20 Questions With
Brett Nicol (MBA ’09) and Nate Tan (MBA ’09)
In 2008, Brett Nicol and Nathan Tan brainstormed together at Darden for a class project
in Professor Saras Sarasvathy’s course “Starting New Ventures.” Two years later, their
company Forgetful Gentlemen came to life in Darden’s Business Incubator and now sells its
products in 35 states and through major retailers Neiman Marcus and Men’s Wearhouse.
Forgetful Gentleman’s flagship product, premium letterpress sets, are targeted to “sophisti-
cated, modern men whose busy lifestyles often interfere with their well-intentioned plans.”
The masculine stationery sets are printed on the same paper that Napolean and Picasso
used. Envelopes include pre-stamped postage, and the package, a classic wooden cigar
box, also contains a writing guide and a URL to reach an online personal assistant.
Nicol earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Amherst College and prior to
Darden worked in business development for the Corporate Executive Board in Washington,
D.C. At Darden, he was “dean of sports” and organized the Darden Cup and other athletic
events for the Darden Student Association.
Nate Tan earned his degree in business from Wheaton College and worked in advertising
in New York City for four years. While at Darden, Tan was arguably one of the best-dressed
gentlemen on Grounds.
Forgetful Gentleman is based in San Francisco, California.
Class of 2009 Graduates What was your first job? What’s your current state of mind?
(from left) Brett NiCol aNd Nicol: Serving smoothies and sandwiches Nicol: I’m wondering what was in the water
at a health club. It was a great job with a in C’ville because all my ‘09 classmates are
Nate taN, fouNders of free gym membership, and I could eat more getting married.
forGetful GeNtlemeN than I could serve. Tan: I’m writing this from the airport on my
Tan: Curbside to-go specialist at Macaroni way to Hawaii for my honeymoon, so natu-
Grill. rally my mind is on my beautiful wife.
What’s the best advice you have ever What are you reading these days?
received? Nicol: I have 25 pages left in Atlas
Nicol: There are a lot of things you’ll want to Shrugged.
do in life, but you can only do two really well. Tan: The classic preppy photo book Take Ivy,
I choose family/friends and career. That’s which has just been reprinted in English for
why my golf game stinks. the first time.
Tan: Be a contrarian.
What technology can you not live
What motivates you? without?
Nicol: The curiosity of what can be Nicol & Tan: Watching the NFL in high
Tan: To leave a legacy.
What’s your favorite business book of all
What is your most marked time?
characteristic? Nicol: Either Goals by Brian Tracy or E:Myth
Nicol: Besides my big head, maybe it’s that by Michael Gerber.
I’m always holding a ball or sports equip- Tan: Rich Dad, Poor Dad. My Dad sent me
ment of some sort. a copy my freshman year of college. A week
Tan: Besides my small head, dressing in later, I switched from pre-med to business. A
style. month after that I started my first company.
alumni profile / september 2010
a l u m n i p r o f i l e : Brett NiCol aNd Nate taN
Which class at Darden impacted you the most? What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Nicol & Tan: Professor Saras Sarasvathy’s class Nicol: It’s not stagnant, so I don’t think happiness can
“Entrepreneurial Thinking.” It redefined what we want in be perfect. It’s constantly evolving and takes the form
life and changed how we want to spend our time of finding new clients, scoring a goal, reading a good
and energy. book, eating a great meal, etc.
Tan: Waking up somewhere new with no agenda
What companies do you admire? besides exploring new places, trying new things and
Nicol & Tan: Tom’s Shoes, which has successfully inte- experiencing a new culture.
grated social responsibility into its business model.
What’s your favorite food and beverage?
How do you stay ahead of the competition? Nicol: I’ve really taken an interest in whiskeys.
Nicol & Tan: Right now, we are just trying “to be the Tan: Ten Oreos in a cereal bowl. Pour milk over them
competition.” and eat them with a spoon.
What is your most treasured possession? If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Nicol: I drove from C’ville to San Francisco with all my Nicol: Right where I am now, in San Francisco, a block
possessions in a ‘97 Toyota Camry. I remember think- away from the water and open parks.
ing somewhere in Utah that if my car were stolen, I’d Tan: I love the laid-back lifestyle on Martha’s Vineyard.
still be just fine.
Tan: My grandfather’s travel wallet. What’s your greatest memory from Darden?
Nicol: That feeling of contentment while walking across
What have you recently uploaded onto your iPod? the courtyard after a full day.
Nicol: “This American Life” podcast. Nicol & Tan: Showing up on the intramural football
Tan: Ray LaMontagne’s new album. field with the Darden team decked out from head to toe
What’s your favorite cause? in full uniform, only to lose to the undergrads.
Nicol & Tan: Career Gear. This New York-based non-
profit helps low income men find and keep jobs through
outfitting them with professional clothing and teaching
them business skills. We donate 10 percent of our
online orders to Career Gear.
Tan: Rehema Home is an HIV orphanage in Nairobi,
Kenya. I’ve done volunteer work there on two occasions
and both trips changed my life.
Looking back, is there a class you should have at-
tended and didn’t?
Nicol: Professor Raul Chao’s “Developing New Prod-
Tan: Ed Hess’ course “Management of Small Enter-
What characteristics do you look for in people?
Nicol: Authenticity and trustworthiness.
Tan: Humility and intelligence.