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York College Alumni Twins Launch Marketing Company During the Pandemic

2 YCP alumni posing for a picture in light blue shirts and jeans

Nicole (Nichols) Halsey ’00 and Natalie (Nichols) Van Buskirk ’00/’01 launched Polished Nichols Public Relations and Marketing in 2020.

With six kids between them, careers that left them wanting more, and a pandemic that forced so many into lockdown, twin sisters Nicole (Nichols) Halsey ’00 and Natalie (Nichols) Van Buskirk ’00/’01 couldn’t think of a better time to launch a business.

“The pandemic really gave us a chance to look at how things were going in our lives and say, ‘Maybe we want something different,’ ” says Halsey. “It was the right timing, and we had the right contacts. Everything came together in a way that I don’t think either of us could have predicted.”

Their journey started about 20 years ago at York College of Pennsylvania. Van Buskirk earned her degree in Marketing with a concentration in Advertising and Management. She completed an MBA in Marketing Management the following year. Halsey decided to alter her education focus from her sister just a bit, with a major in Public Relations, minors in Marketing, Speech Communication, and English, with a concentration in Writing.

After college, their friendships followed them back home to Maryland, where they credit a lot of those connections for their success today. They also each met their husbands, Shawn Halsey ’01 and Sean Van Buskirk ’99, at York College.

“You don’t realize going into college the kind of relationships that you’re going to build,” Van Buskirk says. “Those connections matter, not just for us on a personal level, but in a professional sense, too.”

A leap of faith

Van Buskirk worked for an advertising agency in Baltimore before she had her first baby in 2007. At the time, it was tough to find a part-time position in an agency, and working from home wasn’t really an option at the time, she says. She maintained several marketing clients under the Polished Nichols Public Relations & Marketing LLC, while she also balanced being a full-time, stay-at-home mom, and launching Polished Nichols Interior Design & Organization a few years later. She not only helped people design their business space—she also created their branding collateral and websites.

Halsey lived the agency life right after graduation. She tried to cut back to part-time after having kids, but she ended up working more hours than anticipated, and she realized that after 19 years in the PR/Marketing agency world that she needed a change. She eventually took a leap to work for a healthcare consulting company, where she had more flexible hours while still managing the company’s overall Marketing strategies. It proved a great push for her career.

When she decided to take a break and recover from recent surgery, she got the all-clear from her doctor the same day she got a call from her kids’ school: she had to pick her children up. They were going on lockdown because of COVID-19.

While the sisters tried to navigate life in a pandemic, Van Buskirk kept getting calls from clients who needed help with marketing services. She could no longer go into their businesses to work on interior design projects, but her other skill sets were of great value to those clients.

That’s when she called Halsey. “I remember talking to her about it, and saying, ‘I’d love for us to do this together,’ ” Van Buskirk says. “It seemed like a great fit for us to join forces and create something we both wanted.”

A business and a lifestyle

With a newly designed website and branding ready to go, Halsey and Van Buskirk launched Polished Nichols Public Relations & Marketing. Their first client was a York College graduate, Amy Tech who took their own leap of faith during the pandemic and opened Dream Baby Decor, a baby boutique in Annapolis, Maryland.

The business opened with a ribbon cutting where Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan and the press attended. It was a beautiful start for both businesses, where old connections came together to execute their own unique visions.

Today, Van Buskirk and Halsey are excited to watch their business grow, but they also know it’s a vehicle for the lifestyle both have always wanted—one where they can raise their families and show their kids just how much they can achieve if they work hard for it.

“We don’t want to be tied down by goals of ‘this many clients by this date’ or ‘this much revenue by next year,’ Halsey says. “I think it’s wonderful that it can grow as much as we want it to. We can be there to serve our clients, but also be there to take care of our personal lives.”

That sentiment has helped the twins grow closer together in a challenging year. Instead of giving into the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, they decided to use it as an opportunity to create something special.

“At the end of the day, it’s about doing something that makes us happy and our clients happy,” Van Buskirk says. “One day and success at a time—It’s a true dream come true.”