Go With Your Gut: Natalie Steen of The Nat Note
So when I discovered The Nat Note I was like ....finally. Someone who gets me. Natalie Steen, entrepreneur, lawyer, wife, mom and I'll go ahead and add tastemaker, launched the shoppable inspiration account three years ago and her following has exploded. And it's clear to see why. In a world of minimalism, the bold colors, fun prints and unique brands she introduces you to make her a fun follow. And if you've been following her story–she's still a practicing attorney–you'll know why we simply had to ask this do-it-all lady how she does it. And the answer is simple–she loves it.
Read on and meet Natalie. Promise, you'll love her.
Name: Natalie Steen
IG handle: @thenatnote
First, we want to know, what are the identities you lead with (wife, mom, entrepreneur, daughter, sister, you name it!): All the above! I start and end my day as a wife and mother. Shortly after coffee, I’m a lawyer, a compulsive shopper, and an entrepreneur. I’m lucky enough to also be a sister, a friend, a daughter & a grand-daughter.
What led you here? What’s your backstory?
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida and moved to Texas after graduating from the University of Virginia. By that point, I had about half of my “identities” in my back pocket. The ones that followed (in chronological order) were wife (my husband and I met our first year at UVA), lawyer (I graduated from UPenn Law in 2016), entrepreneur (I started The Nat Note in 2017), and mother (my son, Whit, was born in 2018).
How did that become The Nat Note story?
The Nat Note “story” is the story of my wanting to have my cake and eat it, too. I had just started practicing as an attorney and found myself awake and waiting for emails at strange hours, with not much else to do but online shop. I was sending a lot of “you should buy this” messages to friends, and began to channel this late-night, deep-diving, compulsive-shopping energy into a creative outlet. Eventually, this side-project evolved into its own kind of vocation, but I didn’t want to let go of my career.
I think women are constantly asking themselves, “how do I make this work?” – “this” being whatever life circumstances (i.e., work, family, etc.) they’re dealt. I was dealt a good hand, but it took me some time to learn how to play my cards right. I not only worked hard to become a lawyer – but I love my job and the people I work with. Similarly, I was working hard on my side hustle, and find so much enjoyment meeting and helping female entrepreneurs. I didn’t want to sacrifice one for the other – and I certainly didn’t want to sacrifice my family life for either.
That’s all to say that The Nat Note came to be by my not knowing how to be a lawyer, a newsletter, a wife, and a mom all at once – but by my refusing to give up on any of these roles. By trial and error I learned how to adjust and prioritize these “identities.” The important point here is that women are not just having the cake and eating it, we’re also baking it– so we get to make “it” work as we see fit.
How would you describe your aesthetic? As an oxymoron: classic & funky
You clearly have an eye for beautiful, feminine but still unique looks. Can you share an outfit you might have worn back in the day that you cringe thinking back on?
This answer came to me immediately. I tried to recreate this Versace dress that Beyoncé wore to the 2003 MTV Movie Awards for a high school dance. The end result was a disaster - I resembled a Renaissance Fair maiden. Still haunts me.
Any digital entrepreneur knows (hi, us), that building a following takes time and effort. What did you learn in those early days?
This question makes me think of my Dad – he’s practiced law for over nearly 40 years and whenever asked why he (still) works so hard, he says “if you enjoy it, it doesn’t feel like work.” The time and effort you put into anything shouldn’t feel daunting if you’re truly enjoying the process. When I started The Nat Note, I was just having fun making collages – and I still am. Numbers should only be a measure of progress, and not the source of motivation.
What did you learn along the journey? Both as a person and building your brand?
So far, my two main takeaways have been: 1) it’s important and worthwhile to take a break and 2) once you learn how to juggle, you’ll start to enjoy it. When I had my son in late 2018, I told myself I was done with the collages – how would I have time to keep it up as a new working mom? But six months later, I emerged from maternity leave with a new newsletter format for The Nat Note and an idea for a children’s clothing line.
What / who is influencing you the most these days? Time. How we occupy our time and how quickly it goes by have been brought to the forefront of my mind (for obvious reasons) this year. Each day might feel the same, but somehow it’s already August and my “baby” is about to start school (what?!). I’m trying to make the most of it and value it in ways I probably hadn’t during the mad-dash of “normal” life.
Where do you hope to take what you’re doing with The Nat Note–and beyond? Just as I would have no way of predicting what The Nat Note would become three years ago, I hope that three years from now I’m just as surprised and fulfilled (and busy!).
What advice do you have for someone who might be trying to build a lifestyle brand like yours? Especially with so many others out there!
Come on in, the water’s fine!
This month’s theme is valuing your truest self. How would you say you apply that in your life? By delivering with whatever my truest self needs – sometimes it’s alone time, other times it’s a martini.