Nicole Shariat Farb



Loyola University – Journalism

University of California-Irvine – Master’s in Education

University of Chicago Booth School of Business – Finance and Accounting

Chances are if you love DIY, you’ve been to Darby Smart, an online marketplace for creativity that launched in June 2013 thanks to Nicole Shariat Farb. Previously a Goldman Sachs investment banker, Nicole turned her hobby into a career after deciding the DIY industry was due for some disruption.

Offering DIY inspiration, supplies and pre-packaged projects for anyone looking to flex their creative side, Darby Smart recently announced Series A funding (a name given to a company’s initial massive round of venture capital financing) of $6.3 million in June, launched a Weddings category and is continuing to grow their assortment of product offerings. All this to say, if you’re a business woman at heart, you won’t want to miss Nicole’s advice for turning your passion into your business — even when it’s a complete 180 from your day job.

If you do what everybody else does, you'll end up where everybody else is. Break all the rules and do something different.

What was the turning point in your career that encouraged you to take your love of DIY and turn it into Darby Smart? 

I’ve loved DIY ever since I was a little girl sitting in our craft room at home. The turning point happened when I decided to quit Goldman and turn DIY into my actual career.

The exact moment I decided to quit came during a trip to the Renegade Craft Fair in December 2012. I knew there was a problem with the craft shopping experience – going to Michaels and searching for supplies amongst those endless aisles was frustrating. At Renegade Craft Fair, I started talking to the crafters with booths and learned they were also frustrated. They spent hours making things, paid a ton of money for a booth and still weren't making a living. I thought there had to be a better way for the millions of people who love to craft; either for fun or as their job. And that was when I knew I had to start something in the DIY space.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you? 

At the heart of it all, I’m a business gal. I thought, “I can bring something unique to this market by helping all the incredibly creative people grow their businesses. I can teach them something and they can teach me!”

What’s a day like at Darby Smart, and what are your responsibilities? 

No day is the same, except I always feel like there are 10 plates spinning in the air and I only have two hands to catch them!

I have an incredible team that brings our business to life. What I do each day is figure out where I'm needed most across the team — some days, I'm focused on our website and helping shape what that looks like; other days, I'm looking at inventory levels and evaluating where we want to buy more. And then there are days where I’m filming a DIY video for our YouTube Channel in the morning, then on the line helping pack Darby Smart boxes so we can get them out to our customers just a few hours later.

What is the first project you would recommend from Darby Smart for beginning DIYers?

The Wood Burning Starter Set. It's so rewarding, because it's not hard to do and the outcome looks professional! You'll get an incredible sense of accomplishment that makes you feel great about what you just made and how you spent your time. 

What challenges keep you awake at night? 

How can we move faster? How can hire the best people? How can we continuously surprise and delight our customers? 

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance? 

Yes, it’s a huge problem! In a single day, I'm never balanced and recognizing this is my no-fail tactic. I look at work/life balance from a broader picture and try to be 100% present for whichever one I'm focused on. I used to be the type that would go on vacation and take my Blackberry with me. I was trying to manage work/life balance by doing both simultaneously. In reality, I was failing at the two. I wasn't truly being productive in work, but I also wasn't spending quality time with the ones I love. Now, if I’m working, then I’m working. And if I’m doing something outside of work, I’m 100% focused on that. 

What are some of the rules you live by? 

If you do what everybody else does, you'll end up where everybody else is. Break all the rules and do something different. 

What qualities does it take for someone to be a successful entrepreneur? 

You must be fearless, passionate and focused.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself? 

Don't rush to start your career. It will come. Looking back to the year I graduated college, I was in a hurry to get going. I wish I had spent that first year volunteering or exploring the world or skiing a season on a mountain in Colorado! Oh, and a nice glass of red wine will actually taste great to you some day and then I'll say, “Told you so.” 

What is a key piece of advice you would share with a new entrepreneur in the creative industry? 

DIY a very collaborative environment and one in which many talented people are co-existing and supporting one another.

Where do you find inspiration for the projects offered? How do you stay on top of the pulse? 

Our 2,000 designers are our number one source. They’re incredibly talented and are constantly coming up with new and creative ways to turn the latest trends into DIYs. A few of our designers came back from Fashion Week in NYC and were buzzing with ideas! 

Where do you see Darby Smart 5 years down the road? 

Sometimes I feel like I can't see past next week, but our vision is to build a place where everyone can express their creativity. Right now we're focused on creativity in a few key sectors: decor, jewelry, food and kids. Long term, we want to help foster creativity across many sectors; both physically and digitally.