There’s no denying that an influx of designer attendees has made High Point Market more of a party, but it’s still usually a PG affair. That is, until Amber Lewis showed up. In October, the celebrated California designer, author and entrepreneur was in North Carolina to promote collabs with Loloi and Visual Comfort—and received an unusual request from a fan at a book signing event.
“My people are definitely—I’m going to say ‘down to earth,’ a little bit rough around the edges,” says Lewis to host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “We like to party, if you will. [At that event,] one of the first four or five people asked me to sign her breasts—which I did! I definitely bring the interesting folks.”
Whomever they are, Lewis brings a lot of them. Over the past decade, she has accumulated a fiercely dedicated fan base of everyday consumers and designers alike, drawn to both her attractive-but-livable aesthetic and her forthrightness on social media (1.7 million Insta followers and counting). Sharing her process, her life, and her ups and downs has been key to her online success, says Lewis, but interestingly, she’s far from an oversharer. “I’m the same person on social media, in person, and to family and friends—I think I never tried to be anything else because that’s exhausting,” she says. “Ironically, I don’t even share that much. I probably share about 20 percent of my actual real life. As with all of us on social media, we tend to share the highlight reels.”
Lewis’s highlight reels probably make her look like a successful interior designer—which she is. However, that impression belies the scale of her business. Lewis and her husband run a bustling operation with more than 100 employees that encompasses a thriving e-commerce shop, books, several brick-and-mortar stores and licenses with a variety of brands.
Lewis has built up the firm over the past decade through a combination of hustle and positive thinking (“I’m a very glass-half-full gal,” she says). Developing a look that felt both elevated enough to attract attention and accessible enough to capture a wider audience was also key. One thing she never had? Outside funding.
“We have bootstrapped this company’s growth from day one. We have continued to sell, our whole business actually depends on it. Unlike a lot of these companies that you see that are doing so well, we don’t have a piggy bank,” says Lewis. “So when it gets tough out there, we feel it in a very different way, because we don’t have a backup.”
Lately, things have been tough in Lewis’s world for a very personal reason: In March of 2020, just as COVID hit, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The unpredictable condition has changed her life completely. However, with characteristic positivity, Lewis has found a way to see a benefit that has come with the diagnosis.
“My team is so incredibly capable of doing [the day-to-day]. That has been a real change for me, because I was such a control freak and wanted to own and control everything, and I just can’t do that anymore,” she says. “And there’s the beauty of that a little bit, in being given this disease—as crazy as that sounds. I've had to look at it that way too. I was able to get a perspective that some people never get—how lucky am I, that I have such a challenge in front of me to recalibrate and allow others to take care of things? There’s so much beauty in that revelation.”
Homepage image: Amber Lewis | Courtesy of Amber Lewis