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“Find something in which you love the good parts and don’t mind the bad parts too much.” Jerry Seinfeld, Duke Commencement Speech, May 2024

That’s what drove these creative women to venture into an interior design business using our model. And each of them was selected by interior design journalists to be our Designer of the Year in recent years.

IBM Consulting Principal to Designer of the Year Three Times

We’ll start with Lynne Lawson (left above), of Columbia, Md. Lynne worked at IBM where in her final position as consulting principal her clients included the White House, the US House of Representatives, the FBI, and other federal agencies. She achieved multiple awards and recognition during career, including participation in the IBM Advanced Management School (for top performing middle managers), and being named Manager of the Year.  “After 19 years with IBM, I decided to pursue my dream. I achieved that dream through Decorating Den Interiors. With no interior design degree then, the training I received and continue to receive is through DDI.” She has won numerous design and sales awards since.  She was Designer of the Year in 2009, and then in 2012 and 2014 along with her teammate Laura Outland. One of their award-winning family rooms is featured on the cover of our most recent decorating book Love Your Home: Marvelous Makeovers by Decorating Den Interiors. Lynne was selected to be a participant on a Trends In Design Business Practices panel at the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, NC. In 2017 and has also taught many design and business courses for her peers at DDI.

From Accounting and Insurance to Designers of the Year Twice

Barbara Elliott (right above) of Atlanta, Ga., was a CPA. Her sister Jennifer Ward-Woods had jumped from the insurance industry to become a decorator with a Decorating Den Interiors franchise in North Carolina. Two years later, Barbara opened one in Stone Mountain, Ga. Subsequently, Jennifer moved to join Barbara and today they operate The Sisters & Company Decorating Den Interiors franchise with a team of eight. They were Designers of the Year 2008 and 2016 and were featured in Furniture Lighting & Décor Magazine, which you can read in another section of this blog. “Decorating Den gave us a roadmap and path,” Barbara told the magazine editor. “If you followed the steps, it helped you be successful. Plus, we had support from all the other designers across the country.”  Jennifer added that “Decorating Den helped us turn our passion into a business. Things are a lot easier now going into interior design.”

Designer of the Year 2024 Was Seeking Better Work-Life Balance

Krista Shugars, of Pasadena, Md., started in the corporate world where she built a successful career of more than 20 years in sales, leadership, and management in the property and casualty insurance industry. “My territory had expanded to cover seven states and the travel was not providing much of a work-life balance. Having designed three previous homes from the ground up, along with years of helping friends and family with their design layout and selections, I decided to pursue my passion,” she explained.  Six years later, her transformation of a living room in an historic home built circa 1880 was judged best in category and the overall best of 298 entries in 12 categories. The media representatives also judged her kitchen best in that category, her bedroom entry second place, and her other living room entry as third.

Senior Vice President to 2022 Designer of the Year

In 2018, Monique Holland was senior vice president of CW Capital, a commercial real estate services firm in Washington DC. She had been with the company since 2004 but was eager for the opportunity to do something she was passionate about. “Having been a creative my entire life, I started college studying fashion design and merchandising and began designing projects for family and friends in my spare time, it was time to turn my love of art, fashion and design into my own business,” Monique said. In only four years, she earned the company’s top design award and subsequently has been among the leading sales achievers. Her modern and industrial design of a dining space with bold wallcovering was judged best in category and the overall best of 300 entries.  She also had the first-place home office, second-place family room.

Former Best Products Store Manager becomes 2020 Designer of the Year

Diana Apgar, of Middletown, Ohio, managed a retail store with 150 hourly employees, 11 department managers and a staff of 6 office people.  The showroom was 85,000 sq ft and we did sales of $15 million a year.   “I had been with them for ten years,” she recalls.  “My daughter Susan was killed in a car accident in September of 1989.  So, I left my job and took a year off to be able to deal with life. I had studied interior design in the 70’s for two years but could not complete the four- year degree.  I saw an ad in the Cincinnati newspaper about becoming a decorator with Decorating Den Interiors. That led to becoming a franchise owner.” In 2020, her design of a spectacular outdoor space in Florida was judged the best of 326 entries in 12 categories by the judges.  In total, she won awards in six room categories, two in one of them, all for the same client.

Corporate Executive to Top Designer

Armed with a business degree and an Executive MBA, Kimberly Paulus, of Missouri City, Texas, had a variety of executive positions with home building and health care corporations for some fifteen years before opening her franchise in 2016. In 2019, she achieved Designer of the Year status. It was her first time entering the competition. Her bedroom makeover won first in that category and best of all the other first-place rooms in the other categories. Her living room design tied for third in that category. She was also one of the top ten franchises in sales for 2018.

Building on Related Experience

Other designers of the year had seen our business model as a means to build on previous design or related experience. 2021 Designer of the Year, Cassy Young, of Athens, Ga., has an interior design degree, worked for a custom home builder and had her own interior design business, but still saw the opportunity for greater growth with our franchise. Suzan Wemlinger, of Milwaukee, had been a designer for two home furnishings stores and had her own decorative painting and faux finishing business before starting her Decorating Den Interiors franchise. She was 2015 and 2018 Designer of the Year.

Are You Looking for a Career Change?

The average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life.  Is it time for you to do something you will love more?  If so, visit https://decoratingden.com/interior-design-business/

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