"When Passion Meets Purpose..."


Pretty much since I first became a homeowner, I've had guests come over and comment on my home.  Most would kindly suggest that I should be decorating for other people. It was a nice compliment, but I'll admit, I shrugged it off at first.  However, after hearing it over and over again, it became harder and harder to ignore.  Slowly but surely, the seeds of entrepreneurship were planted by family and friends and I began to quietly contemplate the option. 


Strangely enough, one of the things that I struggled with the most was this notion of purpose.  If you know me at all, or have been following along here for a while, you know that I'm a religious person.  I view my life as an offering to God and so my life's work, which takes up the majority of my time, is pretty important.  You see, I could wrap my mind around the importance of dietetics. 


I mean, I worked in school foodservice, planning healthy meals for school kids.  Pretty noble, right? 
Then, I transitioned to HR and now work as Director of Diversity and Inclusion helping ensure that we ALL have access to the same opportunities to succeed.  Also pretty noble, right?  However, I just couldn't wrap my mind around the "importance" of making someone's house pretty.  It seemed...well, trivial, unimportant, insignificant, materialistic, pretentious... You get the picture.  Seriously, I really had a hard time with the thought of that being my sole career. 

Thankfully, in January of 2008, I signed up for a new Sunday School class where we'd study Rick Warren's best seller, The Purpose Driven Life.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  While it would be three more years before I made a pivot in the direction of my destiny, that class completely opened my eyes to passion and purpose. 


It's been years since I read it, but basically Warren talks about the fact that God has put in each one of us unique gifts (and NEWSFLASH: Not all of them are designed for primary use at the church or on the global mission field).  He urges readers to take note of the things that they lose track of time doing.  The things that you do without prompting.  For me that was creating a welcoming home.  It's what I love.  It's what I've always loved.  In fact, my sophomore year in college, my dorm room was the room they used to tour prospective students.  They'd call to give me a heads up and I'd spruce things up and leave soft music playing when I left for class.  If that wasn't a hint, I don't know what was. 


Fast forward to the early days of Dwell by Cheryl and I quickly began to realize that what I was doing was important.  I started to note the major impact I was making on the lives of the people I began to serve.

 

A couple of clients commented that they use their home in entirely new ways because of the work that I'd done.  They now entertain more, spend time with their family at home more, sleep better, cook more meals at home.  This is BIG stuff y'all!  I began to realize that I wasn't just making rooms pretty, I was changing the lives of those who inhabit them. 


This point was completely solidified by a comment I received from a recent client.  I completed a redesign of her teenage daughter's bedroom.  Shortly thereafter, she told me that every day after she gets home from work, she now heads up to her daughter's room and sits on the settee that I added to the spaces and chats with her about how her day went.  Wow!



Think about that for a minute.  Do you have any idea the impact that will have on a fourteen year old girl for years to come?  Wow! 

I now not only consider what I do to be purposeful, I consider it to be my ministry.  Yes, I love beautiful spaces and I work hard to ensure that the color scheme, the details are just right and the space is well-appointed.  However, what's most important is that I create spaces for my clients that completely change (and improve) their lives at home. In fact, I count it a privilege.

I'm thankful that they trust me with their intimate spaces.  I may have struggled with it at first, but I'm so very grateful that God revealed to me the purpose within my passion

"Behind the Designer Feature"

I've just returned from a glorious weekend at High Point Market, followed by a quick trip to Chicago for the day job.   Now I'm putting the finishing touches on my latest project that will be installed this weekend.  Busy, busy!

I thought I'd pop in to share with you a recent feature on a fellow Charlotte creative's blog. 
Several weeks ago I was approached by Anne Neilson of Anne Neilson Fine Art Gallery here in Charlotte.  She's a friend and follower on social media and was interested in interviewing me on her blog.  I graciously agreed and promptly provided her with some details about my business, my background and really my life as a whole.  She and her team did a fabulous job pulling the whole post together and I'd be remiss if I didn't share it with you. 


Head over to the blog and check it out.  There are lots of fun tidbits and pretty pictures!!





"How I Work a Full-Time Career and Operate a Design Business"


I'm often asked how I manage to balance a full-time career and a design business (and until recently school as well).  It's a difficult question to answer.  Honestly, I think for the most part I JUST DO IT.  I set my mind and I just do it. Yes, it's a lot of sacrifices and a lot of work, but ultimately I know it's getting me closer to my goals.  One thing is for sure when I began I was dead set on doing it well.  Today I'm sharing a few tips that have helped me successfully operate in essentially two worlds, simultaneously.

Well, when I first decided to start a business on the side, it really began as a creative outlet and a byproduct of the blog.  While I wasn't exactly doing it for the money I knew that if I was going to be "official" I had to do things right.  You only get one chance to make a first impression and I didn't want potential clients to see anything less than my best, which leads me to my first point.

1.  DON'T operate as if it's your side hustle.

From day one I've worked hard to be viewed as a professional, even when I was a total amateur. Things like investing in professional (amateur) photography, blog/website design, etc. work to create a professional and polished public persona that positions you as a design professional, not a hobbyist.  This is where my perfectionism came in handy.  I mean, you can't have someone coming to a site that's "coming soon" or "under construction".  Not acceptable.  Presenting a professional image that is on par with other industry professionals is critical.  This is likely the single most important thing that I did from the very start and it continues to pay dividends today.


2.  Invest in yourself.

Yes, it was my side hustle but I made early investments in developing professionally in my area of interest.  I followed other designers to help identify the best events, workshops, and conferences to attend.  Again, I didn't wait until I was established, I invested early.  One of the best moves made in this area was the decision to attend the Design Bloggers Conference in LA in 2013.  I flew clear across the country, knowing absolutely no one, to attend what I'd heard was one of the best design conferences at the time.  Best decision EVER!!  I met some of the biggest names in the game and established personal connections and lasting friendships.  The information I learned and probably, more importantly, the networking was priceless.




I also made the decision to go back to school but you can read more about that in a recent post entitled "To School or Not to School...".

3.  Social media levels the playing field. Use it!

Social media is the best money you'll never spend on marketing your small business.  It completely levels the playing field in terms of access and exposure.  Businesses and publication's that may never answer an email or call from you will almost certainly notice you on social media; especially if you're supporting or publicizing their product or brand.  Use this to your advantage.  The key is consistency and this is where most drop the ball.  You need to establish a frequency and stick to it.  We're all creatures of habit and we like when we can count on things and people.  This is particularly important if you don't work full time in the industry of your side hustle.  Social media allows you to live in both worlds at the same time.  I established a pretty regular weekday schedule from the start.  Instagram is my social media of choice and I post before work, during lunch and late in the evenings. This requires some forethought but provides the perception that I'm working in the design world during the day although I'm not.  While Instagram is my favorite, I have a presence on all of the major streams and post regularly (but not as frequently) on those as well.  Remember perception is reality and if you want to run with the big dogs, you've got to get off the porch.  ; )


4.  Steal best practices from the day job.

If you're fortunate to work in a large or well-established company, there are more than few best practices that are likely transferable to your business.  From HR processes, strategy implementation, project planning, communications, sales and even marketing.  There's a reason successful companies are successful.  Take a look at your employer with fresh eyes and think about what practices might work for you and your business.  I do an annual strategy meeting that was born out of an idea from  work.  Additionally, when I have a media appearance, I totally use the process I learned in media training at my company.  (Be sure to keep things ethical of course)  Instead of viewing your day job as a burden, think of all of the transferable skills you've learned and can continue to learn.


5. Use your vacation or PTO wisely.

Seems like a weird tip but you essentially have two careers and just because you have "off" from one, doesn't mean you'll be off from the other.  Early on, I realized that PTO days were design biz gold.  They allowed me to attend conferences, make media appearances, prep for installs, etc.  Yep, that meant I had to sacrifice real days off but it was worth it to be able to have time to do what I really wanted to do.  So think before you play hooky on a random Monday.  You may need that day for an awesome opportunity that happens during regular business hours.


The bottom line is to do both you've got to be able to balance.  It's a delicate balance, but it's totally doable.  My goal has always been to operate with excellence in both roles. My name is on both and I want to ensure that my employer and my business get my very best.

Lest I give the impression that it's easy, I should probably state that this is HARD.  It takes up a lot of time and is likely not sustainable forever.  At some point, you're going to have to make a choice.  However, having real experience running your own gig just may help make that choice a lot easier.


"Ottoman Upgrade"

 
Back in January I blogged about upgrading my ottoman/coffee table.  It was originally a McCreary Modern floor model that I scored at the Habitat ReStore in Hickory.  I fell in love with the massive amount of storage it provided, but I knew I'd eventually need to have it reupholstered.  It took me a couple of years, but I finally had it done and I couldn't be happier with the result. 
 
 
I opted for the same fabric my vintage sofa is covered in and dressing the piece up a bit with a fun nail head trim.   
 
 
Mark of Baity's Custom Upholstery did an amazing job.  We tossed around a few ideas but ultimately settled on this design.  He really is a genius when it comes to bringing a vision to life, because my sketches often leave a lot to be desired.  
 
I can hardly wait to settle in on a chilly fall evening someday soon and put my feet up on this beauty. 
 
 
 For the spring and summer I've been using my new gold coffee table which I love, but this one is so much cozier. It's almost hard to believe what it looked like before.
 

 
 
I love how unifying the sofa and ottoman seems to elevate the space a bit.  Kinda fancy, right?
 
I change out the pillows for fall and I recently had a few new custom ones made.  The more neutral palette is perfect for fall. 
 
 

 


 
Sometimes getting things just right takes a bit of time.  I've found that when I'm patient and really hold out for what I want, I'm never disappointed in the end.   
 

Have a great week!

"To School or Not to School...That is the Question"


Wow!  It's been a while.  Apparently time flies when you're having fun....or when you're tied up doing tons of homework trying to finish your last design school course.

I'm happy to be back this week with some fabulous news.  I am officially finished with design school!
Residential Design I
Six years!  It took me six years to complete a program designed to be a year and a half.  I thought I'd pop in to share my experience with you guys.  I'm often asked if I think going to school is necessary or even worth it, so I figured a blog post on the topic was in order. 

When I began taking courses in January of 2011, I did so as a way to just..."start".  I wanted to start doing something fun, something for me.  I didn't really set out targeting a completion date or even complete the program.  I just started.  It was a way for me to invest in myself and invest in this gifting that I knew I had, but that was completely untapped.  The first course was tough.  It was Basic Drafting.  I essentially learned to draw the architectural plans (by hand) for an entire home, including the foundation and electrical plans. Yikes! 

Basic Drafting
It was like learning to ride a bike.  It was completely foreign to me.  I even cried a few nights because some concepts were really difficult for me.  I loathe orthographic drawings.  Nevertheless, I learned more in that first semester than I ever dreamed I would.  So I moved on to the next, and the next, and the next, and the next...

Graphic Presentation

Color Theory
 I've even blogged about it a few times over the years:

BACK TO SCHOOL          SCHOOL DAYS           WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW

It wasn't long before I started to realize that I was learning the lingo, the history, the principles.  I was learning why things work (not just that they work) and things like why certain color choices are better than others for particular spaces.  It was totally enlightening.  It became my therapy.  It was completely different from how I was using my brain during the day and....I liked it!

Second Level Residential Drafting Class Final
HARDEST CLASS EVER!
Intro to Interior Design
Residential Design I
It was a lot of hard work, (A LOT!) but it began to become a place where I felt at home.  It was nice to be around people with similar interest.  In fact, I've met some of my closest friends and even a mentor there. 

I mean when you get into this kind of mess together, you can't help but become friends.

Celebrating with Marisa after completing Res I
After a while, I think I just got used to the work.  I just accepted that my evenings and weekends weren't really my own.  I typically spent Sunday nights doing homework and honestly, because I'm a bit of an overachiever, I poured more into it that I probably need to. 

Art History
The decision to go back to school is a personal one.  I'm not sure if it's the fact that my parents are educators or that my first career required so much schooling, but it was essential for me.  I just don't think I would've been comfortable fully operating in a realm where I didn't have substantial training. 

The bottom line is I'm SO VERY happy to finally be done, but I'm also glad that I decided to go for it.  The hardest part was starting and staying the course. The six years would've passed whether I started or not, so I'm glad I didn't let the longevity of the process deter me.

And just in case you're asking yourself if I think it was worth it, the answer is "YES!"  I'd do it all over again without hesitation. It was hands down, totally worth it. 


It's actually been a bit strange these past few days not having to think about homework.  It's odd to think that after 6 years, I will no longer have to spend my evenings in this building.  Honestly, I just might miss it. 

Here's to another goal completed and being a step closer to making dreams come true.

For those of you wondering, after scoping out the options locally and chatting with a few designers, I decided to attend Central Piedmont Community College.  They have an old school program with a lot of street cred in our area.  The curriculum is pretty intense but I appreciated the live classroom setting and knowledgeable faculty and staff.
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