More than a decade into its journey, the Black Interior Designers Network is making some major changes—starting with a new name. The organization’s president, Keia McSwain, announced last week that BIDN has rebranded as Black Interior Designers Inc. Along with the decision, the organization has welcomed two new executive team members: longtime administrator and interior designer June Reese as vice president, and interior designer and former accountant Christopher Charles Evans as treasurer.
According to McSwain, the organization’s rebranding and executive team expansion are signals of a larger shift, which originated with extensive research and planning that started in late 2021. Since launching in 2012, the organization has focused on providing Black interior designers with networking and business development opportunities—priorities that will remain as the organization enters its next era, expanding with the debut of new educational programming, broader membership access and a move toward an international presence.
The first goal will fall within Reese’s purview, building on her experience as an administrative associate within the organization since 2017. Reese has observed firsthand that educational opportunities around design—particularly for Black students—are virtually nonexistent. Growing up with a science- and math-centered curriculum, she struggled to find coursework in school that captured her attention and played to her strengths. “It’s hard when you’re not participating in things that are aligned with what you’re naturally good at, or what works best for you,” says Reese.
As vice president, Reese’s duties will include outreach to college programs and the development of scholarships and summer programs—all in service of introducing interior design as a potential career path to students in middle school through college. “[The] design [industry] is broader than just designers—there are project managers and painters and sales representatives—but most people have no idea that it’s even a career,” says Reese. “I want to prepare children in predominantly Black communities earlier for career paths within this industry. … taking the strategies we’ve developed over the years and creating more opportunities on a broader scale within our communities.”
As for Evans, his vision for the role at BID Inc. involves building out a more robust set of resources to help members develop profitable businesses—a route that he followed himself when he first joined the organization back in 2015. Then, it had been five years since Evans launched his own design firm, and despite his financial background as an accountant in the oil and gas industry, he still struggled to establish the back end of his business. After meeting BID Inc.’s late founder, Kimberly Ward, Evans’s career took off—now, he’s looking to give back to the community while building upon its existing offerings.
“Coming into this position, [I hope] to pay gratitude to BID Inc. for the influence and impact that they had on my design career, and particularly the business side of design for me,” says Evans. “[As far as] the business side of BID Inc., I certainly feel that I am prepared and well-versed on the financial side of interior design to be a great help and influence for the organization.”
As treasurer, Evans aims to boost BID Inc. membership, improve designers’ exposure (with the ultimate goal of increasing their revenue) and assist rising design influencers by brokering sponsorships and brand endorsements. To that end, he plans to create programming and resources to help designers set up contracts, navigate markups, discover routes to product licensing, develop fee structures and price appropriately for their services. “It’s not just about making beautiful spaces, but about creating a stream of income for designers that makes the career of interior design that much more attractive,” says Evans.
In another major change following the rebrand, BID Inc. is doing away with its membership fee structure, meaning members will no longer be required to pay dues. It’s a decision that the organization’s leaders have been looking forward to for a long time, says McSwain, and one that they hope will aid in the goal of expanding membership. “Everyone can’t assist in [funding the organization in] the same capacity. Some people are more financially stable, while some people are more willing to allocate their resources and their connections,” says McSwain. “We’re looking for partners who align with our belief that it is our responsibility and duty at this organization to provide those resources for our members at no cost to them.”
For the year ahead, the organization aims to begin rolling out some aspects of its new educational and business resource programming by the last quarter of 2023, along with exploring ways to reach members internationally through industry events abroad. The group’s ambitions are big—and for McSwain, a rebranding and executive team refresh is just the start. “With the influx of new members, new partners, new allies, comes an influx of responsibility to provide them with resources and knowledge,” says McSwain. “We want to be able to evolve and grow as everyone else around us evolves and grows, and I think we’ve reached the point of being ready to take our next step into growth, and then into success.”
Homepage image: From left, June Reese, Keia McSwain and Christopher Charles Evans | Courtesy of BID Inc.