a bit recently. Unfortunately, many businesses have been hit hard with people unable to shop as freely as they previously had due to job losses, etc. We have also been hit by this pandemic, but we’re not crippled, so we’re now focusing on building ourselves back to where we were, and when this all dies down – we’ll go back to focusing on taking over the world!

In short though, to grow our business we have to keep creating new and exciting products, so we’re focusing on our product carousel right now as well as trying to keep as many things as ‘in-house’ as possible. We have an amazing social media team, from the ‘faces’ on the camera, to the camera people, graphic designers, etc. Having this all done in-house means not only is it cheaper to do, but it’s faster…we can constantly roll out new content…and social media is such a massive beast which constantly needs feeding. And if you feed it right, you definitely see your return on investment.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Mainly Facebook and Instagram. We do stories every day, giveaways, posts, etc. We use Facebook a lot to interact with our customers, but we also have a presence on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube…you’ve got to be on everything these days to get in front of the ‘aspirational consumers.’

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

It’s always good to diversify your channels and advertise in different areas. Paid advertising has always been good for us, so I definitely think it’s something everyone should consider doing. Don’t dismiss a channel until you’ve tried and tested in my opinion,

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

This has developed over the years. To begin with, it was just getting the word out there in any way we could! Social media, giveaways, sponsoring events, paid advertising, etc. Now that we have more of a strong-hold (and more experience), we have the power to pick and choose what we do a bit more. We knew from the get-go how powerful PR could be to a company’s bottom line, and as soon as we could, we invested in PR companies to help us out, before hiring our own PR Manager to take care of that side of the business, in-house. PR is crucial for brand awareness; sometimes people don’t know ‘how’ they know of you, but they do know of you! That’s the PR machine working away discreetly in the background. A person may have stumbled across an online article, or read a piece in a magazine while waiting at the Dentist for example…good PR strategies focus on getting in front of as many media outlets as possible, because the more you do, the more people hear/read of you…the more sales you’ll get. Numbers don’t lie! Businesses have to keep working on that and building on it until they become more of a ‘household’ name/brand. That’s a huge focus of ours, as well as catering to our current and new customers through social media.

We stand out I think because we think out of the square when it comes to ‘brand awareness’ tactics. We recently sponsored the incredible Alysia Montaño – a 7x USA champ and 3x 800m world bronze medallist. In fact, we signed her up just days after learning she was pregnant with her third child. Alysia had a hard time with the likes of Nike and Asics cutting her pay when she got pregnant or discussed getting pregnant, so she hit out against these big name brands hard – fighting for a better maternity coverage for female professional athletes. We adored her and how she was taking on the big guns. We wanted to help her in her plight, empower her, like we want to empower all women – so we signed her up for a four-year sponsorship deal. That’s a pretty cool and different way to get the word out about your brand, especially in the US, where our focus is right now.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Social media, EDMs, P.R.

How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?

We stood out initially because there was NOTHING like us around. Nothing that was actually nice and of high quality. Now we stand out because we are the innovators, and our stuff is hands down the best, we know it is. It’s stylish, colourful, comfortable, and supportive. It’s quite flattering when we see our competitors try to copy what we do. I also think we’ve hired some real trailblazers who like to try different things to see what will happen, and often it pays off.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The last few months have been the toughest in a while for sure. Covid-19 hurt us for a bit, but luckily, not for long. We decided from the get-go that we would do our utmost to keep everyone in their jobs. We had to cut everyone’s hours and pay for a few weeks, but at least that meant everyone still had a job. We could’ve let people go and kept others on full pay, but luckily we have an amazing team which really is a TEAM and everyone wanted to take a pay cut to ensure no one lost their job. Our staff has been brilliant, and so has the NZ government in their handling of this, helping out businesses with wage subsidies, etc. Our whole team is now back up to 100% pay, thank goodness.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

I get asked this question a lot, and I’d say the biggest mistakes we’ve made have been around hiring the wrong people, not trusting our gut. It’s cost us a lot. We are now very strict when it comes to hiring people, we don’t take it willy nilly anymore. You’ve got to get it right the first time, or else it can be extremely taxing, in more ways than one.

What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?

It’s an old cliche, but hard work really does pay off. Working that extra hour or two to get the job done pays off. Working weekends pays off. Missing your mate’s birthday party because you have a shipment coming, pays off. Sacrifice and hard work pay off. Also, you’ve got to be a good person and treat people right. If you do, you’ll get so many other rewards…people want to help nice people and go the extra mile…it’s human nature. Also, we invested in systems/software early on to future proof. We weren’t ‘big’ enough for these systems initially but we knew we would be one day and we’d be ready – and it paid off.

What new business would you love to start?

Gosh, I have no idea! Something to do with helping others…but to be honest I have enough on my plate right now, I’m happy sticking with just this business for now.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

All the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned from – you have to make mistakes so you can grow and develop. One thing that does stand out though is the hiring process. I would do more research on how best to do that.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

I’d say to myself, ‘don’t stress, everything will work out!” I don’t know if ‘past’ me would believe ‘future’ me though even if I did go back. It’s only natural to stress and worry because it means you care and it makes you think a little harder and work a little harder. If I went back and told myself not to worry and not to stress, would I then work as hard? Not sure? It’s an interesting one.

Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

I’m not a book reader, but I love reading online business articles. Big fan of Forbes.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Invest early for the future. Don’t be afraid, give it a crack!

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Do your due diligence, your market research – can you really make a go of this in the current climate? What makes you different? At the end of the day though, if the fire is in your belly, you’ll make it work. Learn from others, seek out mentors…read, read, read…you aren’t expected to know everything, so don’t pretend you do. A true leader asks for help when needed, let others help you and teach you. Learn, make mistakes, learn again, and keep on growing.

How This Couple Made The Leap From Rock Bottom To Successful Entrepreneurs

James and Steph Purpura’s journey of transformation is nothing short of extraordinary. Before they met 15 years ago, both of their lives had hit rock bottom. Depressed, bulimic, hopeless, running away from an abusive relationship, and suffering through decades of silence after being sexually abused as a child, Steph at one point tried to commit suicide in a hotel room. James, on the other hand, was filled with self-hate and rage at the world because he felt abandoned by everyone and everything. He eventually turned to drugs and then petty theft to fuel his addictions. Later on, he found himself in prison, locked up in solitary confinement.

At the lowest point in their lives, they met and were united by a shared vision of creating and becoming more. They started the only place they could by working on themselves and helping each other grow. They believed in each other but more importantly, they challenged each other every step of the way, and never settled.

James and Steph Purpura revealed that those tragic events actually became the catalyst for dramatic life changes that brought them together, and their discovery of the keys to unlocking their perceptions, challenging their beliefs, and changing their behaviors. But it took years of trial and error using their relationship to test new ideas, theories, and practices with each other. As they created a new life together, James and Steph formulated an evolutionary plan for living that resulted in tremendous personal and professional success. Now their hugely successful Powerful U events and programs are changing the lives of millions.

Their mission is to provide a roadmap for creating meaning in people’s lives, showing them how to master their perceptions and their emotions, the two factors that separate life of desperation and unhappiness, from one of joy, love, and accomplishment. According to James and Steph, “Everything you are, everything you see, everything you experience, is determined by perception. And it is your emotions that give your life the only meaning it has.”

Money Central magazine recently caught up with James and Steph Purpura to talk about their journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:

Please provide background about how the two of you met and how the world’s first personal evolution company, Powerful U came to fruition.

How we met is a topic of great debate around our house because we both have different stories about how it went down. But most people seem to believe Steph’s version of the story! We both worked in the same office building, but not for the same company. I saw Steph walking in the parking lot and held the door for her, (Steph swears we were 150 feet apart) but to me, it was more like 10 feet. Anyway, she walked through the door and I walked in after her, she became flushed once she realized I was holding the door for her. Steph was walking to the elevator when she turned around and introduced herself, and then we didn’t see each other until the next week. Later on, we had an awkward encounter in the parking lot where I asked Steph really odd questions like “do you eat” and somehow I convinced her to go on a date with me. The next morning I showed up in her office asking her to go to lunch with me and we have been together ever since. When we met, we were both coming out of the darkest periods of our lives and we had nothing. I was a year out of jail and Steph was 4 years out of a brutal suicide attempt. We started with nothing and were both committed to re-building our lives into what we always dreamed they would be. Years later, we sold our worldwide tech company, and started Powerful U, as our way to give back through sharing the knowledge we learned on our climb out from rock bottom.

Many are calling “Powerful-U” a movement. What are its basic fundamentals and why do you think it’s being referred to as this?

We are encouraging people all over the world to embrace and share their stories because your story only has power over you when you keep it inside. When someone has the courage to share their story it unconsciously permits someone else to do the same. If there is a movement, it’s because we are giving people permission to stop hiding from their past and embrace the power of vulnerability.

What do you find most rewarding through Powerful-U?

Giving people hope. When people tell us that our event or content pulled them out of the darkness and saved their lives. It’s truly incredible knowing that the work we are doing is having such a powerful impact on people.

What types of people tend to gravitate toward the Powerful-U platform and who would you consider your main audience?

Seekers, those who are hungry for the knowledge to shape and change their lives. People who are not afraid to question every aspect of who they are.

You have been extremely successful in various technology ventures, including that of PlanSwift. What has been the biggest challenge shifting from that world to Powerful-U?

The hardest part of transitioning was leaving the world of logic and numbers to the world of emotions and personalities. Embracing social media was very difficult for both of us.

What advice do you have for other business owners struggling to make a footprint in today’s competitive world?

Most business owners quit just before things take off, so if you feel what you’re doing is right and provides value to others keep pushing forward!

What life moments have made the two of you the successful people you are today?

Always pushing each other forward through our biggest fears, and challenging the false and limiting beliefs we had about ourselves.

What would you consider your personal missions in life?

Steph: I just started a subset of Powerful U, called Powerful Women. We had our first event in February 2020. I want to help women find their voices and step into their personal power.

James: To help and change the world into the place that I want my kids and grandkids to live in.

What career goals do you have, after accomplishing so much to date?

We want to make help available to people all over the world so they will have the knowledge they need to transform their lives.

Tell us about your award-winning documentary titled “Perception: Seeing is Not Believing” and your experience as first-time filmmakers.

We wanted to demonstrate that everybody’s life makes perfect sense when put into the right context. We want to give people awareness into what elements create their lives and what they need to know to change. Making a film was both easier and harder than we thought it would be. It was easy to film a lot of compelling content, and it was hard deciding what to use in the final cut.

Do you plan to continue in the world of film and pursue a bigger picture in this space?

YES! We have some future projects in mind that we are really excited about producing.

Who do you consider to be the most interesting and impressive people?

People who have the courage to stand up and question/challenge everything about themselves and the world around them. We are constantly reinventing ourselves and we fully understand how challenging that can be and we respect anyone who attempts to do the same.

You now have a Powerful Universe APP available for smartphones, iPads, and tablets. What drove you to create this, outside of your thirst and natural ability to thrive in technology?

The model to distribute independent movie is broken because filmmakers don’t get access to any of the customer data on the big platforms. We initially launched the platform as a means to distribute our film and it morphed over time as a way to deliver subscription content.

Which social media platform do you feel is the most powerful and why?

Facebook is still the king because they have the most flexibility in the type of content you can post

Where do you see Powerful U in 5 years? 10 years?

As an ecosystem for people who need a platform to deliver compelling content to seekers from every corner of the globe.

How do you separate work from family, considering you are married with children and work together. What is your secret?

We wake up an hour before our kids every morning and meditate together, to make sure we remain connected and on the same page. We make an effort to eat dinner together most nights as a family.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round — feel free to answer individually

1. Last good movie you’ve seen: JOKER- Even though it was extreme, they did a really good job of portraying the impact of mental illness.

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Our children- Seeing the beauty of their individual personalities.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Tour Europe.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” Enjoy our lives more fully.

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? We wouldn’t change our past, because it’s taken everything we’ve been through to become the people we are today.