Tell us a little about yourself!
I am a born and raised Jersey girl! I've been living in Jersey City for 5+ years and absolutely love the sense of community our neighborhood offers. I went to college in Connecticut, where I met my boyfriend / roommate.
After years of working in New York at marketing agencies and startups with brands big and small, my entrepreneurial spirit led me to turn my side hustle (supporting local businesses as a writer, marketer and social media strategist) into my day job. An all-around champion for small businesses, I love to shop, eat, drink, and share all things local to Jersey City on my Instagram page, @heynicoleraye. When I'm not curating content or networking, I can be found exploring different neighborhoods with my college sweetheart, whipping up a home-cooked meal, planning a get-together for my friends, redecorating my apartment, rooting for my favorite teams (go NJ Devils!) or plotting my next adventure.
Tell us about your business! How did it start? Biggest challenge? Favorite part? Where do you see it going?
When the pandemic hit, I was working at a small influencer technology company based in SoHo that was, sadly, struggling to survive. I found a new, stable opportunity but it was an awful cultural fit. I found myself on Zoom calls from 8am - 8pm on Zoom all day long, being treated less than, and not feeling fulfilled creatively. It was then, during a pretty tumultuous time in the world, that I decided that I wanted to take control of my career.
During the pandemic, I felt a fierce calling to use my small social media presence to amplify whatever my favorite local small businesses needed amplified. I was (and still am) eternally impressed by the ability and drive of the many local entrepreneurs in our community to persevere in uncertain times. And so, I decided that taking control of my career meant following my passion and working with local and small-scale businesses professionally.
In January of 2021, I quit my job and began working as a marketing consultant and social media manager for a handful of local businesses in Jersey City. Simply put, I help brands activate their communities via social marketing -- from social media strategy to content creation to PR and partnerships. My favorite part of my job is that I can often see the direct impact of my efforts pretty quickly, versus working with very large brands that have a lot of red tape and process. The biggest challenge is that small businesses are still very much struggling (whether to hire, pivot, survive, etc.) which makes it important to build trust and success quickly as a contract partner. I am excited about an expansion plan I'm currently working on and I look forward to servicing even more incredible local and early-stage businesses in the near future!
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
Fellow local entrepreneurs! Before I became self-employed, I felt pretty plugged into the community after living in a communal building, meeting people at group fitness classes, bars, etc. But, when I started working out of Andco coworking in downtown Jersey City, I realized this community was way larger than I imagined yet still somehow so connected. I've met so many impressive, independent entrepreneurs in the past 6 months! My boyfriend jokes that sometimes I go on more business coffee dates than I do coffee dates with him. There are a lot of hustlers here -- people who work hard and play hard, who are pioneers in their craft and whose own faith in themselves and their business is just plain old inspiring.
I'm also inspired by this sense of newfound independence I've recognized as a solopreneur. Working at agencies (and in marketing) can feel very shallow and icky sometimes. Being fully in charge of how you communicate, build relationships, spend your time, strategize, and create is really refreshing.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love traveling, cooking, crafting and spending time with friends. I love anything that requires me to be creative! Friday nights can look like cooking a new recipe, drinking wine and playing board games at home OR meeting friends for a fun meal followed by cocktails around town. I'm definitely a foodie. I love trying new restaurants in Jersey City, especially outside of the downtown neighborhood where I live. My boyfriend and I are also huge fans of hanging at our local parks! We live nearby Van Vorst Park, love walking to / exploring Liberty State Park and adore Hamilton Park and all that neighborhood offers.
Favorite Local Spots:
- Restaurant - This is SUCH a hard choice! It depends on my mood, honestly. Madame Claude Bis and Corto are my favorites for a special occasion or date night! Light Horse Tavern and White Star are go-to's for a more casual night out.
- Coffee Shop - Sam a.m. Not only are their cappuccinos delicious, but I also just love their staff, space and menu. The best.
- Place to Shop - Easy... Kanibal & Co! Whether I'm treating myself or buying a gift, they have such an eclectic array of home goods, beauty products, clothing and more. I also love Another Man's Treasure for vintage finds.
- Bar - Dullboy, Wurstbar or The Archer. In no particular order!
- Outdoor Spot - Van Vorst Park, for sure. In terms of outdoor dining, Frankie is a favorite. I love their sweet patio and seasonal menu!
- Honorable Mention - Ghost Truck Kitchen has become a go-to delivery / takeout option for us since the pandemic hit. My boyfriend and I are a big fan of weekend LUNCH versus brunch (weird I know, but I love to cook breakfast!), so I also need to shoutout a few of our favorites spots for a sandwich / snacks: Dixon Deli (super local to me, great for sandwiches and grocery necessities), Cangiano's (can't visit Hamilton Park without stopping by), Downtowner (owned by Darke Pines) and Scram bakery.
Connect with Nicole and follow her on instagram!