Nancy Youssef is the founder of Curves With Purpose, an online plus-size clothing store. Nancy is also a professor at Belmont University and an executive for Soles4Souls.
Walking into Nancy’s South Nashville home is a treat for any designer, diy guru or the person who loves a good aesthetic. It was also literally blocks from my grandparents old home so to say my nostalgia was heightened, would be an understatement. Her decor gives you a mix of rustic meets modern with a throwback to her Egyptian roots sprinkled throughout with essential oils filling the air. Including Egyptian rugs that are thoughtfully placed throughout and are gorgeous. Her home is almost as delightful as her calming spirit, almost. See, Nancy Youssef is one of those humble powerhouses with experience that spans years and continents. From handling footwear retail deals in Asia to starting a successful fashion startup for the modern day woman right here in Nashville. We sat down to discuss purpose and a whole new footwear journey she was beginning. Plus, I learned that her home was selected for the Belmont Historic Homes Tour just days after she moved in!
What brought you to Nashville?
I came to Nashville because I was recruited by a company in town called Genesco (parent company of Journeys), a huge billion-dollar, multi traded retail company. I was selected to start and run their international operations. It was an amazing ride. Honestly, at first when the company told me I was moving to Nashville for the position, I asked myself “where even is Nashville?” I’ve lived all over the world and could not tell you a single thing about Nashville! However, I remember when Genesco flew me in to explore the city. When I flew back to Florida, I told my husband about how cool the city was and how genuinely nice everyone was in the city. I came here first. My husband and kids followed. Then, we all fell in love with the city.
Do you feel like your international exposure was a big part of leading you into your fashion startup Curves With Purpose?
Absolutely. Actually, when I was in design school, my final project was a plus-sized women’s clothing line. Now picture this: I’m in Milan, Italy, home to some of the skinniest people ever, and they’re looking at me and going “that’s not even commercial.” I’m Egyptian and most of the women in my family are bigger because that’s what’s attractive in our country. I used to go into these clothing stores with them when I was younger and they’d always pull out these big, floral, shapeless dresses. As a child and teenager, I’m thinking, “this is ridiculous.” So I created this line as a final project and it turned out awesome. It was submitted for an end of the year design award and was showcased as a winning design. It was great, but I shelved the idea to pursue a career in the corporate world.
I was starting to feel a little burned out after many years and wasn’t sure if I was doing anything meaningful enough. So, I ventured out on my own.
However, I was starting to feel a little burned out after many years and wasn’t sure if I was doing anything meaningful enough. So, I ventured out on my own. I knew I had a ton of support throughout my career and was blessed to have seen so much. I felt like it was time to give back. My plan was to take a year off to regroup, but I was antsy to do something after two weeks, lol. So, I pulled out my old design books and started researching. I had a few students from Belmont help me and found out that plus-size clothing is a 67 billion dollar industry. I saw an opportunity and knew that whatever I built would have to be something that gives back. From that, Curves With Purpose was born.
Do you think you could’ve started Curves with Purpose anywhere else?
Honestly, no. I feel like everything was timed perfectly. I had the right kind of people and the right kind of support here. I definitely think everything worked out as it should have. I had only seen the city from the corporate side and didn’t work a lot with women. Throughout my career, I was one of 5 women in international business. However, in Nashville, there was suddenly this group of men and women carrying me along the way. They offered their help without expecting anything back. It was truly powerful. Even with the growth of Nashville, the city stays true to its core of giving to others.
Can you share a little of your Nashville?
Nashville has undiscovered pockets. Once I took my corporate glasses off, it was amazing to see just how much there is to discover in the city. Ever since I came to Nashville, I’ve been super involved with the immigrant and refugee groups here because that’s fundamental to my core. Minority communities have always been involved in my life, but not like the way they are now. It’s been incredible to see these groups of people rallying together to become a force. When I entered this entrepreneurial space, it was amazing to see how dynamic it was. I saw all types of people, young, old, men, women, and there is so much creativity. People always say this is a creative town, but there is just so much creativity here that goes untouched and unexplored by those who aren’t actually here. It’s incredible to be a part of it and it’s so inspiring. I used to feel like I had to go to these crazy places like Paris to find that creativity, but I don’t feel like that here. I can go to North Nashville or Broadway or wherever and feel a different vibe.
You recently entered a new role with Soles4Souls. Can you talk a little more about Soles4Souls?
Soles4Souls is near and dear to me. I’ve been on the organization’s board for 5 years and served as chair this past year. Now, I’ve been promoted to Head of Corporate Development. Soles4Souls gives away shoes and clothes to people in need. I was so happy to be a part because we have been able to create opportunities for women in addition to giving away clothes. Some of our women store partners around the world have been able to build homes, bring water into their village, pay for medical bills, or pay for school through our program. Of all the jobs I’ve had, this group of people are truly passionate about their work and it’s incredible.
How do you balance your work between Curves With Purpose and Soles4Souls?
Curves With Purpose is interesting because everything is online with a few pop up shops here and there. It was very chaotic at the beginning but now I’m in a groove with it. Soles4Souls is great because it’s super flexible. I don’t have to go into a physical office everyday. Also, they both kind of fit together, so it’s easy to switch gears between both. In this new economy where you can have multiple jobs, I love it. Also the two keep me energized because I’m not doing the same things everyday.
You’re a mom, wife, business owner, professor and more. What would you say to others who are wondering if they should go after their dream while trying to balance life responsibilities?
You have to pick and choose your battles and accept that you won’t be perfect every single day. That was hard for me to realize because I’m a super Type A personality. It took me a minute to adjust to the fact that maybe I wouldn’t be around for every single moment at home because I was traveling for work. If you speak to my kids now, they don’t even remember what I didn’t come to, but they remember the things that I did go to and do for them. You can do it all, but you can’t do it all everyday.
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