Part 2 of 3: My Journey into Interior Design & Entrepreneurship
S.K. Designs was in full force now & I was working part-time in my dad’s shop, focusing on finding more custom clients. A couple more regular clients were secured: CAD contracts with cabinet shops. I took up insurance underwriting, but that did not last! Too much paperwork for my liking. So I gave that up and put more attention into my dad’s shop. We made a great team!
Some very interesting projects came our way, steady work and we worked well together. One of my CAD contracts was with a kitchen designer and she taught me everything she knew. Much of my design standards that I still use today are the result of the knowledge she shared with me.
Then I met Bruce, an accountant who bought a kitchen company and needed a designer. With him, I helped to build a showroom and sell kitchens. I was the designer, the sales person the project manager. I was young, inexperienced and naïve too. Lots of mistakes, a lot of “learning curves” and some seriously huge reality checks, but over time things fell into place. I kept our installer booked 2 months in advance and things were growing fast.
ARIDO… Over a 7-year period, I operated under an “Intern ARIDO” membership and then it came time to write the NCDIQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) exams. At this point I was settling into a house-wife-ish role, expecting my second child and specializing in kitchens and CAD drawings. So I let the Interior Design title go. I took a month off after the birth of my second child and the kitchen company I helped build replaced me with a wide-eyed graphic designer who had a “knack” for decorating and was willing to work for half as much as I was being paid. It was time for me to move on. There’s no maternity leave for the self-employed and with some surprise financial setbacks, I had to keep working.
Timing was great though. I was contacted by the Lab Furniture company I used to work for. They needed some CAD back-up. I worked for them freelance and it was perfect: mostly at-home work, email, and fax kept us connected. Great for baby and me? Yeh right. She never slept and her dad’s work schedule seemed to trump my needs to get work done. When Hayley was about 6 months old, something had to give. I needed a routine that allowed me to be with the kids and separate work from mom “duties”.
I closed S.K. Designs and took a job as a production manager for a company called Woodcraft Furniture. It was a good paying job, kept me very busy, but required little to no creativity. And the commute was killing me.
An opportunity came to work in the kitchen and bath department in a “Building Centre”; a retail job. This position allowed me to flex my work schedule to suit my family. With retail hours, I was able to have the kids home more and at daycare less. I took the department from under $200,000 of sales to $500,000+, over a 3-year period, increased the profit margins and developed a reputation with clients, suppliers and trades people. Over 7 years the whole store saw changes, expansion of the store, sadness with the unexpected passing away of the owner, necessity change in management, economic highs & lows.
When the entire installation department left, I saw an opportunity. An opportunity to move beyond just kitchen and bath, an opportunity to learn new things and an opportunity for better pay and better hours. I Spent 6 + months doing a seemingly impossible job of “clean-up”. With the economy still working through its lows, I got caught in the “management cut-backs” and was let go. That stung!
I had never been let go from a job. What now? My turn to build a business!