Nicole Gibbons always knew she wanted to own her own business.

When she graduated college, she took a job in public relations for Victoria’s Secret and spent a decade climbing the corporate ladder, but always had the idea to start her own company in the back of her mind. So she slowly began her transition into the world of home design.

“I didn’t eat, breathe and sleep fashion,” Gibbons, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I just knew there were other things I was far more passionate about.”

In January of 2013, she left the corporate world to create a lifestyle blog and launch her own interior design firm, where she worked with private clients before she was hired to appear as a design expert on television. For three seasons, she appeared on Home Made Simple on the Oprah Winfrey Network as an interior designer.

“I spent an entire six months pounding the pavement, trying to find representation, trying to find opportunities on camera and this was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Gibbons says. “There is no better stamp of approval than Oprah Winfrey, so to be on her network as my first real TV opportunity was such an honor and then to get to joke that Oprah is my boss was kind of amazing.”

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However, in 2016, Gibbons still felt that something was missing, and she had a “lightbulb moment,” which sparked her next transition into the world of paint.

“I’ve always been this all-around hustler who makes things happen,” says Gibbons, 37. “I just hit the ground running.”

In 2017, she decided to fully commit herself to founding her startup, Clare, a direct-to-consumer paint company that is modeled after companies like Warby Parker and Casper, and was designed to disrupt the current retail market for paint.

“Shopping for paint totally sucks,” Gibbons says. “Going to the store, you’re staring up at a wall of thousands of colors and you’ve got to narrow those thousands of colors down to one. I really wanted to solve that problem for people and try to make paint shopping easier.”

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In July, after Gibbons raised $2 million in venture capital, Clare’s online shopping model went live, offering unique services like a color-match quiz based on your style, and peel-and-stick swatches to save you from having to paint directly on your wall to figure out if you like a color.

The company’s name, rooted from the Latin word “Claris,” meaning “clear, bright and brilliant,” was meant to have a more feminine sound.

“I felt like there was a lot of fun wordplay there—both brilliant in terms of being innovative as a company, but also in terms of color,” Gibbons says. “Another thing that was important to me when naming the company was I wanted it to sound like the polar opposite of what you’re used to hearing in the paint market, which are usually these hyper-masculine sounding names.”

Although Gibbons is the first to admit that “starting a company from the ground up is definitely not for the faint of heart,” she says she wouldn’t change a thing about her journey.

In fact, she has some advice for her younger self (and other women who are considering a career change) to be more assertive when it comes to their dreams.

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“When I was in my twenties, I was at a place where I didn’t always stand up for myself when it mattered,” Gibbons says. “As I’ve grown into my 30s I’m definitely a more confident, self-assured woman. I would have told myself back then to hold your head high, be sure of who you are and never let anybody knock your confidence down.”

For more on Nicole Gibbons and other women who reinvented themselves, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now. 

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