03/24/2015 10:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Save the Music

The Cool Kids is a HuffPost series documenting creative humans shaping present day society with their work and outlook.

Nicholas Coblence | Founder| Cords for Music


Nicholas Coblence is a brand strategist by trade and arts administrator by training living in New York City. In 2013, he founded Cords for Music, the first socially inspired fashion brand that focuses on keeping music education alive and prioritized. Fueled by the statistic of only 17 percent of US public schools requiring music courses as part of the curriculum, Cords for Music found its mission early on. The initial idea was born from a desire to combine Coblence's passion for art and design into a product that could be sold to help bring inspiration into the lives of children who may or may not have access to this creative outlet. He knew in his gut, he could create beautifully designed products to help fund music education initiatives in public schools and underserved communities.

Last summer, Cords for Music launched their first collection of Pick Cords, guitar pick shaped sterling silver pieces jewelry pieces tied to the wrist using cotton or leather cord. It also launched its first major partnership with Education through Music, a New York based non-profit that partners with inner-city schools to provide all students with music as a core subject, and to create school communities that value the arts. With similar priorities of enhancing students' life and development through music, the pairing is perfect to elevate the mission of keeping music education important.

I caught up with Nicholas from his desk at Neuehouse to talk about the importance of creative outlets, becoming who you want to be, and the two things you need to be successful.

Tell me about Cords for Music:
Cords for Music is a social enterprise I started last year. We produce and sell jewelry and design objects. We give a portion of all our sales to organizations that support music education in public schools and underserved communities.

What inspired the vision?
I'm a musician, been playing since I was 4 years old. Started guitar at 12. Professionally my background is as a luxury marketer and as an arts administrator. I have masters in it. A few years ago I was a bit tired of doing what I was doing and decided to start thinking about my own thing. I have always been inspired by social enterprises, especially in fashion, making beautiful design pieces but with the purpose of helping others. That's when I decided I wanted to be in that space. So I combined my three passions, Music, Fashion and philanthropy and started Cords for Music.

How did you make it happen?
I started creating the vision, the product, then the website and the brand and just did it. I didn't have any funding. I had a small credit card loan for production and money saved for some overhead and that's it. I had a passion for tech which lead me to build the website, took a Digital Marketing class which got me into the mind space of e-commerce and had some friends in design who helped put my first production tech packs together. Then I found my first factory and the rest is history.

What did you learn through the process?
What I learned through this process is that sometimes you just need to follow your gut, it's the best way to get on the right track. Trust yourself and don't in any situation ever underestimate yourself, especially when you have an amazing group of people around you encouraging you and the idea. When I first told some people about the concept they thought I was totally crazy but most were extremely excited about it.

I should also mention that I had an amazing group of friends and advisors that supported me and helped me figure everything out. Since I'm the lone founder of this company it's been quite hard without having someone to speak to so they have been playing that role.

When did you discover you were onto something?
I had a lot of really positive feedback when I started this, people who wanted to buy the pieces and others who just supported me as my ambassadors. Then at Christmas we had some really amazing press and ended up practically selling out of all of our inventory and that was it, it was my proof of concept. This can work. So I kept going.

What is one thing you have learned that continues to remain present in your career path?
Passion and going with your gut. Those are the two things you need to be successful. Always go with your instinct, there is a reason why you are doing what you are doing so believe in yourself.

That said, another very important lesson is always listen to those who know better than you and accept their advice. The best leader is the one who knows how to take everyone's feedback and make the right decision based on that feedback and your instinct.

What do you discover about yourself through your work?
I'm constantly learning about myself. What I'm good at, what I'm bad at and what I love. It's a continuing discovery of the self, as it should be. You should always be growing, at your own pace and in the way that you feel like you are becoming who you want to be. Always be proud of your work, even if you fail there is always something to learn and it will only bring you to better things.

Tell me something you see behind the scenes others do not get to experience.
Factories, they are awesome!!! I love visiting the factories up in Providence and in NYC, seeing the people and the faces behind the work and learning about the industry more and more. I'm constantly inspired by my work with manufacturers and crafts people. I also really love seeing the impact that music has on kids and if I'm doing this for long enough, I look forward to the success stories.

What do you hope to achieve with your work?
I hope to build a powerful brand that can change communities and education with music.

What does your work contribute to society?
We help bring inspiration into the lives of those that may not have it otherwise. We help inspire them to learn and to become the kind of leader and member of society we will one day need when we grow old.

Why is your work important?
Same reason as above. Without the arts in schools, students have no real outlets for creativity. There is nothing more important then having the ability to express yourself.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, what do you hope to contribute to the world?
I hope to be able to play a small part in being able to create resources and outlets for expression. We need to provide the voiceless with their own voice to let them not only share their ideas but influence the course of our society. Nothing good ever comes from silencing people.

As a human, what do you want to contribute to the world?
I just want to make others happy. That may not always be a good thing but knowing that I was able to help someone or change the course of their day or life in some way makes me smile, so that's good.

What is your personal Mantra?
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

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