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Sara Malek Barney | Texas | Connect LOCALLY!!

I originally wanted to work in the entertainment industry, so after college, I moved from Austin to Los Angeles where I helped launch the Ellen DeGeneres Show and became a talent agent at CAA. I moved back to Austin with my husband in 2009 and worked for 7 years in sales for SXSW. After I left SXSW, I was working a boring job in technology sales, and while that position taught me a lot about business, I still had an entrepreneurial urge that needed attention. I went back to school for interior design, launched my business and grew like wildfire all within a few months. Since then, my business has grown 400% and we are on track to do that again this year. I now have 3 employees and am about to bring on another. It’s crazy how fast it has grown and I couldn’t be happier…or busier!

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and was never able to fully understand how to use that ability for myself. It transferred well during my years working in entertainment sales, but that work was always for someone else For as long as I can remember, friends, family and friends of friends have asked me to help with their interior design projects. One day, the light bulb went off and I just said, what if this it? I think it was a combo of working at a job I didn’t love and wanting to show my kids all the things a woman can achieve in business that led me to go back to school for interior design and launch my successful business.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

I think a lot of it was understanding and learning about an entirely new industry. My business background helped me tremendously but there was so much specific to the interior design industry that I didn’t know. From jargon to legal requirements, I just spent a lot of time studying. Also, if I ever understand how to do taxes on my own, I will be completely shocked!

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

No! My family and friends were so supportive as they were my only clients for many years prior. The biggest concern was trying to figure out with my husband when it made financial sense for me to leave my 9-5 job to focus on the business 100% of the time. Luckily we had enough saved away and enough initial success that I was able to do that relatively quickly. I never want to put my family in a precarious financial position because of my business dreams. We have a mortgage to pay after all.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?

If I had to pick one thing, I think it would be the business experience I brought from my previous career path. I have a very strong foundation of business principles and because of that, I understand the key components of running a business. I have worked for poorly run and extremely well run businesses and I’ve learned from those positions. I think if I were straight out of college and just starting up, the growing pains would’ve been much greater and the success may have taken much longer.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

Always invest in yourself and be totally aware of your time. Your time is not worth $0. There’s a value to it. If there is a task that is very basic, but tedious or is outside your expertise, don’t be afraid to invest a little to outsource it. It will pay for itself in the time you get back to focus on what you are good at.

What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?

I think it is important to make connections locally with those who share your vision of success. I have found it helpful to connect with folks locally who can help grow my business and people internationally who operate a similar business to me. I do this because I can get industry specific information globally but my local contacts are those who are most likely to bring me business.

Also, I got this advice a long time ago and still stick by it today…always, always, always return every email and every phone call. You never know if that person may play an impactful part in your life.


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