Debbie Wiener, Founder of My Designing Solutions
Interior Designer of 18 years
Why did you decide to get into the interior design profession?
Desperation. Let me explain:
It all started with the scene I was making at the cash register in my local KMart. With two screaming kids in tow- one a 1st grader and the other a baby, my charge card was declined. I made the cashier try it again and again, till she finally accepted a personal check! It was my Scarlett O'Hara moment- with God and all the fed-up customers behind me in line as my witnesses, I vowed not to be broke again. I was gonna do something about it. I am not a business woman; I am not an inventor, I am not an interior designer...although I now play these characters at work.
What followed was a string of common sense - not business sense - decisions involving guerilla marketing (imagine taking your product into a store that does not sell your product, then video taping employees and would be customers talk ing enthusiastically about your product and then sending it to the buyer!), self-promotion, incredibly funny but true experiences with clients, consultants, a White House Chief of Staff and a DEA Agent; tons of failure, chocolate and self-doubt leading me to adopt a split personality named Celia who posed as my assistant (although it was always me)... and... ultimately success. This is the short version.
Flash forward to today. I run the DC area's busiest interior design firm. I published a design book with Penguin/Alpha and my work has been featured in almost every top 50 daily. I coach women entrepreneurs all over the country and on a national TV show (for free). I am writing The Jewish Mother's Guide to Business with Steve Harvey. I have a patent-pending household tool and am meeting with corporate buyers at Lowe's and Sam's Club to retail it for me. I run a furniture company and sell to major universities, the Smithsonian and moms who live with slobs like me. Best of all, I am franchising my design business- Designing Solutions. Where two other design franchises have failed already...I have a formula for success. Me.
What do you like best about the profession?
Somewhat flexible hours- especially early on when my kids were young. I have discovered that I like to be in control of my own destiny.
What skills are most important for an interior designer?
Communication, customer service, good taste, common sense and confidence.
What is the most challenging thing about being an interior designer?
Most designers are competitive with one another and a bit snobby. So it's hard to be good friends with other designers. I have a few- but not as many as I should after 18 years. Sure, I know a lot of designers, but we are not good friends…just business acquantainces.
Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in interior design?
Customer Service: No matter how great your talents, you must be able to focus on service. Clients want to be made to feel that nothing is more important than their project. Design school doesn't teach how to make a client happy. Interior designers are a luxury- the experience should feel luxurious and that comes with learninghow to make the client happy.
- Communication: You must be able to convey your creativity and passion in writing and in person. It's amazing to me how little emphasis is placed on a well written proposal or the ability to give an exciting "I want that!" oral presentation to clients. You have to sell the sizzle, not just the steak!
- Confidence: This is the difference between "I think this $7000 love seat will fit in your study nicely" and "This is THE love seat for that study. They are made for each other." Your client didn't hire you to guess. Your client hired you to KNOW! Project confidence; behave professionally; speak with authority; be the expert. There are a lot of great designers out there. The ones that rise to the top know that a good designer is more than great designs.
Now add to this that it takes long hours, hard work and courage to put yourself out there and do it alone.
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