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20 Questions with Nita Nickell

Feb. 3, 2015

Name: Nita Nickell
Position/Institution: Assistant Director, University of Oregon
Number of years in your position:  19
Alma Mater(s): Lane Community College, (Science)
Hometown:  Springfield, OR

1) Why did you become involved in ICLA?
When I took this job, I knew nothing about licensing and felt ICLA (then ALCA) was a good source to learn. I was so right!

2) What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
The networking opportunities are great but most importantly ICLA is the best resource available to learn and grow in collegiate licensing. I believe it would be very tough to gain a good base entering into this field without being part of ICLA. After 19 years, I feel like ICLA is a little part of my life history, a family feeling.  (No tears please)

3) What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment?
Learning how to please so many personalities, the rules that seem to change with new administration and performing your job with a smile no matter what. The best part is being involved in a dynamic, energetic, knowledgeable environment that has changed my life.

4) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
Building a Spirit Tee Program (with help), starting a Staff Apparel Program, building a Merchandising Program and knowing that I've impacted many people on my campus in a positive way.

5) What is the most important skill you have developed in your career?
Learning to relax in large groups. That's personally. But, in my career, I believe it's learning so many aspects in a career I knew absolutely nothing about; I have grown to love it. Stretching my comfort zone, making me realize you can continue to learn no matter what your age or background. (I was a Respiratory Therapist before coming here)

6) Who has been the most influential person in your career?
Matt Dyste, my director. He took a chance, hired me and we've worked well together (most days). ICLA would be my second "person(s) of influence." Invaluable!

7) What is one item you cannot live without?
Smart phone (probably could but wouldn't like it).
Personal: my family.

8) Who would you chose to switch places with for a day?
Career: Some who is much smarter than I and had a great speaking voice.
Personal: Someone who had a large horse ranch, a caretaker and the money to support it. I guess that could be many people in Hollywood.  Although, the `side effects' wouldn't be worth it.

9) What is your favorite sporting that event you have ever attended?
BCS National Championship (hoping for another trip)

10) Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
I didn't plan it at all. It was a blessing from God. I decided to change jobs from Respiratory Therapy, saw this job posted, applied and got it. 

 In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?
Not just one: Jason Galaska, Linda Gilbert and Fernando Morales (all for different reasons)

12) How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career?
Without having ICLA to ask question of, to hear questions from members, and learn so much at our conferences and meetings, it would have been very difficult to be successful and I doubt I would have grown as much. You can learn about things on paper but talking with those who have experienced issues; good and bad, and willing to share their life experience have influenced my career.

13) What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?
I've worked with people from all walks of life throughout my life and that's always beneficial for any career. Being willing to do something outside the box to build the program or brand is essential. As a Respiratory Therapist, I worked/helped people of all ages in some very difficult situations and that makes you realize how fragile life is and how lucky you are to enjoy it. I believe that any career needs genuine enthusiasm and determination to make it work, to earn your pay and bring new ideas to the table.

14) What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
Deadlines and having patience to wait. Remembering they have deadlines as well.

15) Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it? 
Merchandising Program: we had the idea of expanding our brand as far and wide in our state as possible.  With limited staff and resources, I began by making large purchases of UO product and talking with retailers through trade show visits and phone calls; any opportunity I could find to let them know I would be able to put a small assortment of UO product into their stores with small minimums, wholesale prices and provide timely service. I found that many of the small stores never had the opportunity to add UO product since sales reps didn't visit their stores.  Either the reps couldn't cover the territory or didn't feel it was worth their time for small orders.  Retailers were receptive, I knew the product, provided it, it sold and then many of our licensees began providing UO merchandise to those retailers with minimums the buyer could handle.  Most of my accounts have been "absorbed" by licensees and we now just collect royalties on the sale. My main focus now is to assist my campus in procurement of a wide variety of product and provide `staff apparel' to them. I meet with campus department throughout the year, providing product ideas, pricing and most time placing orders and distributing product to them. I still work with some retailers but I feel we've accomplished our goal and it makes sense to step back and collect the more passive income without carrying as much inventory. It did not happen overnight but over the past 10-12 years, I am proud of what my office has accomplished and look forward to the next new idea.

16) In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
I think only up. Our Oregon economy has not been great and yet our sales have been growing every year for the past 19 years. Of course, teams make a difference but people seem to have such loyalty to their teams, they will continue to go to games, buy those collegiate products even when it hurts.  Is that good? I don't know but I know we have a future in collegiate licensing or at least I believe we do.  Enforcement of our trademarks has and continues to be a growing problem.  Especially off shore. That's an area that needs more attention. The small licensees are having trouble keeping their involvement with the college market due to so many larger players and exclusivities.  Part of me doesn't like that but I understand why it needs to happen.

17) What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of collegiate licensing?
Become a member of ICLA, really! Telling people about ICLA who are new to the industry to investigate ICLA, become members, come to a meeting, learn, you won't regret it, because I believe it's true. I'm not sure they all listen but I think there's no better place to go if you want to meet people who you need to know and learn a wealthy of information without attending a "licensing college" ha.

18) What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
I should have focused on a business major instead of respiratory therapy. I learned that I wasn't a quitter and I finished my education, worked in the field and then refocused. I changed directions.  I think it all really benefited me in the long run.

19) What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office?
80%, but that varies during the year. I'm trying to get out to visit with retail more and find out what we can do to help them sell collegiate product, provide POS they might need.  

20)  What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium?
Networking with people I haven't seen for a while, meeting new members and hearing what the program speakers have to say. I've never gone to an ICLA meeting that I didn't come back energized with new ideas. Some just have to wait but I feel it is always beneficial to be there.