Accept who you are, change what you want and treat everybody the same.
These are three of the values Nicole Simpkins, an entrepreneur, mentor and shop owner, teaches the girls who work for her and those who take part in her mentorship program, the Winner's Circle.
Simpkins recently started the Winner's Circle – "because all we do is win" – to encourage high school-age girls to think outside the box.
"Every day I see adults who come in (my shop) and they're not secure. I'm like, 'This is the the only body you have.' You can change it, but until you change it, let's make this great," Simpkins said.
She wants girls to be confident, she said. "We're all going to be different, but we're all great and we can all win."
Simpkins hand-picked the mentors in the group, many of them entrepreneurs, adding again that confidence is key.
"I can't help you if I'm not confident. I really thought about that when I picked my mentors. Those girls, they're all different, but they're all confident and that was key. I can't have them speaking to my girls and they're unsure."
Since the program just started, there is an outline of topics.
"I'm going to do self-awareness, and not just about the way you look on the outside, but being aware of who you are," Simpkins said. Other topics include budgeting, finances, culture awareness and how to deal with stress, plus some fun topics, too.
"With the girls who assist me at the shop, they're usually high school girls, so I see the need for it," she said, adding she wants them to have an outlet and that mentors become like "big aunties" to the girls.
Simpkins said she has always been confident about herself.
"One of the little girls, she's like, 'You see how big my forehead is?' I was like, 'Girl, hold on, you see how big my forehead is?' … So what? I was like, 'I'm still cute, you can't tell me I'm not cute.
"I'm just me. I'm always try to be myself. If I don't like something, I'll work on changing it, but until then, I just have to be great. As great as I can be, like this, with my big forehead."
Simpkins has owned her shop on Park Avenue for almost four years. She sells clothing and jewelry, a lot of which is homemade. Before she opened a brick and mortar store, she sold out of places like hair salons, where she met many of her clients.
"I just always liked fashion," she said. "I never went to school for it. I never thought about a boutique or fashion while I was in college, just always liked clothes and jewelry."
Fashion is confidence, she said. "I can express myself in my outfit. I never know how I feel … so it's just a way you express yourself."
She said she tries to encourage clients, especially new shoppers, that they can in fact wear that color or style they don't usually pick.
Fashion is one of the ways she encourages girls to express themselves and have freedom in their look.
Simpkins, who was born and raised in Aiken and went to college in Spartanburg, has a degree in English.
"I went to school for secondary (education), then I realized I didn't want to teach and I was not willing to start over, so I dropped education and said, 'We'll just do English.' I always liked literature, writing," she said.
She grew up living with her mother and sister, and has half-siblings on her father's side.
Simpkins said she runs on creativity.
"It's usually in the wee hours of the morning when it hits me. I'm like, 'OK, it's 1 o'clock, now I feel creative."
Those hours, she said, are silent for the most part: social media's calmed down, it's quiet, no one's asking her if she has a piece in a certain size – ("Beause they refuse to go to the website, but because I spoil them, they're used to that," she said about her regular customers.)
Simpkins creates a lot of her own jewelry, which is what she started her business doing. She has a "lab" in her home, a room full of beads and clothes and perfume.
"Just girl stuff," she said.
She pulls inspiration from everything she sees. She shops a lot, follows a lot of stylists on Instagram, and watches reality television – not just for the drama, but for the clothes.
"The best thing is seeing somebody walk around in something I created," she said, adding that the same mood doesn't always hit her multiple times, so she doesn't always recreate things, and if someone sees something they like, they better grab it.
In the future, Simpkins said she'd like to open another location, maybe in North Augusta, since she has clients who come to her store from Augusta, Georgia.
She keeps a notebook with her at all times, and writes down all of her ideas, as well as her goals, which she reads every day.
"I have a jet in my notebook. My mom thinks it's hilarious," she said.
But Simpkins said her mom won't think it's hilarious when she does have a private jet of her own and tells her to, "Go get on the jet."
"I tell her, 'Well, I didn't have a store, and I put that down. I didn't have a storefront, and I put that down. I didn't have girls working for me, and I put that down.' So, I figure a jet will come."
Nicole's store, The Nicole Simpkins Collection, is located at 318 Park Ave. S.E. For more information about the Winner's Circle, email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.