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An Ode to Two Years

It'll be two years at the end of August, wow. If you are reading this, I want to personally thank you for taking the time to get to know me, my brand, and this crazy journey a little bit better. You are the reason my dream of creating and growing Rudder USA is still persisting on and I am eternally grateful. The last couple of years have taught me more than any other job, class, or seminar has, and the experiences and obstacles that have presented themselves before me along the way have shaped me into the person I am today.

Now, let's get into it.

Think back to August 31st, 2020. Do you remember what you were doing? If so, I applaud you. If not, you aren’t alone. The COVID brain-fogged cloud of unknowingness was a dark time for many. For me, that was the day I launched the Rudder USA website, the one you’re reading this on. That day was illuminating, jaw-clenching, exhilarating, and I found myself glued to my computer screen for the entirety of the day. But, I quickly learned that as a new business, this new found adrenaline ebbs and flows, everything was completely new territory for me, and the learning curve was steep.

The next couple months were fast-paced. Throwing myself into the holiday season and tackling the first Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday without direction was blinding, but with a Hail-Mary and a few too many coffees, I popped out slightly more knowledgeable at the other end of it. The sales were great, too. I was satisfied and happy, like a kid elbow deep in a cookie jar.

The holidays were a success, I had amazing opportunities in front of me, and I was getting my name out there while continuing to learn, plan, and coordinate for what was coming next. Then, in and amongst the newness, the supply chain tsunami hit. Suddenly, my trusty supplier slapped on a wait that went something along the lines of "You'll get it when you get it." and I, along with everyone else in this country, was not prepared. I wouldn’t hear back for a month, or longer, at a time and I was completely in the dark. You may be thinking, “Everyone went through this.”, but, as someone just starting out and having nearly all of my eggs in one basket, I thought this unexpected wait was going to nearly sink me. But, during this chaotic time, I had my first opportunity to get Rudder USA into a store - something I have always considered to be a significant milestone. Another lesson: There's always a diamond in the rough, you just have to find it. 

The Summer months were exciting, it is boating season after all, right? I had my first two shows which were both successful, and yet again, they taught me a lot. It was during the next couple months when I learned a significant amount about who was connecting with my business and who wasn’t. For example, a show that had antique classic boat lovers in attendance was far more successful than a holiday show that was exclusively for women whose interests proved to be distant from my brand. Even though I believed I would gain some traction at that show, it was to my surprise I left that November night feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge.


A few weeks later someone in my immediate family unexpectedly passed away and my world abruptly came to a stop.

Grief is different for everyone, but for the next 6 months I felt like I could barely breathe. I initially thought this loss would catapult me into a work-horse CEO “Girl Boss” who filled her emptiness with the accomplishments of business, but instead I found myself in a bitter world of haziness and distance. Work turned into a chore rather than a passion, and nothing seemed to give me the same spark as it did before my family member’s passing. I spent the Winter and Spring questioning most aspects of my life - Am I doing the right thing? Does all of this matter? What am I supposed to do moving forward to fulfill this feeling of dissatisfaction? My mind was not on my business, and Rudder USA hurt because of it. For months I had a feeling of sorrow I had never felt before, and I truly didn't know what could ever shake that feeling. 


I have never been one for tattoos, but he loved them. I learned through my grieving process that one of the best ways to memorialize someone you’ve lost is to do something that reminds you of them every day. Even though the idea of getting a tattoo was ground-breaking and significantly out of my comfort zone, I got one anyway, and it’s perfect for him. What happened the day I got my tattoo, though, was pivotal. After washing down a heavy stream of tears with a tequila shot, I went all in. Something about having those two letters etched onto my ankle made the weight of his death feel stagnant - an improvement. I felt myself smile a real smile again and the world seemed to brighten, like the first sight of the sun peeking out after a storm. Ever since that evening on May 12th I’ve slowly started to gain old parts of myself back. I started to feel reconnected and motivation started to seep back into my headspace. 

This company has led me to places I never thought I'd go. I have met amazing and impactful people at every turn on this path, and the future is nothing short of exciting. The appreciation I have for those who have supported me is beyond words. Support doesn't always mean purchasing an item, it goes far beyond that. It's comments on social media, excitement over a new product, necessary constructive feedback, willingness to lend a hand, reading this blog, and everything in between. Thank you for making 2 years possible.

I want to leave you with this: 

In my absence I haven't given up, I am actually just getting started. 

Oh, and, Happy birthday Rudder USA!

-Nicole (Founder/CEO)



  • Elizabeth Hickok

    You are so inspiring!! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Vicki Ness

    Such an amazing story! You go “girl boss”… I’m so glad you have your smile back.
    PS ❤️ My RudderUSA ball cap I wear it often😊

  • Marge

    What an incredible and beautiful story written by an incredible and beautiful young women. Wishing you much joy and happiness .

  • Candice Nadler

    What a beautiful story regarding your brave journey. No doubt your heart and strong business sense will make your dreams come true.

  • Darcy Ciatti

    So touching, I had tears, knowing the loss changed you all forever. So sorry for your loss and happy for your recovery and restart. May this be a great year for you!

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