Nicole White Quinn, Owner of Nicole White Designs Interiors LLC
Nicole started her career as a journalist, but followed her passion and started a full service interior designer company. I discovered the talents of Nicole on Houzz.com (one of my favorite home design sites). I was immediately attracted to her design aesthetics for they showed timeless pieces and an impressive display of her design skills. I’m very excited to share Nicole White, Principal Designer of Nicole White Interior Designs business story.
Location: Sunrise, Florida
Year Founded: 2010
Title/Occupation : President/Principal Designer
Education: BA in Communications/Print Journalism
Favorite quote: A life lived in fear, is a life half lived.
I’d technically failed in my first venture, so I was definitely terrified of leaving a steady paycheck once again. But I had to look at that first go around as a launching pad, as a school of hard knocks if you will, where I learned what NOT to do the second time around.
Can you give an introduction to Nicole White Designs? What decision led you to start an interior design company?
I always loved designing and spent my childhood rearranging furniture at our home and wishing I could change things up when I visited the home of friends and family as a kid, but interior design wasn’t a profession I’d ever heard of growing up as a kid in Jamaica. It was law school, medical school or accounting. I was debating captain in high school, so law school seemed inevitable, but my political science professor loved my writing and suggested I transfer to journalism. Go figure. I became a successful journalist, but started decorating homes on the weekends and eventually it became a thriving business.
I quit journalism in 2008 to work with as a partner in a design business, but that crumbled with the recession. I went back to writing for a living, but then clients started calling, so once again I quit a steady paycheck This was two years ago and I haven’t looked back since.
Would you be willing to share how you started your company (IE: funding, branding, advertising)? What surprised you about this process? Was there anything that was more difficult or easier than you expected?
There was no funding per se, which in hindsight wasn’t a smart thing. It’s one of the reasons why things fell apart with my previous partnership. I remember turning down a line of credit from the bank! Who the hell does that? I didn’t want to be in debt at that time, but that line of credit would have helped a lot when things got tight, and let me tell you, getting a line of credit from a bank these days as a small business owner is damn near impossible.
When I went solo in 2010, an amazing client of mine told me about a small business grant our county was offering. I applied and won and that grant was a huge blessing. I used it to create my first website, my logo and branding material and paid for a part-time assistant. I’d encourage all business owners to seek out grants from their county or state. There’s a lot of paperwork and reporting to account for the funds, but it’s definitely worth it.
Self doubt sometimes stop people from trying new ventures. Did you have any doubts or challenges along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Of course. I think we all do. Remember I’d technically failed in my first venture, so I was definitely terrified of leaving a steady paycheck once again. But I had to look at that first go around as a launching pad, as a school of hard knocks if you will, where I learned what NOT to do the second time around. So I had more funds set aside to cushion me if things got tight and I diversified my design income by being a freelance writer for Houzz, getting sponsors for my blog, so there’s always some kind of money coming in.
What interior design tip can you offer those updating their space or what’s a good accent piece every space should have?
Shop your home. Most of us have personal treasures buried in boxes – fabric remnants from travels, artwork that really speaks to you, old books that mattered to you. Decorate with those items. I’d rather use your personal items when styling during the final design phase, or as a starting part for the overall design plan than using random pieces from stores. It kills me to see coffee tables styled with random design books that people will never read. Sure it’s trendy and looks cool, but it tells me nothing about what really matters to you.
Where does your creative inspirations come from and how do you keep them flowing?
I have no set formula. I look everywhere I can, fabric stores, my son’s artwork, shelter magazines etc… and sometimes the best thing I do is to not look. I just try to take a break when I can squeeze one in, and relax a bit, listen to some good Jazz music, some Bob Marley to open my mind up to embrace things as they appear in front of me.
With your background what would you say are the three main ingredients to a successful business?
I don’t have a degree in design, so I think it’s important to use your trained skill with your natural talent. I use my communication skills to drive my business by constantly keeping clients in the loop. My blog also allows me to combine my design and writing, and that’s been a huge vehicle to drive my business. More than 50% of my clients now find me online, so most read the blog to gain some insight into my personality plus see our design process before taking the plunge to hire me.
Paying attention to the business of your business is also key. I wasn’t always good at that as I cared more about the creative process. Now I spend as much, if not more time, paying attention to my business finances and setting financial goals. Lastly I would say you need a team you can trust. Don’t be afraid to expand and hire others. Yes, it’s your baby, but getting help to run your business can be the best gift you ever give your business and yourself.
Random Fun Fact: What’s been a defining moment in your career so far?
Being published nationally and winning a design award were game changers for sure, but becoming a mom has been the most defining moment in my life and career. Design is a pretty stressful profession. We are creating for people in their most intimate space, and that can come with some pretty heavy emotional moments.
So when I had my son, I learned to not let so much of this crazy stuff we encounter during the day-to-day function of the business completely drain me since I needed to come home and still be his mom. Watching cartoons, singing silly songs and playing with car toys and trains all the time have kept me sane and allowed me to brush things off to keep creating and push for new adventures in my business.
What productivity tools do you use to get work done?
We use Google drive a lot to keep everyone on my team in the loop, and also use it to share budget updates and punch list details with clients. We tried other design presentation tools over the years, but they all had glitches. We’ve actually found PowerPoint to be most effective along with Google Sketchup for 3D renderings. PS, I still make a daily To-Do List the old fashioned way, right there in my notebook.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Stay the course and do you. I see a lot of people trying to be a version of other successful people, but that person’s journey is unique to them. Focus on you and what makes you unique. You’ll be surprised to see how far that will take you.
Be sure to check out Nicole White Designs Interiors and follow their social media channels.