#Thrive Thursday: Nicole Snell, CEO & Speaker for Girls Fight Back

thrive thursday Apr 15, 2021

What message do you promote?

My goal is to empower women and girls with self-defense, personal safety and violence prevention tools. I believe that when we are empowered to live our lives confidently and freely, there is no limit to what we can do.  We are fully capable of defending themselves and we are worth fighting for!


In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community? 

I teach women, girls and people of all genders the basics of how to defend themselves using both their voice and their bodies.  I work with K-12 schools, colleges, the military, corporations and private groups to empower people with basic skills, boundary setting tools and physical techniques they can use in all aspects of their lives.  In 2019 I started an online series called #OutdoorDefense to offer women solo travelers/hikers/adventurers self-defense strategies they can use to feel confident and safe doing what they love.  As a passionate solo traveler and hiker myself, this was very important to me.


In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to:

I had a job many years ago that I knew I was being underpaid to do. I wore many hats and even though I was phenomenal at every position I filled, my pay didn’t reflect industry standards and I had to address the problem.  I did weeks of research to come up with an informed assessment of what salary I should ask for. Since I was in charge of the company financials, I found places in the budget where funds could be reduced/reallocated in order to cover my pay increase. I put a binder together and set up a meeting with my boss where I presented the information. I was met with resistance and incredulity for asking for such a substantial increase. My request was denied and I put in my 2wks notice on the spot even though I didn’t have another job lined up yet and I had no idea how I was going to make things work. I knew that I had to let this job go so that I could find a job that would pay me what I am worth.  I ended up landing a job a month later that paid my asking rate and my career took off after that. 


What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

That moment when a woman, teen or girl realizes that she is powerful and fully capable of defending herself. The look on her face and her body language completely changes.  I know I’ve given her something she will be able to use and carry with her for the rest of her life and that she doesn’t need anyone’s permission to be a badass…she already is one! It is also rewarding when someone messages me to tell me that something I said completely changed their life or that they are now getting ready to take a trip or go on a hike solo, etc because they now feel confident to be able to do that.  That is the best feeling in the world.


How do you SHOW UP?

I show up by dedicating my life to helping others discover the power and confidence within themselves.  I want to empower millions of girls and women to speak up for their needs, set boundaries unapologetically, use their voice and know that they can use their bodies to defend themselves.  I show up by destroying myths and stereotypes about women’s ability to protect themselves and help them realize their power. I make all my business decisions based on honesty, integrity and compassion and work tirelessly to change the world. 


What is your story? Or in other words, what made you your awesome self you are today?

I grew up in a small desert military town in Southern California and loved exploring the outdoors every chance I got.  I have always been athletic, curious and active and I had a hunger for trying new things along with varied interests (some of which I was told wasn’t something girls or Black people did).  I was unable to pursue many of those passions until I turned 18, but then the world couldn’t contain me!  I got a full academic scholarship to CSULB as a President’s Scholar and while getting my education, I started immersing myself in adventures…anything that sparked my interest was fair game. After graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Speech Communication, I started my career in the Entertainment Industry.  I started as an intern and quickly worked my way up to Line Producer. I began solo traveling and realized how much I loved being on my own in new countries.

I have always been drawn to self-defense and sports combat, but after having an encounter in my 20’s, I sought out to learn more. I am a survivor of both violence and abuse and many of the things I have decided to learn in life such as archery, motorcycle riding and weapons handling come from a place of wanting to be prepared for an emergency and seeking out self-defense instruction was no different.  I was really drawn to the power I felt knowing that I could handle myself. However, at the time I didn’t know how to channel that into a career and I didn’t have a mentor willing to show me the way.  I moved on with my production career, but I was feeling compelled to do something more with my life including advocating for women, especially survivors of sexual assault and violence.

A few years later I was working as a Production Executive for Endemol USA when I simultaneously learned that our department was being laid off and I was being offered a job to do sexual assault prevention training for the Department of Navy.  Through that work, I was introduced to Girls Fight Back and learned that they provided personal safety and empowerment self-defense training for girls and women through live speaking events at colleges and business nationwide. Fascinated by this work and driven by my passion for women’s empowerment, I asked for a job!  Three months later I was being trained to be a junior national speaker. Part of the training included graduating from a 20hr full contact self-defense class with IMPACT Personal Safety, and after graduating, I knew I wanted to teach this too.  Guess what I did? I asked the owner for a job!  I started training and became an assistant before moving up to lead instructor while also doing live speaking events nationwide as a Senior National Speaker for Girls Fight Back and traveling the world speaking to US Military Service Members on bystander intervention.

Fast forward 6 years later and the opportunity arose for me to purchase Girls Fight Back in 2020.  I knew there was no way else for me but forward because this work is something that means so much to me. Even though purchasing a business during COVID was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, it was the best decision I could have made. 


If you could give one piece of advice for women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business what would that be?

Go after you want and don’t let others be gatekeepers to your dreams.  If someone is not giving you the information or space you need to grow, learn or succeed, seek out someone who will.  There will always be people who will try to project their insecurities and fears on you, but you have to push for what you want and fight for it.  Don’t stop until you get to where you want to go.  Ask for you what you want without apology. 


Please provide your name, company, anything else you want others to know about you, and all of your URL’s and social media handles:

Nicole Snell

CEO, Girls Fight Back
Creator, Outdoor Defense

Lead Instructor, IMPACT Personal Safety




















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