Shell Beach-based Naomi Neilson founded Native Trails in 1996, a company based on her passion for age-old artisan tradition, sustainability and fair trade practices. Currently, Native Trails leads the industry in artisan-crafted products for kitchen and bath design and has 1,300 showrooms throughout the United States and Canada. Learn about Naomi Neilson…
Hometown: I was born in Idaho Falls, but moved to San Jose at four years old and stayed there through high school. I’ve been in Shell Beach, Calif., for the last 20 years.
First job: In elementary school, I tutored the boy next door to help with his reading skills. My first legit job at around 13 was with a catering company. I wore a tuxedo shirt and bow tie and served food at fancy events – it was a blast!
Favorite ways to spend your free time in California: I am always seeking adventure, especially in nature. I love backpacking in places like the Sierras or Big Sur or, more frequently, hiking or biking on local trails, always trying to find a new one I haven’t yet explored. Most fulfilling are the journeys which include my kids.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: I am passionate about my contribution, through Native Trails, to the preservation of age-old artisan traditions, while providing often life-changing work for hundreds of families around the world.
Biggest obstacle that you overcame: There have been many, but let’s talk about the financial challenges, which can be seen as both obstacles and opportunities. Starting the company at 22-years-old with no more than a credit card and a little leftover on my student loan, for example, was not easy and often very stressful. However, with low risk during the startup phase, I was able to learn the import/export business along with the complexities of working with artisans in foreign countries. I figured out how to travel and work in less developed countries – and even lesser developed villages within those countries. When I stumbled, there wasn’t enough at stake for it to be a catastrophe, and I believe that contributed greatly to my eventual success.
Someone who inspires you and why: I have the extreme good fortune to say that Tim Blair, my good friend and president of Native Trails, is one of the most inspiring people I know. He is incredibly passionate about making a difference – from his everyday encounters and relationships to global issues. He lives his values every day, and also has an uncanny knack for finding people’s hidden talents. When Tim speaks, smart people listen; his wisdom runs deep and he doesn’t waste words. He shares his deep insights and beautiful perspectives through his poetry, a true gift to the world.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Know it won’t be easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Look for opportunities and learning experiences everywhere, and you will find them.
Favorite quote: “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” –Babs Hoffman
Something that someone would be surprised to learn about you: Most people don’t know the extent of how many risky and outright dangerous situations I’ve found myself in over the years, particularly in the earlier stages of Native Trails. Even I tend to minimize them, in my characteristic way of plowing forward and not dwelling too much on past difficulties, but there are people in my life who make sure I don’t entirely forget.
What makes someone fabulous: Fabulous can be confident, resilient, wise, driven, humble, witty, creative, joyful or confident. Most importantly, fabulous is being YOU, your own authentic self – it lives within every one of us.