With a degree in Design and an MBA in Marketing, Karine Nelly is the head and the heart of Nelly Designers. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the CEO and Creative Director conceived the company in 2015 with two friends from the university, with the objective of creating great designs. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a doctor and discovering the cure for cancer to save her grandmother. After losing her grandma to the disease, she started to dream about becoming a lawyer, as she was always good and enjoyed defending people and arguing about everything.
Daughter of a photography studio owners, at the age of 14 she was sent to São Paulo to learn how to operate an instant digital photo printing machine, a recent acquisition of her parents’ studio, in order to then teach their employees how to use it. When the training was over and she returned home, one of her parents suggested that she started to work at the family business, while the other didn’t agree with it as she was still in high school and, in their opinion, wasn’t able to successfully combine work and study at such a young age. Seeing this as a challenge, Karine started to work at her parents studio and fell in love with the job, especially so with the creative side of the business.
Taking in consideration her newly found love, she started to look for a profession that involved creativity and learned about graphic design. That is when she discovered her passion and future career, and her certainty about it being the way at such a young age showed that she was destined to succeed as a designer. In certain ways, she always felt like her career as a designer was creatively connected to her family business, which gives her the sensation of keeping her parents’ lifework going. In her professional path, she had two internships that she considers to be marbles in her life.
At the Communication Department of the City Hall of Serra, a city located in the state of Espírito Santo near the Capital of the state, where she was studying, she was constantly challenged and learned how to stand for her work, which gave her self-confidence in her projects. While at YFU, she had a chance to go to the Netherlands on her first international work trip to a marketing workshop, which she describes as “an amazing experience as the only person representing [her] country.” She wents on to say, “I had the opportunity to know people from all over the world and make a connection with the global brand team of the organization.” Upon returning from her trip, she subscribed to be a part of the Global Brand Team, only to find out that was actually the intention of the International Secretariat when they invited her to go to the Netherlands. She became a Design Intern, a position that she held for one year (twice longer a time than the internships at the time used to take).
As a female professional, Karine says that the more confident she feels as a designer, the more confident she becomes as a woman, and the more powerful and courageous she grows in her professional life. Having happened to be working, ever since her graduation, in teams led by strong women, Karine said she never had to face prejudice against women in her workplaces that she describes as great companies that value their female employees. Even so, she claims to have had an uncomfortable moment with an American client who once mentioned his times in Brazil as a teenager, and, talking about Brazilian women, commented that all young men should have an experience such as the one he did. What to her felt like an insinuation of the stereotype men around the world have about Brazilian women, which is them being “easy” to get, is an offensive and uncomfortable situation that she, unfortunately, couldn’t do anything about, as it took place during a business meeting.
Because of that and many other experiences, Nelly thinks that being a woman today “is to have to sometimes swallow the cry, raise our heads and keep fighting.” Commenting on the subject of the equality of rights and opportunities between women and men, she says that we still have a lot to improve and conquer. “When a woman works, cleans the house, cooks and take care of the children, she is treated as if she hasn’t done more than just her duty or obligation. If a man does the same thing, he is considered a “great man,” an example, and so on. I don’t wanna take away the merit of the men who also take on several roles, but I believe that both men and women should be given the same recognition.”
An example to all of her female employees at Nelly Designers, me included, Karine Nelly is a strong, geek woman who has dared to dream since a young age. As the author of this article, a personal friend of hers since the time we were 10 years old, and someone who watched closely her growing as a woman and a professional, I can say that Karine is an inspiration as someone who never let a man or anyone else tell her that she was not capable of something. She is a woman who fought for and keeps on pursuing her dreams. She is a woman who I am, and has always been, encouraged and motivated by.