Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Renae Justin, and I’m an interior designer living in the Midwest. I’m a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mother of 4 who also owns and runs a successful interior design business. I’ve built my business, Lasting Impressions Design, over the last 17 years, working to transition it from what was once a service that only the “elite” could afford to a business that has interior design options for all budget levels, and that I can work both locally and virtually as well.
Why did you want to own your own business?
I had entrepreneurial parents, and I realized at a very young age that I had that same entrepreneurial mindset. I remember being a young child and drawing floor plans on graph paper and rearranging my bedroom just for fun. I’m a self-starter, visionary and am extremely motivated. I think I just always felt that developing my own business was the only way to go. Aside from the internship I was required to complete in college, it never dawned on me to work for someone else!
Also, I knew that I wanted to have a family someday, and I wanted to have the flexibility to be home with my children yet still do what I love – designing!
When did you start your business?
I started my business in 1998, while I was still in college. It was interesting, starting a business at such a young age, but as I mentioned, I’ve always had that entrepreneurial mindset, so it just felt natural for me.
What training/experience did you have in your business field before you started?
I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design in 2001. I also completed an internship with a successful design-build firm. Working closely with an architect taught me to look at interiors with a “big picture” eye, paying close attention to the entire design process from drafting blueprints down to finish trim and accessories. But I started my business even before my degree was complete because I’ve just always had a passion for interior design. Since I can remember, I’ve had this innate ability to be able to envision space, light, and color as what they “could be”, not just for what they are. Being able to see the finished product of a room in my mind before I even start the re-design process helps me create a 3-D image for the client as to ensure that I am envisioning what the client wants to achieve with their re-design.
What challenges did you face when starting up your business?
I think the biggest challenge for me was all of the legal paperwork that comes with establishing a corporation. Since I am extremely right-brained, doing the left-brained tasks like filing for all of the legal stuff was stressful and tiresome. My second biggest challenge was getting the work. Since I was only 20 when I first started the business, it was hard to convince people that I had the necessary skills to get the job done and get it done well.
How did the business start-up affect your marriage/family?
I established my business long before I was married or had children, so the actual start-up of the business didn’t affect those things. However, once I started having/raising children, it took me a while to learn how to balance my designer hat with my mommy hat. There were many appointments in those early days when I had a little one in tow!
What’s the best thing entrepreneurship has done for you?
Owning my own business has given me the freedom to do the interior design work that I love while still being able to be at home with my kids. This business has given me opportunities to meet people I would never have met otherwise. Most of all, it’s given me the privilege of helping people make their home a reflection of themselves and a place they can be proud of.
What advice do you have for those considering entrepreneurship?
Work hard, but don’t let work overtake your life. Find a balance. For those who work from home, there is a danger of slipping into work mode all of the time. Don’t let that happen to you: set a realistic schedule that allows for ample work time, but also plenty of R&R and family time. Otherwise, you risk burn-out and miss out on the important things: the things life is truly about.
Also, when running your own business, be willing to go with the flow and grow as your field of business grows and changes with the times. When I first started my business, it was all about meeting people at their homes to help them with design. In today’s world of technology, the interior design business has changed.
I now help many of my clients virtually. I’ve recently successfully designed a living room and bedroom suite for a client in Texas, and never flew out there once! If you want your business to flourish, you need to be able to grow and service clients along with the changing times. You need a way to communicate with clients, like using a company, like Grasshopper, for your business phone.
For more on Renae and her interior design business, you can find her at www.lastingimpressionsdesign.com .
Note: This is part of a series called Entrepreneur Success Stories, which features people who took a chance on starting their own business. If you have an Entrepreneur Success story, I would love to hear about it. Please visit the contact page to let me know the details.