I started my entrepreneur path doing freelance graphic design, working with small San Diego businesses, which eventually worked its way into invitation design for weddings and events. I am creeping up on year 10, but it was around year six, that I noticed myself wanting a bit more from my work because there was something I was doing to myself subconsciously – I was censoring myself. I was limiting my expression. Working in the wedding and event industry, in my case, meant high-end clients who tend to be fairly on the overly classy side. Communication with potential customers, for me, was a fake presentation. I was in a part of business where I was viewed as someone servicing them and not as an artist. You have to dress the part. Speak softly, sincerely, politely. Don’t get me wrong, of course that is the correct approach to communicating and working with anyone, but I wasn’t comfortable with the demeanor in which I had to learn to tone myself down. But I trained myself how to be very “presentable” and become less and less of the person I wanted to be.
I started to find myself, more often than not, feeling trapped, uninspired, unhappy. The business began to decide when and I could and couldn’t enjoy life. It became demanding, exhausting, and no longer rewarding. Nothing felt fun anymore, and that’s when I started The Roc Shop.
I had always had this desire at the back of my mind, to create a partyware line. Something playful, irreverent, and modern, but I didn’t know what that looked like just yet, so I decided to open an Etsy Shop, I added cheeky greeting cards, bits of stationery, and eventually some cake toppers and drink stirrers. A friend who had a CO2 Laser, and invited me to start playing and that’s when I began to laser cut cake toppers with fun sayings like “Drunk in Love” or “Hell Yeah” – things that were edgy at the time. A bit of freedom of expression for my soul that allowed me to be playful. Still being unfamiliar with my approach for this new hobby, I sort of stuck to things that were a bit trendy. I recall pineapples and flamingos being the IT of 2015! So I was in that zone for a bit; playing it a bit safe with trendy items that everyone could relate to. As I began to grow my tiny side hobby, it wasn’t until 2016 that it actually began to take form. On January 1st, 2016 my husband and I were just wrapping up our honeymoon in Curaçao. During a romantic and three hour massage/spa day, we found a lump on the left side of my neck. I was diagnosed with cancer and that’s what changed everything.
What became a small bump turned into a large lump within a matter of a few months, that spiraled down into a journey of many doctor appointments, misdiagnosis, and lots of scans, which led to that scary call on a summer day in July. Where the doctor told me that my biopsy results came back malignant.
In 2016, my Aunt Maria was on the last stages of her battle with cancer. Perhaps the single most scariest thing was knowing that she detected her lump on the left side of her neck as well. And that during these days in 2016, time was up at any minute. In her battle with cancer (Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma), she had to have several surgeries in her neck, one in which her Larynx (voice box) was removed, and could no longer talk. What started in the neck, then spread to the lungs, which spread to the liver. It was a lot to process, to see someone you love becoming weak, losing her ability to breathe on her own, becoming severely emaciated, all while knowing she was going to die. She passed away on August 28th, 2016.
Here I was beginning my battle with cancer as she was ending hers. It was a very tough time for me. I watched what she had to go through and I was scared shitless. I was consciously made aware this life is not guaranteed and what I have is golden, and I think I took that for granted in many ways. I took it for granted in a way where I never really lived the life I wanted to live or said the things I wanted to say – I didn’t live out loud. I was hiding for so many years. Becoming that person that people needed me to be for their own comfort, and less and less, the person I wanted to be.
Riddled with fear, and the unknown for what my future would look like, The Roc Shop took form and became my platform to become the woman I was. This tiny shop of laser cut cake toppers and stir sticks became this saving grace while I worked through my battle of cancer (DermatoFibroSarcoma Protuberans, try saying that 3 times in row!). The pivotal moment from when I switched from cute, cheeky, trendy partyware to products that have something to say, came to me one night. I couldn’t not sleep. Though I had many sleepless nights, this was one night in particular I was tossing and turning and silently crying next to my husband, then he woke and asked me what was wrong. I had explained to him that I am not afraid to die, but rather, I am afraid to die without ever having had a voice. I was afraid that my friends and family, would never know what I stood for. That they would never know the powerful, fierce, and strong woman that I am. That was my greatest fear, the idea of leaving earth and not ever having taken a stance or not having anyone hear what I have to say. That alone, was my fear.
Going back to my Aunt Maria; she played a huge role in my life. She was a mother figure to me. Warm, caring, generous, giving, and to add the cherry on top, a total Activist. As I was going through my battle, I was paying attention to my aunt’s battle and her life. And the funniest thing is my aunt has always been an activist, but I never really paid attention. My aunt worked at a non-profit, helping women and children of domestic violence, abuse, and rape. And that was an awakening for me. I thought “holy shit it’s in my blood to be a warrior!” My aunt didn’t get to live her legacy, she died at a very young age, and I feel she kind of passed that torch to me. It’s now my duty as a woman to step up my game and find my place and help others to find their voice.
I turned The Roc Shop from cute and trendy, to something that was very outspoken and became a pillar of defiance and a total demand for respect as a woman, all while teaching myself and others, how to love and celebrate who they are, in the most fierce and irreverent of ways. I’m not afraid anymore to say the things I want to say. It was cathartic to create these items to release all of those things inside me. And that is what The Roc Shop is today – a fierce, badass, outspoken brand.
The Roc Shop is going to stay a party line but I definitely want to explore different avenues. Ultimately, what I’d like to do is have The Roc Shop stem off to create its own community – I want to start a non-profit, which is one of my goals for 2018, lay the foundation.
I also want to start a conference and group for the San Diego based business women community. I know there is a huge market of amazing women here who have a lot to say, and they need a platform! They need a space to express and share their knowledge and their message. When it comes down to it, you need a stable foundation for growth, and what better way to do so in a community of other leaders.
Expanding The Roc Shop, looking into non-profit work, and then creating a community of business resources for badass business women; those are my top three things I aim to accomplish over the next year.
We had the pleasure of getting to chat with Nic after we were introduced to her and her work by Mariah. Nic is passionate about sharing her voice and gives a f*ck about what’s going on with the world, which is why she chooses to live out loud with her brand, The Roc Shop. From offering bad ass partyware, to establishing a platform that goes against the grain, she uses The Roc Shop as the ultimate resource for badass women from all over to pursue a bold life!
We can expect more from her and The Roc Shop this year as she branches off into being more of a resource for women and especially women in business. Curious about what it takes to start a business? Nic shared it’s more than just a pretty photo on social media, which is why she wants to delve into creating a hub for all things legal, investments, and financial, to help other women in this community thrive! We love her bold outlook on life and can’t wait to see what else she brings to San Diego!