After losing her internship last March due to the pandemic, Nicole Martin wanted to find another way to occupy her summer before senior year.
She noticed people posting about roller skating on social media during quarantine. Having roller skated for most of her life, and being the president of ASU’s roller derby team, Martin soon founded One Stop Skates Shop. The shop sells roller skating necessities and accessories, such as toe-guard caps, skate laces and charms.
“Whenever I would look for toe-guards, they were all either really ugly or just super expensive,” said Martin, a senior studying chemical engineering. “I’m a college student, I can’t afford some of the crazy, high-end, leather toe guards, but I also want something nicer than just a plain black, boxy-looking toe guard.”
With no previous experience in roller skating accessory design, Martin tested her earliest products on her own pair of roller skates until she found the perfect shape and size.
“It just kept going from there,” Martin said. “It started gaining traction and I started changing things to make them thicker and more durable.”
As a full-time student, Martin has juggled both a full-time workload and class schedule — and successfully expanded her business to shops in California and Australia, making about 10,000 sales just ten months after she started.
Though her business has been successful in its first year of operation, Martin said continuing production during the fall semester was a challenge, as she finished the final requirements of her degree and managed the fast-growing small business.
Managing it all was "mentally very challenging because I was stuck at this desk 20 hours a day," she said.
"I have zero experience in business so I didn't even know this was a possibility," Martin said. "But when the first person reached out to me to wholesale my items, I was like, 'Wait, I can do that?'"
To help with the rapid growth of her business, Martin enlisted the help of her longtime friend, Jacquelynn Sherry, with whom she had always dreamed of owning a business alongside.
Though living on opposite sides of the country, Sherry (who lives on the east coast) and Martin work together to produce social media posts, respond to direct messages and plan new products over FaceTime calls.
"The excitement is just exuding from (Martin's) body that I can feel it through FaceTime,” Sherry said.
Because of COVID-19, Sherry spends most of her time at home with family to avoid the risk of infection. Staying home has become monotonous, Sherry said. But with the business, she said she found a new and exciting occupation with Martin.
Thanks to their close relationship, Martin and Sherry maintain full creative control over the brand, with Sherry managing the business aspects and Martin working on product designs and aesthetics. The pair have operated fully independently.
“She’s like my sticky note,” Martin said. “Whenever I forget to do something, she’s always there to remind me to do it. Thank goodness, because without her I would have forgotten a million things by now.”
Martin dedicated her summer to working on products and shipping orders. When production became too overwhelming, she posted to a Reddit board for Chandler, Arizona asking if there were any seamstresses in the area who may be interested in joining the production team of her business.
Olivia Barron replied to her post, and has since been assisting Martin in handcrafting each toe guard design.
“I’m all about high quality and I’m a little bit of a perfectionist so I really like to make sure that (the products) are done well,” said Barron, who is now the brand's crafter. “I just really like being able to work for a company that really values quality. I have worked for places in the past that really encourage you to cut corners to save time and I just hate that.”
In addition to expanding her staff, Martin began donating a portion of company proceeds to Ecologi, a charity that plants trees with each new purchase. Since partnering with the charity up until Jan. 24, One Stop Skates Shop has planted 736 trees, following their values of sustainability, equality and inclusivity.
“Just by planting a single tree, we are having a good impact,” Martin said.
Martin also began reaching out to individuals within the roller skating community to become brand ambassadors and promote products on social media. Her newest ambassador, Maddie Mills, a senior in high school, joined the team in December.
“It was right before Christmas and I was like ‘I don’t need anything else this year,'" Mills said. "That was all I needed. I was just so excited, and I loved the brand before so it just made me love it more.”
Despite the struggles, Martin is grateful for all she experienced in the early stages of her business.
“I feel like I learned so much in my ability to take on challenges,” Martin said. “I love what I do. I love running the shop. It’s my passion, my career. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do … It was challenging, but I’m so grateful."
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