One of the most asked questions I get is “how did you get started?” I wish there was one simple and straightforward answer, but like everything else it was a twisty, winding and messy road to get here. And by the way, I am not even close to where I want to be! Growth is my middle name and I am not a “settle in and get comfortable” kind of girl, which probably is why entrepreneurs are a special breed.
Why the surf truck photo? Because, I kid you not, THIS is the moment I realized, after I had my very first surf lesson, that a desk job was no longer suited for me and I needed to pursue my dreams of living and breathing (and designing!) coastal living forever.
After years (and I mean YEARS) of corporate, I got a super-scary health scare that changed me forever. I don’t talk about it much because I don’t let it define me, BUT I do know that it gave me a perspective on life that I see as an honor and a privilege vs a long time battle of survival. Here’s the thing… I had two young kids and loved the steady paycheck. I grew up in an environment where stability was king and risk was seen as delinquency. I had a college education, after all, so why leave a big job and start from scratch where I may fail?! Crazy right? Yes (to most). To me? Not crazy at all. I was more scared of not trying. But let’s be realistic… I also had a husband that was able to fill in the gaps while I went off on my own (and naturally made less at the start), because we had to make sure our family came first, not just me.
So how, you say, did I take the leap?
I asked for severance from the company that I had been at forever and got packaged out. It just so happened that the hospitality company I was working at was being bought by another hotel company so I chose to not move to Maryland (lol) and asked for an exit instead. The tenure with my company helped build a launching pad for next steps. Instead of pulling up Legal Zoom and writing a business plan… I applied for a ‘start from ground up’ junior junior junior designer job (aka jack of all trades) with a local builder. I essentially turned into a sponge and absorbed every bit of knowledge of construction and design that I could in the 18 months I worked there. As my knowledge grew, so did my confidence. And as my confidence grew, so did my side hustle; helping friends with their curb appeal (omg I didn’t touch on the fact that I started designing planters first?!) and their living rooms and crazy wallpaper choices. This was all pre-Instagram folks so none of it can be used against me. Just kidding.
I finally left and went out on my own, signed up for Legal Zoom, got my sales tax cert and EIN, came up with my business name around a dinner table with my family, opened up trade accounts, bought a dedicated work laptop and self-taught myself how to draft scaled drawings, build invoices and patch together pretty presentations in Powerpoint. I was a business major in college so my Powerpoint and Excel skills kicked in here which, thank goodness!!
My first project wasn’t a small one and believe it or not many years later made the cover of a national magazine! My client was referred to me by a friend (who now works for me!) and they were amazingly collaborative and trusted my vision. They pushed me out of my comfort zone and I took their vision to the next level. The builder and I clicked (that is by the way SO CRITICAL to a successful project) and every day was a new obstacle, reward and anxious decision. But I never pretended to be the best at everything. I believe in focusing on your strengths and letting the trades do their thing. For example, I can design a kitchen but I certainly can’t tile it, plumb it or build it! Respect among a team for each other’s roles is another critical component to a successful project. I realized during this first project that I was going to crush this interior design thing and focus all my attention on growing my passion.
At first, it’s just you folks. No team, no staff. But you do have a tribe of people with you… your family and your friends. I never felt alone. Did I feel overwhelmed? Do I still feel overwhelmed? Yes! But that’s business ownership. My team grew sloooowly and I still work out of my house (I tried the brick & mortar thing but if you don’t have retail don’t waste your profits). We are a group of five gals now plus my husband who also joined the GLD crew full time and I only see growth from here. My goals are BIG and the journey will still be messy but I’m ok with that. There is no such thing as “perfect timing.” As my dad would say, when you cease to dream you cease to live.
Bottom line… take the leap and BELIEVE in yourself!