Boss Ladies / Life / News

Boss Ladies | Zoe Cleary


Boss Ladies | Zoe Cleary

Photos c/o Ashley Peak + Karen Hernandez

Zoe Cleary is an entrepreneur, humanitarian, animal lover, surfer, and world traveler.  When she left the fashion industry in New York to become the co-founder of Nisolo, she fulfilled all of her passions and aspirations under one umbrella.  Zoe recently moved to Ojai, CA and feels incredibly grateful to be surrounded by so much untouched wilderness, live music, and fresh veggies and fruit from the garden.  In her free moments she relishes being outdoors or in a yoga studio.

As a child I dreamed of becoming

A Mathematics or Spanish teacher. I might still do this at some point in my life!

The last photo I took on my phone

A sample of a women’s ankle boot style for FW18 that I’m really excited about!

My guilty pleasure

Kettle Chips and Thai Iced Tea.

One thing people might be surprised to learn about me

My father was a poet and a surf writer. This brought us to Hawaii where I was born, followed by a few years in Byron Bay and then Santa Barbara, where I spent most of my childhood. The waves dictated where my family lived.

My favorite way to unwind

To go far enough into nature that I can’t see any houses or trace of human activity. That and hot Yoga.

My real life hero is 

I immediately think of my mother — a really strong woman who did things her own way.  She explored many avenues in her creative life, and she is a loving and wonderful person who continues to support and inspire me every step of the way.

Boss Ladies | Zoe Cleary

What I love about my work

What sticks out right now (as I’m currently in Peru working at our factory) is the opportunity to work with and learn from people who come from many different walks of life. From background, to ethnicity, to religion, to education – we all have so much to learn from each other.

It’s also a dream come true to create products I’ve spent so much time thinking were missing in the marketplace.

The hardest thing about my work

Working with people from all walks of life. Another challenge is staying creative as the company grows.

How I got started with my current career

I was on a mission to find a fashion company that was socially conscious and I was burnt out on the corporate paradigm. I didn’t anticipate how much this life transition would involve for me.  A friend connected me with Patrick Woodyard.  He was living in Peru and had a vision for creating a fashion label that committed to ethical production and the wellbeing of its producers.

Within a few weeks of our first conversation, I was on a plane to Peru to see with my own eyes the potential that Patrick saw in this community of shoemakers.  After being blown away by their exceptional skills and desire for consistent work, I quit my job with a major fashion label in NYC and joined Patrick as his Co-Founder and Designer. Nisolo officially launched in late 2011.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was starting out

Burn out. Working 14-16 hour days for the first few years was not sustainable and took a toll on me physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t regret this experience but it has been a work in progress to find balance in my life.

I used to think success meant


My current definition of success

Collaborating on a healthy and balanced system — for me and for those around me. Feeling fulfillment and passion in the work I do, and being able to accomplish that work in a healthy way.

Boss Ladies | Zoe Cleary

An example of when I had to push through my insecurities

There have been several moments at my time with Nisolo where I had to dramatically adjust my role in the company. At times, it was incredibly humbling and it brought out my deepest insecurities. But when I reflect on those crossroads, I can say with certainty that they were periods of growth.

For me, balance means

Balance is best reflected in my physical health. My body tells me pretty quickly if I am or am not leading a balanced lifestyle. As soon as I’m letting work stress take over, I feel it immediately.

A few ways I practice self-care

Yoga. Spending time with animals. Avoiding processed foods.

My happiest moment in the past 6 months

Becoming B Corp certified at Nisolo!

I feel the most beautiful in my skin when

I’m fresh out of the ocean, hair still wet from the water. The beach is where I feel the most grounded.

I wish I could tell my younger self

To not take life so seriously and not be so concerned with my achievements.

A favorite quote

“We’re interested in the surfing mood, as well as surfing action; not just what’s on the surface of the wave, but what lies beneath it.” Bill Cleary (From one of my father’s writings about surfing).

The legacy I hope to leave

I hope that people who get to know me and hear the story of Nisolo are inspired to be a little kinder to each other.


Zoe Cleary




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *