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Life at Parachute

Say Hi to Nicole Collins, Director of Retail People Operations

Image of Nicole Collins
Written By
PARACHUTE TEAM
Photographs By
ELISE CHAVEZ
@parachutehome
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Nicole stepped into her role as Director of Retail Operations nearly three years ago and began work organizing, training, recruiting and inspiring the best store teams a brand could possibly ask for. Up to 20 store teams now – one could say she has a lot on her plate – but she makes it look easy. Through Nicole’s leadership our store teams have grown, impacted our communities in new ways and pushed each one of our teams to create better experiences for our customers from product to marketing to service and beyond. We sat down with Nicole to talk about her inspiration and leadership style, and of course, we had to throw in Parachute’s most divisive questions…

Tell us about where you grew up

I grew up in a very small town in Wyoming, population 500. My parents were teachers so we always went on fun adventures during holiday/summer breaks and it gave me a taste of what was out there and the second I graduated I hit the road! I appreciate where I grew up, you learn so much from the place you came from but having been in Southern California for 13 years now, this is home!

How would your closest friend describe you?

Loyal, honest, spontaneous, and last but not least fun. I might pretend I don’t want to go, drag my feet, but if you ask me to show up I’ll be there, and if I’m there, we are going to have a good time :)

What inspires you?

I get really inspired by new places, and meeting new people – making connections either fleeting or lifelong. Everyone has a story, a journey, if you ask the right questions they will share it with you. I think that is why I’ve stayed in retail so long. I get to meet new people every day, work with new teams constantly and I learn so much from all of them. 

Tell us about what your team is working on today

EVERYTHING. I think that is really something so unique about retail leaders, they are business owners, community organizers, teachers, operators, recruiters, people developers, the list really does go on and on. Our big focus right now is connection. It is nearly impossible to inspire and motivate the rest without it, and our retail teams show up and do that every day. 

What are ways you support your team during vast changes and growth?

Listen. Be Present. It may seem simple but it goes a very long way. If you have done the work and set clear expectations and goals for your team they will be prepared but they may not know how or when to slow down or speed up. As a leader, you have to recognize those moments and redirect their energy. It’s about quality in efficiency and you have to be present to notice when it’s off course.

How does Parachute encourage leaders to continue to grow and develop?

We don’t hoard our talent, bring your passion to the table because there is always an extra seat. That is something that is so great about being part of a growing company like Parachute, we value a learning mindset and share ideas at every level.

What are your most important values that you demonstrate as a leader?

“Be kind, be real, be humble and keep growing” - @yung_pueblo. Some sound advice I once read and have kept in my notebook ever since. 

What advice would you give someone applying to a leadership role?

Lead with People. I do a lot of little things behind the scenes, but the credit goes to my team. They run the show, they are the experts. If you know that, if you can inspire others to do the work, you will find success and often help them find it as well. 

What’s the best advice or feedback you’ve ever received in your career?

I always wanted to be “creative”. You know, an artist, photographer, stylist, musician. I tried them all, but none of them stuck (and I really wasn’t all that good!). I had the opportunity to grab breakfast with a CEO of a company I was working for and as we were talking about goals, and the future I mentioned that I always thought I would end up doing something a bit more creative for work. They stopped me and said they disagreed, there is so much creativity in being a leader, an operator, and inspiring others. I really think that was the moment I embraced retail as the career path I wanted to stay on. I was creative. Everyone is, you just have to be patient, find what drives your creativity and know it isn’t always what you think.

Cups in the cupboard, right side up or upside down?

Right side up!

Pineapple on Pizza?

Yes, and if you haven’t you really should try!