Despite the obvious downturn in the economy back in 2007, I decided to hang out my shingle and Start Casa Vilora Interiors, after being laid off from a lucrative career with one of the nation's top homebuilders. The first few years meant working part-time for other companies and side-hustling my design business, but I felt the progress was slow, and something was definitely missing. I made the decision to quit my day job, and focus on running my design business full-time, and what a risk that was! One that would ultimately pay off, but not without a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and the confidence and loyalty of great clients. The early years of struggles would only strengthen my resolve to eventually get to where I am today - the CEO and Principal Designer of the only design firm in the West Houston and Katy area to provide our clients with flexible design services to work with every budget level while still providing their version of luxury living. Being a design school drop-out after losing my husband to cancer back in 2004, and having to raise two young kids alone, did not change the strong desire and passion that I had to be a successful interior designer. In fact, my new circumstances made me work harder to achieve this goal. So I engrossed myself in self-studies, books and online courses, eventually completing an interior design course and diploma in 2008. This was the beginning of my passion for always learning and growing as an interior designer and business woman. My determination and drive to forever learning has enriched my life both personally and professionally. This passion has grown to now mentoring other designers about the business of interior design, and it is one of the most fulfilling things about my career. Growing up in Jamaica in very humble beginnings, I am sure, helped prepare me for my chosen vocation as an interior designer. I was never one of those kids who would rearrange their bedroom (maybe because it was shared with 7 of my 10 siblings), but I can certainly see the many influences of the vibrant colors and natural textures of my native island show up in some of the interiors that I now create. My later jobs in banking and customer service have also helped to shape my career. Efficiently managing budgets and providing superior customer service is at the core of what we do for our clients.Humble upbringing is really an understatement, but I am thankful for the foundation of a strong family structure, and hard-working parents. Over the past 10 years, I have garnered many major professional accomplishments as the leader of the Casa Vilora Team, of which I am very proud
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?
What initially ignited the spark to start my business was really the desire to survive. I was raising two children alone after losing my husband, and I still wanted to create the best life for them. Certainly I could have chosen any job to make a living, but I chose to follow my passion, despite the many obstacles that I faced. I had no idea how to run a business when I started, and it is pure passion, willpower and the desire to succeed that kept me moving forward. I eventually acquired enough knowledge about the business side of interior design - how to be profitable, processes, systems, marketing and branding and customer service, and that launched me to the next level of my career, where I now have a great roster of clients, multiple awards, getting published, design influencer, mentor, business woman.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdles were 1) my own mindset and 2) not having the business knowledge - thinking that creativity was all I needed. I overcame these hurdles by aligning myself with successful designers who were doing it right. That helped to build my confidence and I understood finally that what I do has value. I learned how to charge appropriately for my services, set clear goals and working out strategies to achieving those goals. I also embraced hard work with intention and consistency
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
As a Christian, I always read the Bible. The Bible talks about money and how to handle it hundreds of times. There is such wisdom that pertains to life in general. Other books that I am currently reading - The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham and about to start Crushing It by Gary V
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?
I live far away from my extended family, and they have never really had much influence in the decisions I make. I did crave their support at some point, especially when the going got really rough, and they, like everyone else had their own life to focus on. But I do know they want to see me succeed in whatever I do. My two children have been my biggest supporters and motivators, and they are instrumental in my pursuits and accomplishments
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The single most important factor in my business success has to be my shift in mindset. For years I struggled with lack of confidence, comparing myself to others and not knowing what my real purpose was. I didn't know my identity, or at least did not know how to own who I am as a person. The minute I embraced my individuality and realized that I did not have to be like everyone else, I started to see real results. My confidence grew and so did my influence, courage and ability to give to others. It really is true; that you must first give to yourself before you can give to others
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I knew that it takes more than talent. I know talent is important - especially for what I do, but that is only a small part of success. I wasted many years focusing on the wrong thing
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
My biggest advice; don't expect too much too fast. Yes, you could get lucky and make it in one month. But the reality is that you must experience some struggles and hardships to truly be prepared for the good things. Entrepreneurship is a process, and like every great process, there is a lot of learning and testing involved until you get it right. Give yourself some grace, have patience, be consistent and see it through. Success does come. Don't give up before it does.