NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The story of the woman-focused merchandise brand NaSHEville is one of love, loss and community.
The company, pronounced “Na-she-ville,” is the brain-child of two Nashville natives connected by a mutual friend and their calling to help women.
“Our missions for what we do and who we serve is truly our own intimate stories,” says Mattie Selecman, 29, co-owner and blog writer for NaSHEville. “We’re trying to bring back to life the story of womanhood that sometimes kind of gets lost.”
The clothing line focuses on easy-to-wear t-shirts and hats prominently displaying the NaSHEville logo. It was started by Brooke Tometich, 31, after her tumultuous experience with adoption in 2015.
“Once we went through [adoption], nothing in life could be the same again,” says Tometich. “I wanted to wake up every single day and advocate for the orphan, talk about adoption. So, what’s the best way to start a movement? Through clothing!” advocating for orphans and birth mothers.
Through her work with a brand manager, Tometich was encouraged to begin writing a blog to accompany her online store and social media presence for NaSHEville. She admits to being intimidated and overwhelmed by the prospect.
“I have a lot of gifts, but I’m not a writer,” recounts Tometich.
A mutual friend directed her to contact Selecman, whom Brooke had met once 10 years earlier. The pair met again in July 2018 - this time with the purpose of deciding whether they could be partners in the new venture. Selecman decided three days later to join Tometich in co-founding the new business.
Selecman had only just closed a successful restaurant, Salt and Vine, three weeks earlier and said she was not initially interested in starting something new. However, she believed in the mission of NaSHEville.
The women relied heavily on their faith to guide the direction of their business, which lead to the expansion of the brand’s mission from solely serving orphans to also serving widows.
“When you see ‘take care of orphans’ [in the Bible] you see ‘take care of widows,’” says Selecman. “We were 28 and 30 at the time, so we didn’t really know what to do with that, but we thought ‘its scriptural so we’ll do this.’”
Within two months Selecman would understand the pain of losing a spouse, first-hand, when her husband of less-than-a-year died in a tragic accident while on vacation in Florida.
Ben Selecman served as the Assistant District Attorney for Davidson County. He was 28 years old at the time of his death.
"As we were preparing to launch [the business], I suddenly lost my husband to a very freak brain injury and it was just obviously the darkest thing I've walked through," says Mattie. "I deep-dove into that struggle and the Lord gave me this vehicle to heal myself by healing others.”
NaSHEville was set to launch six weeks after Ben’s untimely death.
“There is a level of trust and compassion that my story can hopefully offer people, and I’m not just here to quote you Bible verses and give you quippy little pieces of encouragement,” says Mattie. “I’m in the fire.”
Mattie grieved as she poured what remained of her heart into the cause that Ben fought so hard to combat: human trafficking.
“Ben told us [before his death] ‘I deal with these cases all the time and I have to prove these women aren’t prostitutes, that they’re actually trafficked and get them help,’” recalls Mattie. “Using that and not letting the pain feel like it's wasted, has healed me more than anything.”
The women launched their merchandise business in October 2018 with a focus on giving back to organizations that help orphans, widows and trafficked women. Each month they highlight a non-profit group working toward one of those causes.
“It was really important for us to not reinvent the wheel,” explains Tometich. “We wanted to just kind of highlight and give a voice and a community that people could go and find different organizations that they really wanted to take up their cause.”
Each month, the women choose a different organization to be the beneficiary of an event or a supply drive. The intent is to give items that an organization needs, not just write a check.
In August 2019, NaSHEville partnered with Monroe Harding, a foster care organization that provides housing and supplies to equip children for school and life, for its monthly “She’s In the City Service Drive.” The event was to help young women in the organization’s “Youth Connect” program as they age out of the system.
Older teens between the ages of 17 and 20 can continue to participate in Youth Connect if they pursue education past high school.
NaSHEville and its followers asked for the names, ages and profiles of the 18 young women in the program to purchase items for them as they pursue higher education.
“Somebody went and hand-picked these clothes and supplies for them. We didn’t just have a check written,” says Tometich. “We had different women all throughout the city see their name, pick them and say ‘I want to provide clothes for you, back to school stuff for you,’ and that’s, I think, something special that really hasn’t been done.”
So far, NaSHEville has given $25,000 in donations to 15 organizations around Nashville with the help of 100 unique volunteers.
“And that’s really kind of important and the heart behind this that we want to create community with giving, not just giving a check,” says Tometich.
The next step for the business is to build-out the “she” brand with trademark movements launching under the names TenneSHE, SHEattle, SHEcago, WaSHEngton and other she-centric locations.
“I think a lot of what we want to do is create the “she” community which is ‘every woman has dignity, every woman struggles and every woman needs something,’” says Selecman.