Most people don’t know that I didn’t start my career in interior design. Truth be told, my first design class was so intense, I nearly quit. Which is why it’s so hard to believe that we’re now celebrating 10 YEARS of Blakely Interior Design!
To toast this incredible milestone, I want to share our full origin story with you. It’s about discovering your passion, pursuing it with conviction, and letting it take you places you never dreamed possible…
Career #1: Marketing, Business & A Side Hustle
With a degree in marketing and business from Syracuse University, I landed a job at an advertising agency right out of college, before moving into corporate marketing for AT&T. There, I learned a ton about business and liked my work, but after several years, I began to feel a creative void.
A friend turned me on to a side hustle throwing decor parties in people’s homes. I would teach them how to style their mantel or cocktail table, while earning some sales on the side. That was my first exposure to “decorating,” and it was simple and enjoyable. I LOVED getting out of the house, meeting new people, and teaching them a few new things.
I stuck with the decor party side hustle for several years, until the attention of my daughter and growing a family required me to pull back. I didn’t think about interiors again until much later.
The Big Shift: Renovating the Ugly House on the Block
What happened next? Well, the first major shift occurred when my husband was relocated from the Tri-State area and we moved to Rhode Island. That’s when I saw her: the ugly house on the block.
I immediately saw its potential and had a vision for it. We bought the house, and I made some major changes to it, enjoying the transformation every step of the way. To my surprise, my family, friends, and neighbors took notice. I kept getting asked by new neighbors if I was an interior designer, and when I would say no, I heard the same response, “people will pay you for this.”
In hindsight, I think the timing was serendipitous. With a life committed to caretaking, I needed something to call my own. As the voices of friends and family joined my own inner voice, I finally started to listen.
The Big Leap: Night School & Opening a Design Firm
I am a big believer in education, coaching, and personal development, traditional and non-traditional. Hanging up a shingle and calling myself an interior designer wouldn’t have felt like a commitment to my new career or like due diligence to any future clients I might have. Fortunately, one of the best design schools in the country, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), was only a 25-minute drive away. I signed up.
As you know, my first class in RISD’s CE (Continuing Education) program was so intense that I nearly didn’t return after that first day. But my intuition told me that interior design was the right fit for me, so I stuck with it and just soaked it all in.
At the same time, I took another leap that in hindsight is something most people wouldn’t do. I started my design business while I was still in school. I wanted to put my learning into practice right away and get through the learning curve faster than waiting the five years it took me to complete the program. It wasn’t easy (I had a real case of imposter syndrome in those early years), but I landed new projects, my work got noticed, and I kept getting more and more leads and clients. Eventually, the real-world application of the projects was teaching me more than the classes were!
Part of my imposter syndrome rose out of my difficulty accepting the legitimacy of my business without classic design training. I remember wishing that I had studied interior design in my undergrad. Looking back, I now realize that my natural design abilities were the foundation for my business, but my business sense, everything that I had studied and experienced up to that point, was what MADE my talent into a second career.
If you’re in the same situation and you think that your past experience won’t help you with your new direction, guess again. Your past experiences are what bring special insights and gifts to the table, even if they don’t seem related. No question about it.
Need more proof? Blakely’s mission of inspiring “vibrant living” stems from my own path of self-discovery — a path that never would have been taken if I’d studied design initially during my undergrad! Now, this mission is what makes our work so special and transformative for our clients.
A Fully Fledged Design Firm & New Dreams
Renovating the ugly house on the block was the inspiration I needed to pursue design, but once my design firm had taken flight, it required another major shift to become the Blakely Interior Design you know today… hiring.
When I realized that I hadn’t invoiced my clients for 3 months, I knew I needed some help. I initially started with part-time assistance to keep costs down, but this soon turned into my first full-time hire in 2015. To say it was transformational is an understatement. I was finally able to focus on design and growing the business, and to my surprise, I learned that I LOVE having a team!
Over the following years, two team members soon grew to four, then six, and now nine as of late 2021. We’re a tight-knit bunch, everyone has their role and expertise, and we are continuing to grow beyond what I ever would have thought possible in the beginning. It has been hard work and a gift, all wrapped into one.
We also just implemented a four-day work week here in the studio! But that’s a story for another day…
Advice for Pursuing Your Passions
If you’re considering finding or pursuing your passions, I have a few words of advice that I have learned along the way. If you can master these, your path won’t be totally smooth (is it ever?), but you will be more likely to stay the course and feel happy as you do.
Tip 1: Define success.
First, define what success looks like for you, because there is no right or wrong way to pursue your passions. Everyone’s version of success is different. For example, you may not need to start your own design company or work for a big architectural firm. You may feel just as fulfilled taking “weekend jobs” in your local neighborhood. You get to choose.
Tip 2: Believe in yourself.
There will never be a perfect time to dive into a new path — and it’s scary. This is where planning and a leap of faith converge. The best way to feel confident leaping into the unknown is to have unshakeable faith in your ability to handle whatever comes your way. The rest is real but figure-out-able logistics. I am also a believer in manifesting your future. If you believe in your heart and set yourself up for success, the universe will do the rest.
Tip 3: Invite success into your life.
My final tip is to make room for success to enter your life. By that, I mean create an environment and nurture new habits that support your goals. I wrote on this topic two years ago with 7 Ways to Live Vibrantly in the New Year, and all of the tips I shared there are still 100% relevant today. Go take a look and start implementing a few at a time, if you can. It’s worth it!
Well, that’s it for today. I hope my story has inspired you, and if I made it look at all easy, believe me, it wasn’t! But every hard moment or scary investment was worth the final result: a business that has not only impacted me and my family for the better but has also benefited our team members, our clients, our community, and beyond. And that is truly remarkable.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this… If there’s a dream in your heart, maybe there’s a good reason for it.