It’s that time again – Motivation Monday! This week, GLB had the distinct pleasure of picking the brain of Nicki Zevola, founder and editor-in-chief of the wildly popular blog FutureDerm.com and has been featured in media like Fitness magazine and The New York Times. She is a student in the prestigious University of Pittsburgh combined BS/MD program and is also launching her own beauty company. Read on to get tips for being a successful student, blogger, and entrepreneur from the amazing woman behind Future Derm!
GLB: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
NZ: I’m extremely ambitious and hardworking, but I’m also very sensitive and soft-hearted, with a witty mischievious streak. I’m a blend of modern/progressive/fast-paced at work and traditional/loving/caring at home, again with that humor thrown in everywhere. I’m firmly rooted with my spiritual beliefs.
GLB: Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine? What drew you to the specialty of dermatology?
NZ: To be completely honest, I never considered anything else until last year, when I started my business. I started thinking I wanted to be a doctor when I was 3 years old, and I stuck to it!
GLB: What’s the greatest opportunity that you’ve gotten so far as a result of the success of your blog FutureDerm.com? Did you think that it would grow to be so popular (Top 30 Beauty Blog by Konector.com!)?
NZ: I’ve been blessed with a lot of amazing opportunities at FutureDerm.com. I would say that the best opportunity so far was getting accepted at Alpha Lab, a business incubator/accelerator system in Pittsburgh. It’s been named one of the 15 best incubators in the country, and it’s right in my hometown, which made it absolutely amazing for me. We’re currently developing our own innovative product, building an interactive store, and trying to develop a greater sense of community with a forum on our site this summer.
GLB: You’ve taken some time off of medical school to focus on launching your skin care business. What made you decide to take such a huge leap?
NZ: I had a series of awful experiences occur between 2008 and early 2010. It was the worst 18 months ever – my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I got mono, then I needed emergency surgery, then I had a car accident. It was just one trauma after another, every 2-3 months. Eventually, I started to study how to live my life – something was wrong. I have a firm set of morals, but I started to base my life on what I wanted to do, not what I felt I “should” do, so long as it was not outside my moral base. That opened so many doors for me – new career that was a much better fit, new surroundings that opened my eyes and made me wonder how I could have ever enjoyed sleeping in when there were so many amazing people to meet and so many fun things to do with your life. Just really amazing.
GLB: Besides the typical checklist (good grades, high MCAT score, volunteering, shadowing, research), what would you suggest pre-med students do to set themselves apart and get into medical school?
NZ: Study at least 3 hours everyday. Even if you just finished an exam. I did this my last two years of college with 18-21 credits, I never fell behind, and I had four 4.0’s. People think you’re a bit crazy studying the Sunday after an exam, but they’re impressed when you’re six hours of studying ahead come Monday (and already have the homework done). I would also say to get as much experience as you can – work in a laboratory, write up case studies for a physician (or two or three!), and never give up. Medicine is tough to get into, but it’s nowhere near as challenging as it is once you’re in.
GLB: What do you read for inspiration? Who inspires you?
NZ: Jim Rohn, Napoleon Hill, Darren Hardy, Martha Beck, Oprah Winfrey, Maureen Kelly (CEO of tarte Cosmetics who was a PhD student when she started her company).
GLB: What’s the best/worst part of what you do? What do you do when you’re not working?
NZ: The best part of what I do is there is absolutely no line between work and play for me. If I could do what I wanted to do all day, I’d write, read, learn new things, create new things, browse stores, take the occasional beautiful photograph, draw a little. And that’s exactly what I do with FutureDerm – I’m always writing, reading, thinking, shopping, taking photos. It’s a ton of fun. The only things I like to do that aren’t a part of my business are running and spending time with my family, boyfriend, friends, and puppies!
Probably the worst part of what I do is there is absolutely no line between work and play, lol. I really don’t want to ever stop! But I do in order to maintain my relationships with family, friends, and my boyfriend.
GLB: Do you ever find it hard to juggle everything you’re involved in? How do you stay focused and motivated?
NZ: This is a little embarrassing, but I have dream boards and journals. Whenever I need inspiration, I find an article that says “Such-and-such company sold for so-and-so million dollars”, take a screenshot, Photoshop “FutureDerm, Inc.” over the company name, and stare at it. Visualization does a lot. I can’t look at that without wanting to jump up and get started again.
GLB: What advice can you give to future medical students, business owners, and/or bloggers?
NZ: If you’re in medicine, make sure that you’re in it for the right reasons. Be prepared to work below minimum wage for almost a decade between medical school and residency. Also be prepared for costs – boards are now $500 for Step 1 and $1500 for both parts of Step 2. Between that and review books and courses, it can be difficult to make ends meet. It may be wise to take a job first as a scientist or consultant, depending on your undergraduate credentials, and save up as much money as possible before starting medical school, even if you are lucky enough to have a scholarship. Most of all, make sure that medicine is what you love to do. If you were paid next to nothing doing medicine for the rest of your life, and if your parents and peers thought medicine was a loser job, would you still do it? That’s the real question.
GLB: What’s next for Nicki Zevola? Where do you see your brand in 5, 10, 20 years?
NZ: Right now, I’m all about getting out our product, our store, and our forum. Seeing where each goes. What is well-received wlll be built upon many times over. And what is not well-received will be revised again and again until we get it right. After you’re out of school, I’m a huge fan of the idea that you should build on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. Both as an individual and as a business, I live by that motto. We’re going to be developing real relationships with our readers, because we care. We’re going to be providing products and services that fill real gaps in the market and create value. And, ultimately, I hope to be very successful, sell the company, become a venture capitalist and professor, and help many thousands of people do the same through books and seminars and investments.
GLB: What beauty and fashion items can you not live without?
NZ: Skinceuticals CE Frulic, Valentino purse
GLB: Where’s your favorite place on Earth?
NZ: New York City or Waikiki – I can’t choose!