Why is it that even five years out of college, some guys still can't shake the frat-boy act? You know the type: seemingly grown men who still consider a cardboard box to be an appropriate substitute for a coffee table, believe the only decoration a room needs is a flat-screen TV, and -- instead of throwing them away -- opt to display their empty liquor bottles like trophies on their bookshelves.
Taylor Spellman, owner of New York City-based interior design firm August Black, hopes to enlighten these perpetual dorm-dwellers. Spellman founded her guys-only interior design firm in 2008, based on the belief that most men don't want their apartments to be a mess; they just don't know how to decorate and organize them properly. So she set out on her mission to bring stylish décor to men everywhere, one bachelor pad at a time.
Below, Spellman tells us what it's like to be the owner of August Black.
CareerBuilder: As an interior designer and small-business owner, what does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?
Taylor Spellman: As a small-business owner, you have to be comfortable wearing many hats. Every day there are the challenges of running a small business such as invoicing, general accounting and prospecting for new clients. Then there's the more fun side of the business, which is the actual interior design element that includes picking paint colors, fabrics and shopping for goods. On a daily basis, I am constantly switching back and forth between the left-brain business side and the right-brain creative side.
We heard you had no formal training in interior design. If this is true, how did you become successful in your industry? Is it something you've always had a knack for?
It is true that I had no formal training. When I was deciding if I wanted to go to school or just dig in and get to work, I read an old Zen saying that said, "Leap and the net will appear." I decided to leap -- and the net has certainly appeared!
You can have all the schooling in the world, but if you don't have that confidence and faith in yourself, you will still get nowhere. I think I have always had a knack for it, and after decorating so many apartments for friends I suddenly thought, "Wait, I could be getting paid for this!"
Ultimately, I think we have excelled in the industry, especially in such a competitive environment like New York City, because we are capitalizing on a niche. I think it helps any business to get off the ground when you're able to home in on an untapped market.
What prompted you to actually start your company, and in the middle of a recession, no less?
I was prompted to start the company because I was ready to launch a real career that I was passionate about, compared to a job that simply paid the bills. Before I went off on my own, I was working for quite possibly the meanest human on the planet ("The Devil Wears Prada" style) and I knew that the challenges I would face in opening a business (even in a recession) would be cake compared to my old job and would also be a lot more rewarding.
What's it like to run your own business? Is it all it's cracked up to be? Is it more than it's cracked up to be?
My father is also an entrepreneur and when I was a kid he'd always say, "I'd rather work 100 stressful hours for myself than 50 for someone else." Now that I run my own business, I understand what he was saying. It is all it's cracked up to be in that you get 100 percent of the credit when things go well and the work is really fulfilling because you are so invested in the process from start to finish. Also, even when I am feeling an exorbitant amount of stress and pressure, that is another good thing about being your own boss -- job security. I never walk into the office wondering if I'm going to get fired.
When did you realize your business was a success?
After the first year of being open (in the height of the recession) had come to a close and I realized we were profitable.
Have you ever encountered a particularly trying client or project? How did you handle it?
Seeing as I work with extremely successful, high-powered men who are used to getting their own way, I have definitely had my fair share of trying clients. It's par for the course, so I handle it by trying to have a good attitude, a good work ethic and a thick, thick skin.
What advice do you have for people who want to start their own business, but may be afraid, or may not have the educational background typically needed for the industry they're interested in?
When it comes down to it, if you want to do it you will, and if you want to make excuses for why it won't work, you'll do that, too. It's all a matter of what you decide in your mind. So don't waste energy being afraid, as that will get you nowhere. Decide what you want and map out the plan on how you're going to get there.
Interested in becoming an interior designer? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Employment for interior designers is expected to grow faster than average (19 percent) through 2018.
- Job competition for interior designers is expected to be keen. Those with degrees in the field and related experience are expected to have the best job opportunities.
- Interior designers are often self-employed.
Median annual wages for interior designers were $44,950 in 2008.
Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow @CBForJobSeekers on Twitter.
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