Meet A New Girl: Mandi

 

"Meet A New Girl" is an interview series about real women making a life for themselves in New York City. 


The New Girl:

Mandi Nyambi

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Editor’s Note: The Backstory

Last summer, I attended The Wing’s first summer camp. On the verge of quitting my job, I was in desperate need of a weekend away and decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and adventure there solo. As we boarded the buses up to the Adirondacks, I felt like a little kid again—equal parts excited and also anxious that I didn’t have a “bus buddy” by my side.

As the vehicle filled up, those of us using our luggage as a makeshift seat mate were asked to shuffle our belongings and make room for more campers. One woman nicely asked me if my seat was taken and introduced herself as Mandi.

Now, I’m normally not particularly talkative with new people (AKA worst nightmare is a chatty neighbor on a plane), but Mandi and I had a six hour trip ahead and the luxury of time to actually get to know one another. I explained my current predicament—fear of taking the leap into self-employment, general burnout, and creative paralysis—and Mandi provided calming and encouraging advice, as she had actually made a similar transition a few months prior. After a job at a software tech company, Mandi had recently co-founded and become the CEO of skincare startup Le CultureClub and was in the midst of writing her first book (PSA - Fresh Face hits shelves this fall!)

Mandi is one to watch in the beauty + tech industry, and I feel lucky that a chance bus encounter allowed us to become friends. A few months later, I spent the morning with her in her inviting Brooklyn brownstone and adventured around her local haunts for this interview. I hope you enjoy a look into the day in the life of this NYC entrepreneur.

-M


More About Mandi

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Where are you originally from? 

I was born in Antwerp Belgium, but was raised in Westchester, New York from the age of 4.

How long have you been living in NYC?

3.5 years now

Current neighborhood?

Fort Greene, Brooklyn

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What pays the rent?

I own my own skincare and wellness business. Le CultureClub is a community of skin nerds who believe in understanding their skin in order to find the right products for them. We create tools to match people to the right skincare products to reach their skin goals. I also wrote a book last year which allowed me to pay my bills before I was able to pay myself through my business. The book is called Fresh Face and it comes out this year from the publisher Chronicle Books. It's all about daily routines for taking care of your skin. Think of it as the skincare survival guide.


Describe your current living situation:

I live with my boyfriend in a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a brownstone, which means we also have outdoor space in the way of a patio.

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What were your early days in New York City like?

The day I stepped into my first apartment, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of homesickness—which was strange.
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I'd already spent 4 years away at college in Boston, during which time I lived in Paris for a few months. So, I was no stranger to living away from my parents. The feeling was even stranger because I wasn't craving the blue house on the hill I grew up in, or any place in particular. I was missing a sense of belonging. That's the very feeling that led me to make so many of the choices I have made in the last 3.5 years. I was keen on building my own community, assembling a chosen family, and making a space feel like my home.

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How did you find your first apartment?

I lived in a 4th floor walk-up on the Upper West Side. I was getting my master’s degree at Columbia and lived with two other students. The summer before we moved in, we hired a broker, because each of us was moving to the city for the first time. We loved our place—it had 3 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and a full kitchen. It cost about $3,400 between all of us, and it was perfect. A few months in, the girls and I rescued a cat who we named Poseidon. Honestly, it was the best way to kick off my time in the city.

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What is a typical weekday like for you?

This is New York, there is no typical day! (obligatory)

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7-7:30am: Yell at Alexa to snooze and reset my wake-up alarm.

8am: Head to the gym for a workout or therapy (depends on the day). Chelsea Piers Fitness in Downtown Brooklyn is the only place that’s actually got me regularly exercising since the 11th grade. Anybody else miss state-mandated ballroom dancing PE classes?

9:30am: Grab a second breakfast or snack.

10am: I’m at the office ready to work! Although a couple days a week I try to meet with someone new for breakfast or coffee. This city is filled with interesting people from other female founders, to old friends from college.

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12pm: Midday check in with the team. We do our stand-ups at high noon, when everyone has had the chance to settle into their morning and are plugging away at their daily priorities. Then it’s time for some food. I work hard to bring my lunch every day.

3:30pm: Daily constitutional, as our editor Amelia calls it. Around this time, the afternoon slump is creeping in and it’s energizing to take a walk around DUMBO, Brooklyn. I’m not big on coffee during the day, keeping my consumption to at most one cup a day. So, I’ll head out for a chocolate chip cookie, my reward for checking things off my to-do list. Lately with the cold setting in I’ll take a break and read an article or one of the many books I’m working my way through.

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6pm: technically business hours end, but we often find ourselves chit-chatting about whatever craziness is happening on the internet.

7:30pm Pottery class! I started taking a pottery class this year at a beautiful community focused spaced called Artshack in Bed-Stuy. Proceeds from the adult or paid classes go towards a scholarship fund to teach kids how to make incredible ceramics. It’s so nice, after a day behind a computer screen, to get my hands dirty and work the other side of my brain.


This is a pretty mundane day. On other days I make elaborate waffle breakfasts for myself before work. Or we’ll have a full day video shoot for our product. Meeting riddled days can have me on the phone with our accountant, grabbing coffee with a potential investor, or stopping by the lab of one of our favorite formulation scientists.

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What would your perfect weekend Entail?

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First of all, no alarms! I don’t set an alarm on the weekends. It’s my way of making up for the weekday morning jolt I get from Alexa. My boyfriend and I usually make our way to brunch on the weekends, hitting up Fort Greene’s fine eateries like Evelina (they have the world’s best scones and bellinis), Smooch Cafe for a Vietnamese iced coffee, or Olea—the mediterranean gem that always has a wait.

On Sundays I like to head into the city. First to a museum and then to get a facial at Rescue Spa. My boyfriend and I joined the Whitney Museum as members so if I’m feeling fancy I’ll grab a Sunday paper and eat brunch at their restaurant, Untitled. Then, I’ll head in to see the latest exhibit.


Mandi’s Favorites

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Your go-to local spot:

Colonia Verde for dinner or Smooch for a midday drink and snack.

Favorite season in the city

Spring

Cook or seamless?

Cook

Uber, yellow cab, walk or subway?

Subway

What's one thing still on your "NYC" bucket list?

The only thing left on the list is to buy a home here.

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How do you combat the stress of the city?

I make sure to wear comfortable shoes

Gosh, I don't know that I do a stellar job of it. A lot of my energy has been put towards making my home my sanctuary. And I have set my life up such that most of what I do happens in my neighborhood, which is an extension of my sanctuary. But when I do venture out into Manhattan or something like that, I make sure to wear comfortable shoes. That's probably my biggest pain point—it's having to walk so much, take the subway and have feet that are killing me. Which means, I'm a bit of a sneaker head. I have a ton and the collection keeps growing. I'd love to think that I’m the kind of woman who can wear high heeled boots everyday, but I just love the liberating feeling of putting on my favorite pair of kicks and heading out the door.

I actually love the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and soak it up when I'm there. From the subway artists to the kids running through the parks, it really exhilarates me. It's that very surge or spirit that let me know as a kid that I had to make New York City my home one day.

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What still makes you feel like a "new kid"?

When someone asks me for restaurant recommendations. I'm like—I have no clue. So many times I forget the places I've eaten at, or I'll realize that a cool place recently closed down. There's so much new here all the time, that I feel like I can continue to rediscover this city every week. And when I ask for recommendations for anything, I realize there so much out there I haven't seen. It makes me feel like there are endless possibilities here.

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Biggest adjustment?

I grew up in the suburbs of the city and my dad was a professor at NYU so I was pretty intimately familiar with what a big city is like, but it's another thing to live in it. Making connections in my neighborhood has been the biggest challenge. For one thing, I've moved every year (except this year, just signed a 2 year lease renewal). In a small town everyone knows you or your family. My friends’ parents worked at the local stores and restaurants, my church members taught in the schools, so everything was very intermingled. But in New York, you have to work hard to build your community. I've made it a priority to befriend the baristas, join a church and shoot the shit with Charlie who manages the tennis courts in Fort Greene park.


What makes NYC special to you?

I’ve used this place as a canvas for figuring out who I am and who I want to be.
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We have history. But more importantly, it's where I got my adult sea legs. I've made so many mistakes here and fallen into so many incredible opportunities. I've used this place as a canvas for figuring out who I am and who I want to be. It makes me feel like I can be anything or do anything. I can be a doctor, a ceramicist, an entrepreneur, a karaoke champion, a backstage hand at the Opera, a sous-chef, a janitor, a task rabbit who donates your clothes for you at Beacon's closet. Seriously, I can do anything.


How did you take the leap to move?

I always knew I wanted to live here as an adult. Honestly, it's where I want to make my life. If you're thinking about moving to the big apple pick a neighborhood and obsess over it. Don't just go for the trendy ones (you don't have to live where Carrie Bradshaw did) but get on Google Maps to survey the shops and bars and random outlets to find the right combination for you. It's how you begin to find roots. If you need easy access to Dominican food and a subway station, that's a very different neighborhood from midnight dumplings and a tarot card reader.

Don’t try to fit what you think is the idea of New York, but rather, make it your own, make it mold to your needs.
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Thanks for sharing your story, Mandi! Follow her adventures on Instagram and see the latest updates from her company, Le CultureClub.

Make sure to also check out Gina’s feature—a Brooklyn-based artist living out her creative dreams in NYC. And if you know a new girl who'd like to be featured, I'd love to hear from you.

-M


Shop Mandi’s Looks

 

Outfit #1: Striped blouse -thrifted (similar), Jeans - Madewell, Socks - Tictail, Pearl Heels - Tory Burch

 

Outfit #2: Peacoat - Harris Wharf London, Black sweater - Everlane, Black jeans - Everlane, Red boots - Kenneth Cole, Earrings - Lizzie Fortunato


"Meet A New Girl" is an interview series about real women making a life for themselves in New York City.