It has been a long and winding journey that I never could have predicted. I was in college during the financial crisis in 2008 and seeing the uncertainty in the economy I switched from fine arts to nursing in order to have a more dependable job. For many years I poured my heart and soul into my healthcare career. I worked in a trauma unit and a pediatric cardiac ICU, some of the most intense areas of nursing. At this time I was strongly considering becoming an MD. I had my applications for med school all ready to go. But by this time I was experiencing burn out, and I realized if I wasn’t happy in nursing perhaps it wasn’t wise to double down on the healthcare career. Then life intervened, and I got married and had a child and bought a house, but I was unsure of my long term career path. We bought a fixer-upper and the first thing we did was remodel the kitchen. I threw myself into this project and found enormous satisfaction in all the design and planning that went into it. Friends loved my kitchen and started to ask me for design tips. Next, I designed a bathroom for a neighbor, and before I knew it, I had made a website and registered as an LLC and had a growing business. Along the way I spent countless hours reading books, taking online classes and participating in industry groups to pick up the knowledge I needed.
Though I have left the healthcare industry, I think this experience contributed to some skills that have been essential to my business success. Most important is that I really learned how to interact and communicate with all different kinds of people. Secondly, I realized that peoples’ surroundings are a key factor to their health and well-being. Having a beautiful space can truly be life-changing.
Tell us a little bit about Tartan & Toile, how did your company come about?
We do residential interior design. My tagline is “Old World style with a splash of color”. I love to take traditional elements and pair them with bold colors and patterns to make them feel fresh and new. I focus on making designs that are practical as well as beautiful, so I put a huge emphasis on space planning and the natural flow that a room creates. The sign of a well-designed room is that people will naturally gravitate to the space and want to congregate there and spend time. One thing I focus on that sets me apart is that I really try to make the design process as easy and enjoyable for the client as possible. Frequent communication and transparency are the keys to this. Most of the furniture I use in my projects come from my private label brand which I produce at a wonderful factory in North Carolina that crafts the pieces by hand to my specifications. By doing this I cut out some of the middlemen and save money while ensuring high quality. Lots of brands these days use lower quality materials that have to be shipped from Asia.
How did you know that you were heading in the right direction with this new career choice?
I knew I was in the right direction when I was okay working long hours for no money in the beginning. I felt a sense of fulfillment because I knew my work was making my clients’ lives better. When I saw how happy clients were with the transformation of their space, that also helped confirm my decision.
How do you handle the challenges that you face?
A lot of great friends and family. My husband who has been very helpful with giving me business advice. I have read countless books on everything from bookkeeping and project management to color theory and space planning. Still, sometimes you really cannot prepare for the challenges, and you learn from experience. You just keep moving forward and tackle each obstacle that comes up.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Last year my husband was laid off, and it took him around six months to find a new job. During this time my business had only been around for a little over a year, but it had grown to the point where I was able to fully support our family. When we got through this period without having to dip into savings or cut back spending, I knew I had a successful business. Early on, it bothered me that people seemed to regard my business as a hobby. When I became the breadwinner for our family during this time, I was able to demonstrate that this was not just a hobby.