Are you a generalist interior designer who takes on anyone and everyone as a client? Do you get distracted by the latest interior design trends you tend to bounce around a lot? Is it always a matter of taking any job opportunity you can get, even if it isn’t sustainable?
I get it. I fell for those traps too when I started. And the problem with being a generalist is you don’t honor what you’re good at. You often get distracted instead of focusing on what you do best. It’s okay to an extent to serve everybody only if you want to experience certain clients or certain projects to find out if it’s something you really want to get into or not. But after you weed them out, what do you do next?
Join me in this week’s episode as I discuss with Liz Toombs how she got into a unique niche based on her college experience, and share how she uses her niche to market and connect with people all over the country.
Why you’ve got to check out today’s episode
Find out why being a specialist works way better in any business compared to being a generalist
Learn how to start a business during a recession or a pandemic without investors or loans
Get valuable tips you can use if you are starting out on your own, with a small business, or just getting into the interior design career
About the Guest:
Liz Toombs is known as the go-to decorator for sorority interiors on college campuses. Her work can be seen on over 80 campuses spread across 22-plus states. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and an alumna of Alpha Gamma Delta.
Mentoring the women is a keystone of her work, which is something she learned from her time as a member of her sorority.
She has been quoted in notable outlets including the Huffington Post, the Associate Press, and realtor.com. She and her company got featured on MSNBC’s Your Business in a profile about the brand’s business acumen.
She founded The Mary Estes Memorial Scholarship in honor of her mother. It’s given to a University of Kentucky College of Agriculture student who has lost a parent to cancer.
She enjoys exercising, spending time on Lake Cumberland, and almost always has a book in her hands. She shares her home with her husband, Billy, and their frequently-Instagrammed dog Bartlett.
Check out these episode highlights
02.12 – How Liz get started in her unique niche through a fraternity house project and how it spread through word of mouth
04.30 – How an episode of Trading Spaces featuring Vern Yip planted a seed for her to serve sorority houses as her interior design market
5.41 – Why it’s important to update living spaces to meet the demands of the people who live in them and why doing so should have a budget
6.37 – Finding the balance between residential and commercial features for sorority houses
8:01 – Studying Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles in college
8.45 – Getting her feet wet on sales by selling countertops
10.10 – How to start a business during a recession or a pandemic without investors or loans
- Ask for help from your networks
- Invest the money from your projects back into marketing and networking (don’t forget to pay yourself a little bit) and let it snowball from there
- Be comfortable with and proud of the slow growth
11.17 – What hasn’t worked for her business
- Being too hard on herself
- Trying whatever the latest thing is and then end up bouncing around a lot
- Wanting to grab at anything every single time that she can get job-wise
- Trying to take anyone and everyone as a client
12.19 – Why she wanted to write a book and why it hasn’t been published yet
12:57 – PDR Interiors’ summer mentoring program and why her team is small on purpose
14.22 – Why design firms shy away from getting interns
15.00 – The importance of teaching soft skills in college and how to catch up if you missed it
16.36 – Some of the soft skills that should have been taught in school
- Appropriate workplace attire
- When to make a phone call or send an email versus texting someone in the business
- How to have difficult conversations in the workplace
18.33 – How the design industry has changed over the pandemic and its effects on her business and Greek life
21.44 – How to have fun tracking your progress using the US map
22.10 – PDR Interiors’ 3-step fulfillment process
- Scoping trip to get all the information and measurements they need and meet with people
- Doing all of the meetings and design work remotely
- Going back to the site to oversee the installation making sure everything that was envisioned and what the client wanted is achieved
22.41 – Why keeping her company small is the sweet spot for her
24.32 – Why it’s all right to refer clients you can’t serve to other professionals
26.22 – Her advice for people starting out on their own, with a small business, or just getting into the interior design career
- Get to know people in the profession and learn from others in the industry
- Learn from what other people are doing not to copy them, but to realize you’re not alone in your struggles, questions, or ideas
- Get some validation in the camaraderie so you will feel more empowered to keep going
- Feed off of other folks. They could be other creative in general. It doesn’t have to be someone in your exact line of work or your direct competition
Want to be a guest on the show? Apply here
- Liz requires her interns to listen to Episode 5: The Do’s and Don’ts of Interior Design Internships
- What Liz requires all her interns to read >>> Great on the Job Book by Jodi Glickman
- Check out Liz’s podcast about all things Greek housing, decorating, and beyond >>> Sorority Chat
- Learn the art of interior decorating for sororities >>> Interior Decorating 101: Sorority Edition
- Curious about how Liz and I met? Check this out >>> tobifairley.com/