5 Minute Interview: Brett Nicol & Nate Tan
Alvin: Who are you, what do you do, and what do you enjoy most about it?
Brett Nicol – Gregarious. Jock. Big head. Sports Illustrated. Beer. Gym shorts. Good intentions. Often Forgetful.
Nate Tan – Mysterious. Sartorialist. Small head. Esquire. Scotch. Tailored suit. Good intentions. Always a Gentleman.
Together we are the co-founders of Forgetful Gentleman (www.forgetfulgentleman.com), and we create stationery, notebooks and gift products that make it easier for busy, modern men to be gentlemen. Currently sold at Neiman Marcus, Men’s Wearhouse and over 50 boutique men’s stores across the country, our products are unique because everything is designed by men, for men. We love it when men tell us how they used our stationery to write a note that strengthened their relationship with someone else.
Alvin: Pick any man in the world who was the most influential to you and why?
Our fathers: coming from very different backgrounds, our fathers have taught us some of our most important lessons in life.
Brett: My Dad grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California. He’s taught me about authenticity, trustworthiness and how to love each day of life. He’s been a small business owner for 35 years and still to this day, he loves his work. He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get into the weeds because he is a leader by example.
Nate: My Dad grew up in Malaysia and built his life in the US from scratch. He’s taught me humility and intelligence, and to care about others. He put three kids through college and has given us every opportunity in life. And he’s done all this as if it’s no big deal, even though I know all the sacrifices he’s made.
Alvin: What do you wish to accomplish 1 year from today?
Brett: There’s so much we want to do in the next year. That’s one of the things that’s tough about being an entrepreneur, deciding what should be the priority and what’s just a good idea that falls into the “someday/maybe” category. One year from now, we want to offer a range of 20 different products available in over 200 stores. The most important thing is to still love what we are doing and wake up every morning excited about the day.
Nate: I also want to continue to design and create innovative products, particularly in the leather goods and desk accessories area. When people see our products, I want people to be intrigued by our whimsical brand name, appreciate the high quality, and most importantly, connect with that aspirational component that lies within all men.
Alvin: How did you and your partner become the “forgetful gentleman”?
Nate: We were in b-school at Darden and started the company as part of a “Starting New Ventures” course. We were tasked with bringing a new product to market and, simply put, we needed our own products.
Brett: Being in the midst of on-campus interviews, we had found stacks of half-written thank you notes to potential employers. My first thought was “My Mom would be so disappointed in me.” My second thought was “there must be a better way!” We each invested $200 to create a product for ourselves and soon began selling to our classmates. That’s when we became known as the “forgetful gentlemen.”
Alvin: What has been your largest step to manhood?
Brett: Having your own business is a roller coaster ride that tests your toughness every single day. It takes perseverance, massive amounts of energy, and faith. Trusting your idea and working your tail off to make your idea into a reality has really forced us to grow as business partners and in our personal relationships with family and friends.
Nate: Getting married last year has been a major step for me to manhood. Even though we had been dating for years and years, marriage takes the relationship to a whole new level. It’s a life commitment, and I’m thrilled about the responsibilities marriage entails.
Alvin: What has been the best advice you received about being a man?
Brett: There are a lot of things you’ll want to do in life, but you can only do two really well. I choose family/friends and career. That’s why my golf game stinks.
Nate: Be a contrarian. If people are moving one direction, I like to move the other. I think it started at a young age growing up in a house with two sisters, and has continued in my professional career. I like to think different and tackle problems from new angles. If my thoughts are just like everyone else’s, that means I’m not thinking for myself.0