Was there a moment when the lightbulb went off and you just knew what you were going to do?
I think I was born with the lightbulb on! Even as a little girl, I was always re-arranging my room and changing little details in my dollhouse. My mother is a talented seamstress, so we were always making new drapes and bedding for my dollhouse out of her fabric scraps.
I began dreaming up names for my future business in high school when I was obsessed with decorating my bedroom. Long story short, my parents went out of town one weekend and I was given the credit card to work on my room. I was instructed to keep it around “x” amount, which didn’t happen. After they returned, even after a little sweet talking and begging, I was grounded, relegated to ironing laundry for a week and had to return over half of my purchases. Let’s just say that I take staying in budget pretty seriously these days! Funny enough, I found the list of potential business names a few years ago at my parent’s home (and no, I’m so not telling you what they are!).
Once you knew you wanted to have your own interior design business, what steps did you take to make that a reality?
I was knee deep in my corporate America job as a product specification rep in the interior design industry. Although I loved what I was doing, opportunities to design friend’s new homes began to make me re-think all of the travel and pesky sales reports that had me constantly stressed out. It took my husband naming my firm, filing my DBA and telling me I no longer had any excuses not to start my business. I began to develop my blog and website late nights and on weekends. I even threw around the idea of starting an online catalog as a resource for my clients. Who knew that that catalog would grow into Shop Ten 25!
Now that you’ve expanded into a blog and online store along with designing how do you organize your business and manage your time?
Delegate, my dear! I was running in so many directions and between managing design projects, installations, shop orders, massive follow up and keeping up with my blog, I was wearing out quickly. I wasn’t making time for my family and friends, or even myself. It was just out of control! I finally hired a customer service rep for the Shop, a design assistant for the Studio, and began to put my phone and laptop away during set hours. It took a while to break the habit of waking up at 3 a.m. and panicking that I forgot to do something! And not having my phone attached to my hand was hard to deal with in the beginning. But after a few weeks, I began to enjoy my free time more and began to accept the fact that I may not get through my entire to-do list before the end of the day.
I am still a work in progress and even have more plans in store to implement additional changes to keep my business profitable while still enjoying life outside of my business.
Do you have a favorite and least favorite part of your work?
Least favorite: Backorders, backorders and backorders. There is nothing worse! I always have back up options, but sometimes when your client loves something so much, it is worth the wait. It can be a bit more of a challenge with the Shop customers, as we live in the “I want it now” time, so not being able to meet expectations always kills me.
Favorite part: I am doing what I love, every day. Even through things don’t always go as planned, it always works out in the end. When you love what you do and do it because it makes you happy, things just fall into place. What keeps me grounded and makes me love what I do even more is having my dogs (Caddo and Ivy) the Studio with me every day! Lunch breaks at the dog park keep me feeling relaxed and ready to attack that to-do list.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Always have a contract signed, invest in a bookkeeper or accountant, and trust your gut. You will never be able to run your business without these three things!
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
I always thought I would have more free time and flexibility to do more things outside of work. I went through a phase for about three years where all I did was work! I was up late, up early and sometimes dragging in between.
What hardships have you had along the way?
I have been very fortunate to have great people around me that have guided me as my business has grown. There is nothing worse than being called out for mistakes but knowing that someone has my back and offers their opinion on how to solve it because they care is invaluable. Although things will never be perfect, I try to keep a positive outlook when it gets a little shaky.
What do you wish you would have known going into this?
To be honest, I’m not sure that I would have listened to any advice or direction in the beginning! That being said, I don’t look back and regret how I started my business. I wanted important decisions to feel right and to be somewhat organic. With both the Studio and Shop, I knew that they needed to be a reflection of me. I was—and still am—exclusive in which projects I take on and products that I featured in the Shop, as they need to be in line with my aesthetic and vision.
Highlight of your career so far?
Wow, how do I narrow it down to one? I would say that the highlight so far has been relationships with my clients. Even after their homes are complete, I love keeping in touch and growing with them as their lives change! Sounds so cliché right? Strong relationships are what make the world go round for me. These relationships are mile markers and remind me where I came from, where I am, and where I am going with my life and my business.
Best advice you’ve been given?
My husband is always reminding me to just “keep it simple.” My business is at its best when I am doing what I love and not worrying about all of the “noise” that can pull me away from my overall goals. Since I was a little girl my father has always told me “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” And since I am a big talker, this advice (courtesy of President Abraham Lincoln) has come in handy so many times. I’m not perfect at it, but I always hear him telling me to zip it!
Behind the Biz takes a deep dive behind the scenes with business owners and entrepreneurs. Don’t miss my other Behind the Biz features with Mandy of Waiting on Martha, Karin of Crane & Canopy, Lee Kleinhelter of Pieces, Emily of Elva Fields, Rochelle of The Shirt, handbag designer Blair of Blair Ritchey, and Jess Levin of Carats & Cake. Tweet along with me at #behindthebiz and @megbiram.