This girl needs no introduction, her design work speaks for itself. She's one of the most fun and fabulous design bosses I know.
Educational background: Bachelor’s in Communications
Current city: Washington DC Metro Area
Astrological sign: Cancer
Did you always know you wanted to be a decorator/ designer? From a young age I was always interested in design. As a 5 or 6yr old child, I would look at magazines and try to fold my sheets just like the bedding ads. I also drew rooms with a little design kit my mom had given me. My passion came back after I worked in the corporate world for 5 or 6 years and then purchased my first home.
Once you knew you wanted to, what steps did you take to make that a reality? After purchasing our first home the thought of starting a design business sparked my interest. I quit my corporate job, went back to school to take a few design classes and loved it. I was then hired at the Washington Design Center as an assistant manager at one of the showrooms. I was there for a brief time, but the experience was great. I then attended local, free seminars on starting your own business. Following that, I branched out on my own and formed JWS Interiors without a website. Neighbors and friends became my first clients and then only by referral did my business grow. I had zero dollars for advertising!
What gave you the courage to go for it? I have a passion for design, a great eye, and a strong work ethic. I was also fortunate my husband could support me and was supportive of my decision to go back to school and determine if this was ultimately what I wanted to pursue.
What lessons have you learned along the way? You have to be organized, really listen to a client’s needs and be your client’s advocate. Things come up with shipping, vendors, custom orders and you have to be willing to go to bat for your client. And, if you a mistake, you own up to it and fix it.
Do you have a signature style? I like clean lines and neutral spaces. You could say my design style is “Modern Glam”; however, I’m starting to design more spaces with an even cleaner, minimal look.
What have you found works for you as far as organizing your business and time? I am a list maker! I love lists and for me keeping it simple on the computer or even a paper pad is what I need. I break out each client project and what has to be done for the week. I’m good at time management (after working in the corporate world) and having two daughters. I’ve learned how to prioritize tasks and #GSD (Get Stuff Done) !
What do you wish you would have known going into this industry? That you really don’t get paid for all the thought and time you actually put into a project. On the flip side, I had no idea how much satisfaction I’d receive from working with so many great people and helping them make their homes beautiful. My circle of friends has expanded too as it’s not uncommon that I become friends with clients. A definite bonus to the job!
What was the most challenging aspect of starting your own business? The most rewarding experience? The most challenging was starting the business and growing it. The most rewarding is helping clients and receiving press coverage of my projects.
Highlight of your career so far? The highlight of my career thus far was being selected by 6 high-end décor brands who formed a design collective to renovate a Soho apartment in NYC. It was an amazing experience to coordinate 6 brands, contractors, budgets and more. We received media coverage by top tier publications including Veranda, Elle Décor and more.
Looking back, what would you do differently? Nothing. I have no regrets. I’m willing to fail—what matters is that I took a chance and tried it in the first place.
What are the greatest challenges of running your own business? Do you ever miss the stability of working for someone else? As a working mother of two, my greatest challenge is managing it all and doing both—raising my daughters with my husband—and running my business- as best as I can. My family will always come first; but my business is my “third baby.” I do not miss working for someone else. The joy in having flexibility when I need it is worth the sometimes long hours.
Any business books you think other gals aspiring to run their own design business should read? I remember reading Paul Arden’s “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be” years ago and every now and again I’ll flip through and re-read his advice for succeeding in business. Arden was considered by many to be a creative advertising genius.
What parts of your work do you love? Do you NOT love? I love the creative aspect of course—this is what makes me tick. I also enjoy working with all types of people and this makes every client/contractor/editor meeting interesting. I don’t love that I don’t get paid for all the brainpower behind each project (because I’m ALWAYS thinking about each project and assessing what can be done), but because I love design so much, it’s ok.
Best advice you’ve been given? Any advice that you’d give other entrepreneurs? Always do your best and you’ll never have regrets. My motto has always been “Make It Happen.” No one is going to give you everything on a silver platter. It’s up to you, and only you, to make your dreams come true.