What were you doing when you were 18? Most of us were probably carpooling with our friends to the mall or movies, maybe making some cash working part-time somewhere paying minimum wage (respect) and generally just being a teenager. Not Nicole Curtis. Sure, she鈥檚 now the star of HGTV鈥檚 Rehab Addict and a total #girlboss. And it鈥檚 clear to see that her ambition was with her right from the start. At 18, she bought and started renovating her first house.

鈥淚t was in Tampa, Florida. I decided that my carport looked like the dining room waiting to happen, so I simply thought you take out a wall, you put up two walls and you have a dining room 鈥 but I didn鈥檛 weigh in HVAC, I didn鈥檛 weight in electrical, I didn鈥檛 weigh in framing, I didn鈥檛 weigh in how to hang a door. I knew absolutely nothing. I just thought I could tear the wall out and everything would follow,鈥 Nicole tells us. 鈥淚t was a long time ago. I can鈥檛 even remember being 18, but people always assume they can jump right in and become a contractor or become somebody who flips homes and does this and does that,鈥 she laughs. 鈥淏ut it鈥檚 like no, I have a lot of experience underneath my belt and there are still a lot things that are challenging for me. It鈥檚 not that easy and anything that鈥檚 easy is not worth having anyhow.鈥

When it comes to renovation, the task is often daunting. Without experience, you often don鈥檛 know where to start. We asked her what sort first time DIYers could fix in their own homes and she said, 鈥淚 always say try it first before you hire it out. If you are horrible at it, you鈥檙e going to know really fast. A lot of things, I鈥檓 still horrible at or I just don鈥檛 enjoy.鈥 Nicole has learned from enough experience to know when there are jobs that are simple but she鈥檇 rather just outsource. 鈥淧eople always think, 鈥業鈥檓 going to paint my apartment鈥 or 鈥業鈥檓 going to paint my house.鈥 Because it鈥檚 the cheapest in their mind because a gallon of paint is cheap,鈥 she tells us, 鈥渂ut that鈥檚 one of those things where I鈥檓 painting a wall and I鈥檓 like, 鈥榃hy am I painting?鈥 There鈥檚 no enjoyment for me. But for me, rebuilding an entire house, I鈥檓 like, 鈥榊es, I鈥檒l do it! I don鈥檛 want to paint though.鈥 So really, it鈥檚 tackle anything.鈥

However, don鈥檛 attempt EVERYTHING on your own. 鈥淚f it鈥檚 going to kill you, don鈥檛 do it, leave that to a licensed professional,鈥 Nicole is quick to add. 鈥淥r if it requires a license, you have to check with your city. Your electrical service, that will kill you. Don鈥檛 do it. But something simple like changing a light fixture, you can do that. Easy stuff like that. That鈥檚 the only way I learned, it was by trying everything.鈥

Nowadays, Nicole is a major player in the home restoration world, but deep down, she鈥檚 still that 18-year-old girl in Tampa who taught herself how to build homes. 鈥淭he biggest thing for me is that in all these years, I鈥檝e still stayed the same person, it鈥檚 still the same idea I go into every house, I鈥檓 not afraid to learn, I鈥檓 not afraid to admit that I don鈥檛 know and I鈥檓 not afraid to make mistakes,鈥 she says.

She still walks into every house asking questions like, 鈥淚鈥檓 Nicole. I鈥檓 a homeowner. How are you? Tell me how long have you lived here?'鈥 she tells us. And helping people rebuild their homes is still at the root of who she is. Nicole recently teamed up with handheld blowtorch company Bernzomatic for a contest called 鈥淔ind Your Fire鈥 that gives a total of $40,ooo in grants to the winners to rebuild their communities. You can submit your contest entry on the Bernzomatic site along with up to 1000 words for an essay and a photo. 鈥淐ute picture, I mean, you鈥檙e selling to America,鈥 Nicole advises. 鈥淓veryone鈥檚 going to vote on it, so you have to be creative on it.鈥 And yes, since her name is on it, she will actually see all the entries. 鈥淚鈥檓 seeing all the entries come in just because I鈥檓 super nosy,鈥 she self-deprecatingly jokes. 鈥淚鈥檓 super involved because this is something I know is going to make a huge difference.鈥

鈥淚 love helping others and it鈥檚 not like, 鈥業 love helping others. I donated $5 into the red bucket at the mall at Christmas.鈥 That鈥檚 why it鈥檚 so important to do these community grants, this is what I work on every single day,鈥 she says. 鈥淭hose are the things that I have to offer right now that are easy for me to do. I go fix problems I can fix.鈥

What do you think of Nicole鈥檚 advice? Tell us in the comments below!