Natalie ‘Eva Marie’ Coyle on the building of a global brand
Natalie “Eva Marie” Coyle’s hair, an electric shade of purple, serves as a handy beacon as she leads a speedy tour of her company, NEM Fashion, in Santa Ana. It would be hard to mistake the former pro wrestler for a shrinking violet.
Coyle is as competitive as she is impatient as she aims to build a global brand via multiple channels under NEM Fashion, which she oversees as chief executive, along with husband Jonathan Coyle, chief financial officer, and the company’s third owner and cofounder Janet Tran, who is chief operating officer.
Natalie, who previously starred on E’s reality show “Total Divas” before her exit last year from World Wrestling Entertainment, is now focused on building the business, which started off less than two years ago in her and Jonathan’s apartment and currently counts a full-time staff of three.
“My whole thing is global domination for sure and just getting the brand everywhere,” she said. “[The wholesale deal with] Nordstrom is our first peg and then from there, hopefully, we just continue to grow.”
NEM originally began with apparel and after about two months launched sunglasses, which turned out to be the runaway hit. Today, NEM shades — of which there are 32 styles, priced from $65 to $90 — are what landed NEM’s first wholesale deal with nordstrom.com. The partnership is a bit of a full-circle story for Natalie, who 17 years ago participated in a program for high school students with Nordstrom in the Bay Area where she learned the basics of working in retail.
“Looking back, it was a really cool program, but there was no way that I thought I would then have product that would be going in their stores,” she said.
NEM Fashion, although the Coyles declined to cite specific figures, is currently tracking positive with the business turning profitable 24 hours after launching the NEM web site, and selling out after 48 hours, according to Jonathan. That beat initial estimates that it would take at least a few months to sell through inventories. Sales are growing at a rate of about 500 percent annually, with the projection this calendar year expected to surpass last year’s performance. The company’s strongest markets within the U.S. are California, New York, New Jersey and Texas, with international growth coming from the U.K., Canada and Australia.
This isn’t a story of an influencer or celebrity simply lending her name and face to product. The couple is fully vested in the business and didn’t begin taking a salary until this past November. Natalie does all of the social media marketing, which is what the business has been reliant on to date to continue building off of her existing WWE fan base. The founders provided the startup capital for NEM and it is their full-time job — perhaps more than full-time, much to the chagrin of Jonathan, who will sometimes remind his wife past 10 p.m. that it’s now time to cap the shop talk.
The plan is to continue growing the wholesale channel and there are talks with a China-based group on another potential distribution deal. There’s also a collaboration with another influencer coming out later this year.
As for the apparel, which did not take off in the same way as the sunglasses, there’s a new plan to do limited edition drops of pieces that would coincide with the sunglass designs.
“Anybody can wear them,” Natalie said of the sunglasses. “You don’t have to be a specific size. With an online boutique, you’re not able to try on the clothes. There’s so many competitors out there and there is with eyewear too, but you can’t have too many sunglasses.”
“Right now, sunglasses are about 90 percent of our sales,” Jonathan said. “They’re more accessible. A lot of men are buying them as well. With clothing, it’s just a little bit different.”
NEM also has a fledgling beauty category with eyelashes launched nine months ago. There are currently six styles — $15 for sleeves and $25 for a compact — which Natalie Coyle also sees the potential in growing, fresh off an appearance at Beautycon in July.
And there is still yet another business, focused on fitness, that launched less than six months ago which is also doing well and is profitable because there’s no inventory. It’s digital e-books offering meal plans and workout tips.
The Coyles, who initially met on Instagram and then bonded over their love for fitness, both come from business backgrounds that are powering NEM’s strategy. Natalie majored in business management, while Jonathan, who previously worked at video game maker Blizzard Entertainment Inc., has a master’s in business administration.
“I think always in the back of my head I just have a business mind,” Natalie said. “That’s what I went to school for, so even starting in WWE it was always ‘OK, how are we going to leverage this and get into a business,’ because being in WWE was amazing in the sense of building a fan base and being on ‘Total Divas.’ Without that, this wouldn’t exist. But from day one I’ve always had that business mind-set of wanting to grow an empire and that’s hopefully what we’re doing here.”