Tequilla Wheeler: Making Her Mark with Style and Perseverance

Most people want to go out into the world and project an image that is authentic and unique, reflecting their personal style. For the average American with a day job, it can be tough to find clothes and accessories that reflect that unique style and are in line with her budget. Tequilla Wheeler understands this desire. She started T. Nicole in 2016 in order to combine her passion for design with a desire to create stylish leather handbags that are affordable to the everyday woman. You can get a feel for the brand’s aesthetic on the T. Nicole Instagram, and sign up to receive updates about the business’ launch on the T. Nicole website.

Tequilla recently sat down with EnrichHER for this interview about her path to entrepreneurship, the importance of networking, and some lessons she has learned along the way.

EnrichHER: What inspired you to start your business?

T. Nicole: My business is a handbag company that offers quality, stylish, and functional leather handbags for classy shoppers who want to stretch the dollar without sacrificing their high taste. It all came about in two ways. First, I’ve always been a person that walked around and redesigned clothes and accessories and handbags in my mind, to make them more stylish. I started noticing that I wasn’t able to find style of handbags that I desired in the price range that I was willing to pay. So I decided to start designing what I was looking for–affordable handbags that were simple, yet elegant.

Another thing that pushed me into this is I am a government employee, so I have been through two government shutdowns. And after the second one, I decided to start looking for additional sources of income that I had more control over. This seemed like a great fit because I enjoy it.

EnrichHER: How did you go about selecting the target audience for your venture, and why are you focusing on that particular group?

T. Nicole: I love high-end bags, like Fendi and YSL, but for an everyday woman, spending five thousand dollars on a bag might not be realistic. But when I started looking in stores at bags that were more in my price range, they were kind of plain. So I thought, “Wow, I don’t want this, but I don’t want to spend $5,000. ” I wanted to tap in to that middle market, but with my own unique style, which I see as simple and elegant.

EnrichHER: Tell us about a trial you’ve had to overcome as an entrepreneur. What did it teach you?

T. Nicole: When I started my business, I tried to tackle the entire process, and do all of these things that I wasn’t used to doing, and it was frustrating me. I started to step back and realize that, hey, you know what? You can’t do everything. Stick with what you’re good at. I’m good at creating and coming up with the designs. So with that, I was able to reach out to a vendor that’s in Hong Kong. And they help turn my drawings into more technical drawings so that the factory I work with can get the samples made.

EnrichHER: One thing that comes up over and over in the conversations we have in EnrichHER Society is the importance of networking relationships. Can you speak to a relationship you have that has been important to the development of your business?

T. Nicole: Samia Bingham is the person who brought me to EnrichHER. She also had a side business where she helped others develop and start their own businesses. We worked together in the government contracting industry, and I just started talking to her and telling her the ideas and what I wanted to do. And she threw it out there one day, like, “Hey, I have experience helping small businesses start.” And it was awesome because even though I had known her for years, I never knew she did that on the side. She pushed me and gave me the hope and the excitement to start my own business. She’s kind of like my sounding board where we encourage each other. Even right now with everything that’s going on in the pandemic, like we’re the one that’s telling each other about different resources to get money for our businesses.

EnrichHER: We like to give our entrepreneurs the last word in these interviews. Any final thoughts to share with the community?

T. Nicole: The one thing that I would share would be to get out of your own way. I know many times we talk ourselves out of something because we believe we can’t do it. You’re putting all these boundaries and barriers in your own way. And once I started my business, I had to change my mindset. I had to tell myself, “I’m going to ask for this loan or reach out to this person, because the worst they can say is ‘no’.” Hearing “no” actually fuels me. That actually makes me go after it more. I’ve always been a believer since I was a young child that you can do anything that you put your mind to. You really can.

About EnrichHER We bring together a network of successful women-led businesses to accelerate business growth so that we cultivate a thriving ecosystem supported by business financing and a supportive community. 

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