Women in Business Q&A: Wells Nathan and Veronique Vicari Barnes, Ice Cream Castles

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After years of friendship, Wells Nathan and Veronique Vicari Barnes have joined creative forces to bring us Ice Cream Castles; a children’s line of clothing inspired by vintage designs, music, magic and travels into the unknown! Both of these women are new mothers and their own personal journey into motherhood as well as their love of fashion and all things enchanting helped to birth this fabulous line. Wells, has a varied background in fashion, studying at both FIDM and RISD. She is the founder of a successful contemporary women’s clothing line carried by top retailers and worn by tastemakers. Veronique is an actress, mother of twins, and the founder of her own equally successful jewelry line, favored by influencers and celebrities.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

V-By nature, I have always loved to lead and guide the way for others but my life experiences have definitely defined the type of leader I am. I've been given challenges and obstacles all throughout my life and for that I am grateful because it has taught me how to maintain perspective and be able to roll with the punches through creative outlets. Some of the darkest of times have lead me to the brightest of days and having learned that and really been affected by that I am able to inspire people in times of darkness and lead by example to what is true to me.

W-I had a very unconventional childhood. I grew up in a very small town in the Midwest practicing Transcendental Meditation. The emphasis with meditation is to connect with and follow the wisdom and strength within. By allowing that inner peace to lead my life I am able to ride the ups and downs with more equanimity.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Ice Cream Castles?

V- I take pride in the fact that I'm able to integrate many facets of my life into doing what I love and my previous work experience has definitely helped shape how I manage my business. I spent years of studying acting and telling stories so that has defiantly helped me in creating Ice Cream Castles with Wells, as we design each collection with a story. My past experience in retail and also with designing jewelry has also come in handy in creating this line the merchandising aspect you need with retail , customer service etc.; not to mention that it gave me insight as to how to successfully manage a small business. I also spent some time working in Public Relations and that very much has influenced my day to day work on the children's line as marketing & branding is key to a successful clothing line along with connections in the entertainment industry. Every step of the way from the smallest retail job of folding clothes to my PR job have all lead me to this new amazing experience.

W- Prior to launching Ice Cream Castles I had a contemporary Women's Clothing line for 7 years. The business had many highs and many lows. I learned from them both. My failures were lessons. Lessons that I am applying in my new business. Everyone falls in life. But I've learned no matter how hard the fall you have to get back up.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Ice Cream Castles?

V- Working on this line has truly been a dream come true. If I would have to single out a few highlights I would say it is designing with my partner Wells. Together we come up with these wonderful stories and create these worlds that inspire the clothing we make so that has defiantly been the greatest highlight for me. Another is just seeing how a collection begins to the finished product. It has really been amazing to watch the product come to life and how every step of the way matters in bringing the clothing to life. I think the challenges for me have been getting used to the pressure of the fashion world and meeting the deadlines, and fleshing out production and financial issues without stressing out to much and losing the fun and beauty of the creative process.

W- The highlights have been being able to express our creativity and have it resonate with so many families. The challenges have been going through the standard growing pains of any start up. Expanding to meet the demand, working to meet deadlines and still maintain our creative integrity. Many startups don't have an artistic component - so in addition to the nuts and bolts of being a business owner we have to stay connected to our creative vision.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

V-My advice would be to always stay true to your vision and what you believe in. I feel the reason our line has done so well is because we have really stayed true to what we originally envisioned Ice Cream Castles to be and I think not compromising your story you have to tell is important. Success comes when you stay true to your unique way of seeing something and don't ever steer away from that to what someone may think will sell better or what the trend is. Stay clear on what your vision and perspective & expression is. Also never be afraid to take risks. Wells always says the greater the risk the more abundant the reward and she is so right.

W- Just start. There are a lot of moving parts in design and manufacturing. And it can seem daunting in the beginning. It is easy to talk yourself out of moving forward. But once you start things fall into place. Just immerse yourself in your area of interest. Study others in the field , look at and critique web sites , study magazines, blogs, everything in your area of interest. Find unserved markets and offer what they need. Know your strengths and play to them. Attract others who are strong in areas where you are weak. Sometimes it's taking that first step that is the hardest. take it and you are that much closer to your first finish line.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

V-The most important lesson I have learned is to never give up. Always keep going and moving forward; trying to have a positive outlook even in the hardest of days always makes a difference. To always focus on what is good even when everything is wrong. I strongly believe what you put your attention on grows.. so always finding the strength to see the positive is defiantly the greatest lesson I have learned from my work. It helps my personal life too.

W- Be self referral, listen to your own inner voice. Advice from others can be helpful, but at the end of the day you have to decide what to take in. Ask for help, but make the final decision based on your instincts. Maintain a sense of optimism. Don't let negative thinking from yourself or others deter you from pushing towards your dreams.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

V-Being a mother of twin toddlers naturally comes with it's own sets of distinct challenges. To-Do lists are key to maintaining life and work for me. I love to cross things off as my day goes. That, along with time management, is key to maintaining balance in my life and planning in advance. Each night before I go to sleep I map out the next day and I always have more productive days when I prepare for my days the night before. I like to work hard for consistent days so then I have some time to play.

W-I love being a mother it is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.I love being a wife and I love having a career. I give 100% to all of these roles because I truly enjoy them all. When I am with my family I try to be as present as possible so I can enjoy our time together. When I am working I try to be one pointed so I maximize my time on projects. If you give 100% to all aspects of your life, you will have balance. Ideally you get to the point where labels fall away and you are just being you - seeker, citizen , business owner, artist , friend, , mother, wife. There are times when one role demands more attention but they are always all there. If you allow them to support each other you will achieve the perfect balance.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

V- I think now more than ever the issues for woman in the work place is respect. So often women are stereo typed to be the home maker and care taker and that men are the leaders but I was raised in a home with a very strong woman who was driven and always strived to achieve her professional goals and desires. Females are just as powerful and strong as men, if not more, and are capable of achieving so much at once. There needs to be more equality and respect, I feel. After all, the future is female.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

V- I have been fortunate to have quite a few amazing people in my life that have inspired me and still mentor me on the daily. I think it is vital to have someone you respect and look up to to help inspire you along the way. I think it is important to have solid rocks in your life that you can always lean on and one or two people you can go to for support when things are hard. My Mother Diane Estelle Vicari one of my greatest mentors; I feel all my creative drive comes from watching her my whole life design clothing, make films, and still find the time to raise me and be a nurturing, loving mother. Kari Feinstein, is another mentor of mine. She is one of my best friends and my former boss . She has had her own very successful pr company for almost close to 15 years and built an amazing company all on her own; she is a boss lady.. I have learned so much from her both in my personal and professional life and always go to her for advice or her opinion on things. Alice Carter is another mentor of mine. She has been my acting coach for close to 15 years and she has taught me so much about being an artist and the importance of staying true to my vision and dreams. My father Tommy Vicari an award winning sound mixer and true artist in his field has always supported and mentored me and advised me to never give up. Our business partner Vincent Brundo is another amazing mentor on our team, owner of a renowned recording studio in Los Angeles Conway Recording Studio, he is incredible at guiding us with the business. Last but not least my husband Garrett Marshall Barnes; he is a Music Producer/ DJ. He is an amazing mentor to me his support and his positive outlook on the creative process is key to what I do. Without all these people I would be lost. So yes mentors are everything to me and have made a HUGE difference in my life.

W- I have been blessed with a mother who is independent, fearless, and eternally optimistic. She had me during her internship in Internal Medicine. I can't even imagine those long hours and grueling schedule with a newborn. She is a warrior. As a single mother she moved us to a very progressive community when I was 7, where she began practicing Ayurveda as well as traditional medicine. She is a healer. Her life as my example has given me the strength and courage to pursue my dreams.Because of her life I know that anything is possible. When I was 8 years old my mother gave me a picture of a raccoon reaching for an apple on a barren snow covered tree. She explained to me that most would say it was impossible for a tree to bear fruit in the dead of winter. But because the raccoon wanted it with every fiber of its being the apple was there. She is my mentor because she taught me to have hope in hopeless times. And to believe the impossible can open up to a field of all possibilities.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

V- Michelle Obama is one of my idols. Not only is she class act she is smart sophisticated, beautiful, poised and a mother to her beautiful children and appears to be a very loyal wife. I love her vision and perspective and feel she is a vital female leader into todays society. Oprah has also been such an inspiration to me and always is a great go to when in need of inspiration or positive affirmations that you are on the right path. I love Lady Gaga too. Her fierce passion as an artist and drive to achieve is something that has always resonated with me especially “ Born This Way”. I also love that she stands up for what she believes in and helps others in need.

W- I admire artists like Cleo Wade whose messages heal and inspire. Michelle Obama who lead by impeccable example. Gloria Steinem who paved the way, and had the foresight to know that the future is female. And every female CEO, author, wardrobe stylist, recording artist, doctor, lawyer, make up artist, coder, actress, publicist, hair stylist, executive, teacher, student, surgeon, mother, friend, chef, engineer, realtor, event planner, journalist, producer, director, designer paving the way for future generations. Your successes are the templates for our children's futures. Keep pushing, there will be no glass ceilings left if we shatter them all. Every single one.

What do you want Ice Cream Castles to accomplish in the next year?

V-I would like to see Ice Cream Castles continue to grow. I would like to see the line picked up by major department stores. I would also like us to branch off and start designing other things such as home products & accessories. Story Books are another thing I envision for us in the next year. The possibilities are endless.. anything is possible. I truly believe that.

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