With everything in life, we grow, evolve, change and get inspired by the new. I'm planning a lot of changes here on the blog. More inspirational content, beautifully decorated spaces, health and beauty, etc. In an effort to inspire my Paid Decorator community, I'll be sharing inspirational interviews with some of the most fabulous designers and decorators who designed careers that they love.
Today begins the first installment of the Designer Profile series with a dynamic duo of design. If you haven't heard of them yet, you will LOVE them. Ashley & Laura of Toronto based design firm, The Design Co. I asked a few questions I thought you guys might enjoy. . .
A: University Degree in the History of Art & Architecture/ College Diploma in Interior Design
L: University Degree in Interior Design
A & L: Toronto, Ontario. Canada
Did you always know you wanted to be a decorator/ designer?
A: I always knew that I loved anything to do with art, architecture, interior design and decoration. However, I didn't know exactly what career options were out there. This lead to a few different educational avenues before going into Interior Design school. I spent a total of 8 years in post-secondary education-which seems like a long time but I feel that my varied education has helped me in various way throughout my career thus far. My parents always told me that education is never a waste. This has proved to be true for me.
L: I pretty much knew that I wanted to be something like an Interior Designer from a young age; I started off in an Architecture program but quickly switched into Interior Design and have never looked back!
Once you knew you wanted to, what steps did you take to make that a reality?
We both acquired education (Degree/Diploma) in Interior Design and took on internships and part-time jobs in the field. We knew that experience was going to be invaluable and also a way to actually be hired at a desirable design firm after graduating school.
What gave you the courage to go for it?
Laura and I worked in a number of Interior Design/Architecture Firms before meeting-up at the same firm where we worked together on various projects. After a few years we realized we should be working for ourselves. We were working hard, producing great work and generally under-valued by our employer. I think we just had enough and thought let's just go for it! And obviously we did. Although we were young, we had experience and we were willing to work hard at our own business.
A: When we decided to take the leap into self-employment I had a baby son. I knew that working for someone else meant that there would be little flexibility for me as a mom and I felt that I was missing too much of my son growing up. I loved design but obviously I loved my son, something had to give- working for myself was the only good option. I am so lucky to have had a partner like Laura to do this with- I think having a business partner gave me more courage because we had each other to constantly fall back on and encourage each other.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
We both agree that the biggest lesson we've learned (the hard way) is to trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you that something is off, or a potential client is giving you a 'run-now' feeling, listen, and start running the other way. At the beginning of an entrepreneurship you often feel like you have to take whatever work comes your way for fear that more work may not appear. But, this often ends with you saying 'yes' to projects you should have said 'no' to. I am thrilled that at this point we get to say 'no' to projects that are simply not a 'good-fit' for us; but to be honest, I think this comes with time.
Do you have a signature style?
The Design Co.'ssignature style is a true blend of modern & traditional design elements. Our designs draw from our love of architecture, art and fashion- we create spaces using classical design principles and add a modern touch to keep things looking fresh, new and exciting. Laura and I are creatives at heart and we like to push the boundaries of design and do something new, creative, and unexpected in a home, something you haven't seen a million times over. I also think that our style is always evolving; and I like that- doing the same thing over and over gets boring!
What have you found works for you as far as organizing your business and time?
A & L: Toronto rush-hour traffic can be terrible, we have found that scheduling our site meetings and shopping trips when traffic is low and working at home or in the office during high-traffic times has been very efficient. We also try to have Mondays in the office to get organized and plan for the week so we start the week off right, rather than trying to play catch-up all week. It doesn't always work like this but we are trying our best to keep Mondays open for office time.
What do you wish you would have known going into this industry?
L: I would have like to have had a more realistic expectation as to how much actual creative design work I was going to do versus how much accounting, invoicing, ordering and emailing I would do on a daily basis. A lot of my time is spend on the latter, and going into this profession I naively thought that the majority of my time would be spent on the former.
A: I didn't know that it would be difficult to have a rewarding, exciting job at a big Toronto Design Firm and be the mom I wanted to be. I thought I could pull both off, no problem-but after starting out in such a firm and working late into the nights and weekends for someone else with little control or flexibility of my schedule, I realized that my career and mom-life were not going as I thought they would. Hence, the jump into entrepreneurship! I still work many evenings and weekends but I choose which ones, and what hours. This is so amazing!
What was the most challenging aspect of starting your own business? The most rewarding experience?
The most challenging aspect of starting your own business is probably the fear and anxiety that we felt at the beginning of starting our own business, wondering if this was actually going to work and if we could support ourselves and our families financially. Also, the sheer number of hours we worked in the beginning was overwhelming, but now we have a successful business up and running and we get to do what we love every day. The most rewarding experience of owning our own business has been the control that we have over our career and lives. When you work for yourself, you work very hard but you also directly reap all the benefits of that hard work and that makes it all worth it!
Highlight of your career so far?
It is always exciting to see our work published, whether it be on blogs we read, or magazines we've subscribed to for years. When you see your work published in a magazine that you've been reading since you were a child it is very exciting! It feels like a dream has come true...because it has.
Looking back, what would you do differently?
Nothing really, everything has worked out pretty well. Yes, we made some big and some small mistakes but we have learned some valuable lessons from each of our mistakes. Low points in a business happen. They can be very emotionally heavy, but Laura and I always have each other to lean-on and find the strength to pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and go at it again. Things will not always be perfect, but having some resilience and a positive outlook will make it so you can continue to grow and enjoy your work.
What are the greatest challenges of running your own business? Do you ever miss the stability of working for someone else?
The greatest challenge of owning our own business is being fully and totally responsible for all aspects of the business. There are so many moving parts to a successful business and we have to make sure everything is running smoothly. There is a lot on our minds at any given point; this can be overwhelming but you kind of get used to it and maybe even thrive on the pressure?! It sounds crazy, but is kind of true. Neither of really miss the stability of working for someone else.
A: I'd prefer excitement, independence and a quality of life over stability.
Any business books you think other gals aspiring to run their own design business should read?
We both read 'Girl Boss' when it was first released and loved it! We felt energized and inspired after reading a book by a fellow female entrepreneur.
What parts of your work do you love? Do you NOT love?
We agree that the best part of our work is seeing a project come to fruition. After months and sometimes years of planning it is so amazing to see your work come to life-it is rewarding, gratifying and extremely exciting. We often describe delivery/install and photo shoot days as feeling like Christmas!
Best advice you’ve been given? Any advice that you’d give other entrepreneurs?
A: My parents always told me that if you are talented and willing to work hard you will be successful. And I think that has been true for me. I knew what my strengths and talents were, and I worked my ass off.
L: I would tell other entrepreneurs that you only get to live once, so go for it...whole heartedly, with everything you have, and see what happens. I would also remind anyone that is thinking about working for themselves that it is not for the thin-skinned, you need to be tough, and you can never be too organized- organization will save you time and money.
What does a typical day look like for you? - in photos (instagram style)