Can you believe it? Fifteen years. It’s still so humbling to me when I sit back and look at what has been built.
I remember standing in Monaco. Yes, that place with the famed Casino and the Royal Family. I stood there and looked around me at this perfect place. The streets are magically always clean. It feels like there are little fairies following people around cleaning up after them.
The architecture is stunning. Iron adorned balconies, colourful yet tasteful stucco buildings, pretty little cafés and perfectly groomed gardens filled with blossoming, fragrant flowers. I stood there, my eyes scanning the buildings, the sheer drapery billowing in the windows, the sails atop the luxury boats and thought; this is what I want people to think of when they see my business card.
I had been working at a drapery store at the time, for about 18 months. My boss had hired me to both sell window coverings, and the bring “design” to his clients. He had been asked for design help, and his solution was hiring me. It wasn’t easy, working for someone else. I was far too independent with my own ideas and goals. Far too honest, which, when you work for someone else, isn’t always good for your boss’s bottom line.
I complained to my father one evening, telling him that I felt I could do it better.
“So start your own business. You always think you can do it better.” he replied.
I think he was trying to humble me. But it backfired.
Six months later I met someone who needed a designer. He and his wife wanted me. Not me and the company I worked for. They invited me over, sat me down at a patio table which was serving as the kitchen table in an almost entirely empty house.
“You need to quit your job.” he said.
“We are going to hire you. We’ll be your first clients. And unless you quit and start your own business, we won’t speak to you again.”
I was shocked. They had come referred to me outside of the company I worked for. I couldn’t believe they were willing to take a chance like that. But they did. They gave me the opportunity I needed. Two weeks later, Monaco Interiors was up an running. I was unemployed with a student loan and creating a make-shift office in my parents basement. My plans to move out put on hold. And I was too old to be living at home.
The years that followed were all but miraculous. Never a dull moment. I went from designing small spaces to renovating them to working with builders on custom homes.
It’s been a bit crazy, and I won’t lie to you, there have been many a day when I’ve wanted to shut it all down and go back to being an employee. Those days are few, but they are.
It’s not a glamorous job. There are contractors and clients, and walking in mud piles and standing in freezing barely framed-out homes pointing at walls for an equally freezing electrician. There are mishaps and missing toilets from bathroom renovations, and even once, I walked in on a contractor that had slipped and fallen between floor joists. His legs were dangling in my clients living room ceiling when I entered the house that afternoon. It was funny, but quite traumatizing.
Maybe the hardest part of starting my own business was the loss of my father. He quit his job to work with me. He installed window coverings and was my handyman. We had a great year together. But when he passed away, working without him seemed wrong in every way.
But now, all these years later, clients still remind me of how much they liked him. And the business, in a way, keeps his memory alive. I often smile, simply because I know how proud he would have been.
You see, running your own business is a big deal. It’s emotional, hard and, in my case, very gratifying. Those same clients who remember my starting years, are the ones I still see now. They call me when life circumstances change. They had a baby, or their kids have finally moved out. They are downsizing or excited that they’ve saved up to get their bathrooms done or a new sofa! They send their parents, their siblings their friends and co-workers, to my doorstep. They stick with me when something goes wrong. They praise me when it’s all finally right. The clients that pat me on the back, or cry because the renovation is done and they will miss us. The clients who have lost a loved one, who sit on their sofas and tell me how life has changed, and for some blessed reason, want me to help them through it.
My trades are equally as important. They make me look good. They care about my clients, and they are honest. We’ve forged long and trustworthy relationships, and work as a team to make our clients happy. That’s not an accident. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years to find all the right trades. And it took longer to find all the right trades that will work well together. Men and women who admit their errors and work hard to resolve surprises. People who spend sleepless nights looking for solutions to sometimes impossible issues. I’d be nowhere without them.
We sit now, me and my staff, and we look forward to our upcoming move to a bigger space. It’s been fast moving, this last twelve months. Growing at a speed I never could have expected. Like my kids, really. Growing so fast that one blinks and suddenly my first child is fifteen and employing more and more people and helping more and more clients. Suddenly this baby isn’t mine anymore. Now she belongs to my husband, and my two kids. They have a stake in this too now. They support me and work with me (husband, not kids), and get excited for our every accomplishment.
Fifteen years after I stood in Monaco, on a beautiful summer day, I now stand here, proud and strong and grateful.
Thank you to you all for your years of support, for your kindness, understanding, hard work and trust. Thank you for helping me get through it, and arrive at this landmark. And cheers. Cheers to fifteen more years of growth and design and laughs. Hopefully none, though, at the sight of a contractors legs hanging through a ceiling.
Have a terrific day,