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Our feature on Canvas Rebel

Canvas Rebel reached out to us to chat about being a small business owner.

Maddy + Ashley, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Being a business owner can be really hard sometimes. It’s rewarding, but most business owners we’ve spoken to sometimes think about what it would have been like to have had a regular job instead. Have you ever wondered that yourself? Maybe you can talk to us about a time when you felt this way.

We’ve both had regular jobs in the past and will likely never look back! We’re so much happier working for ourselves and there are so many reasons that go into why. Like any business, there are aspects we aren’t well versed in, or that we don’t necessarily enjoy, but in the grand scheme of things, we have a fun job! We get to take something we enjoy and apply it to people’s homes to make sure it suits their personal design aesthetic while functioning the way they need it to. It’s the perfect balance of fun and challenging! One major component of owning our own business is that it gives us the ability to make our own schedules. It seems minor but it means if we want to visit friends or family or if we’re sick, we can take the time off without needing to nervously run it by someone for approval. Given that we’re a team of two, we have the advantage of someone always being available even while the other wants to take some time off. We’ve also found control over our schedules extremely helpful because we go through waves of productivity like most people do, the only difference is that we don’t have an office we’re required to show up to. There could be days we want to work 12 hours and days where we feel completely spent after 3 hours and it all ends up balancing out anyway! Our clients are another major component. We’ve each worked for various design firms prior to starting our business together, and like most, we had the occasional “nightmare client”. Since starting our business, we’ve been extremely lucky because all of our clients have been absolutely incredible to work with. Maybe we’re naive and our time will come, but for now, we’re convinced that it’s because of the energy we put into the world simply by being so grateful we get to do what we love each day.

Maddy + Ashley, we love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations.

Maddy and I (Ashley) met about 5 years ago while working for the same modern furniture store in Connecticut. At the time we were both pursuing our careers in Interior Design with long-term goals of running our own businesses, which at the time felt more like a dream than a goal. Fast forward to almost two years ago when we were both tired of designing for other designers without any real recognition for our work. When you design for a firm, you could develop the entire design literally from the ground up, but it still ends up in that firm’s portfolio. Not the end of the world, but a little heart-wrenching when literal blood, sweat, and occasional tears go into the design. We finally made the jump and started our own Interior Design Studio and couldn’t be happier. Through working for various firms, we’ve learned to design so many different types of homes – traditional east coast homes, beachy mansions on the water, ultra-modern minimalist, rustic cabins, and the list goes on. In starting our business, we didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into a specific design style because we simply want to help our clients elevate their own style. After all, they’re the ones that will be living in the house!

Whether it’s a small bathroom remodel, bedroom furniture selections, or an entire new build, we’re here to help tackle the project. We help our clients hone in on their vision for the space by coming up with a few inspirational images before diving in. If our clients already have a vision, great! The next step is sourcing specific materials or furniture pieces to bring that vision to fruition. From our experience with other firms, we know what questions builders, plumbers, and electricians are going to ask. We know what suggestions to make based on our client’s budget and where they can splurge or cut costs. There’s so much more that goes into designing a home than people expect and we want to ensure the process is not only fluid but fun!

How did you put together the initial capital you needed to start your business?

When starting our business we had pretty minimal overhead costs. We both have the ability to work from home and already own laptops so that helped significantly. At the time Maddy and her husband were living with a family member while her husband finished his PT clinical. This meant Maddy was able to work full-time without any major expenses. Ashley worked part-time for MDS and part-time as a freelance designer as a safety precaution. At the very beginning, we were paying for CAD and Sketchup monthly rather than all upfront, making payments more manageable. For all of our branding materials and presentations, we used the free version of Canva, which also meant our documents weren’t as glamorous as we would have liked. Through working on projects we recognized what felt like a necessity and what felt more like a wishlist item. For example, we hated all things accounting and knew we weren’t dedicating the time we needed to do it because it just wasn’t fun for us, making a bookkeeper and CPA a priority. We made an extremely basic spreadsheet of our income and expenses and began to break it down with a timeline of when we expected we might be able to pay for certain things. Eventually, we were able to pay for our software subscriptions upfront, upgrade to the Pro version of Canva, hire a bookkeeper and CPA, and purchase a beautiful website template amongst other things.

How’d you meet your business partner?

So many people look at Maddy and me and assume we’re sisters. Plot twist- We aren’t related at all, but we are best friends!

Maddy is from Oregon and went to school in Connecticut for Interior Design. I (Ashley) am from Connecticut and went to school in Maryland for Textile Design. My first job out of school was at a modern furniture store in Connecticut where Maddy happened to be interning during her senior year of college. We met there and pretty much immediately became friends, laughing the entire way through our shift. We each had long-term goals of owning our own businesses and had the occasional conversation along the lines of “What if we did something together someday? Wouldn’t that be so cool?!” Maddy got married after graduating from college and she and her husband moved to Arizona and later to Utah, and then to California. Two years ago, I made the move out to Arizona. Although we’ve lived in different states through the majority of our friendship, we remained in regular contact with the persistent dream to one day start a business together.

We’ve both worked for a list of extremely talented designers and although we applied ourselves while working for other people, neither of us felt truly fulfilled because we just wanted to “do our own thing.” After a series of events that took place rather quickly, it seemed as if stars were aligning. We were nervous and unsure but encouraged by so many to just take the leap. It was then that Maddy began to work full-time for Morgan Design Studio with Ashley following up at the beginning of this year!


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