Fearless Entrepreneur: Nicole Donnelly overcomes Obstacles in Business & Life

May 4, 2010

Nicole Donnelly, Founder of BabyLegs

I’ve always thought of my friend Nicole Donnelly, founder of Baby Legs, as being absolutely fearless. She defines it. Look up the word “fearless” and you see a picture of Nicole. I see her as a person that see’s no walls or if she does she goes right through them. I started to read her book “Ride Like a Penguin” and got some valuable insight into how she appears to have no fear.  In her own words on page 10 of Ride Like a Penguin:


“I’ve been described as fearless.  I’ve been told I live without barriers.  Sometimes it’s easier to recognize bravery in others than in ourselves, so it is with great ease that the girl flying through the air on a snowboard is the one we often identify as having a torrent of courage.  It isn’t that I live without fear — it’s that I choose to live with my fears until they subside; I walk alongside them, embrace them and then harness them into a means of preparation and self-navigation… It’s this method of not allowing my life to be ruled by the question of “What if?” and choosing instead to get out there and feel the world around me that has consistently brought me pain as well as every next great chapter of my life.”
Nicole has an amazing and inspiring story (see her bio). She’s a person that has had tough times in her life.  She’s shared with me that while she was trying to get her professional snowboarding career going (at a time before she had sponsors) that she didn’t have much money and used to sleep in her car. It’s not about the suffering and pain, but, it is about how tough she is and how she overcame it. She visualizes the best possible outcome and then makes it happen.

Major Obstacles

Most people have some sort of adversity that they have overcome. For me, I look back at one of the toughest times in my life and it was when I lived in a foreign country. I was 17 years old and just finished high school.  I moved to the city of Taipei for one year because I had absolutely no focus and felt like I really wasn’t ready for college. I wanted to travel and experience a different culture. I uprooted to a place where I had no friends or family there, no support group. I couldn’t afford much and slept on a bed that consisted of plywood with a sheet over it, at least I had a pillow.  One of the hard parts was when I had nearly run out of money and my parents would not accept a collect phone call from me.  I had to stretch the cash that I had.  The cheapest thing I could buy was plain white bread.  I survived for an entire month living on just loaves of bread and water and wondering why my parents wouldn’t take my phone call.
Another person that I’ve gotten to know well over the last year is Alyssa Magnotti, my Community Manager. She also had a tough situation back in college where she was working two jobs, taking a full load of classes, and captain of the college soccer team. For quite a while, she survived on cereal and water.  She didn’t even have enough money for milk. When I hear things like that I know that she’s capable of facing most anything… in business, you rarely face a similar kind of adversity. If on a personal level you can get through something like that, you certainly can handle most business challenges.


Hearing Nicole’s story and myself having slept on a plywood bed, I know how hard it can be. I look back at the biggest work related obstacles/challenges that I’ve faced such as working 37 straight hours and having to sleep on the floor in my office or having absolutely insane project time-lines where not only have I had to work long days and weekends but I’ve also had to motivate my team of 12 others to do the same with me for a long period of time.  It’s through these experiences that I know I can make it through. Starting up a new business in the midst of the worst economic conditions known to our generation has definitely created fear for me, but, it also has allowed me to gain greater clarity on what I have to overcome in order to survive it with an ultimate goal of thriving in it.
If you would like to meet Nicole Donnelly, she will be doing a book reading and signing inside thinkspace on May 20 at 4:30pm.  For more information about this event you can go to Nicole’s website: www.saltywaffle.com.


Picture of thinkspace