trade tales | Feb 21, 2020 |
Helping hand: Designers reflect on their mentors

Design can easily become an isolating career path, which is why it’s crucial to have trusted colleagues and confidantes. We asked eight designers—Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, Aryn Guillory, Whitney Jones, Katie Kime, Brooke Lang, Ashley Moore, Brooke Riebeling and Kate Smith—who their most valuable mentors have been.

Katie Kime
Katie KimeCourtesy of Katie Kime

Good genes
“My most valuable design mentor has been my grandmother, from whom everyone says I got my love of creating. She was always painting, finding a way to make spaces more beautiful, or being creative [in other ways]—she even sewed all of my mom’s clothes growing up! As a child, she took me on more shopping trips than I can remember to help with her fabulous creations. Learning the elements of design from her is one of my most cherished memories.” —Katie Kime, Austin, Texas

Meet and greet

Ashley Moore
Ashley MooreCourtesy of Ashley Moore

Lindsey Borchard of Lindsey Brooke Design has been a valuable mentor for me. She is a strong believer in the importance of sharing and collaborating within the industry. In her effort to encourage growth amongst industry professionals, she hosts a weekly series called Monday Mentors on her Instagram story. Lindsey also collaborated with Anastasia Casey of The Identité Collective to create Design Camp, a four-day business retreat in Austin, Texas. This event is an opportunity for fellow designers to come together, network, learn and grow. I was able to attend a few weeks ago, and her knowledge was invaluable to my business.” —Ashley Moore, Moore House Interiors, Tomball, Texas

Brooke Lang
Brooke LangCourtesy of Brooke Lang

Girl group

“My most valuable mentors have been a group of ladies that I was introduced to right when I went out on my own. It’s called the Interior Design Peer Alliance and it is a group of about 12 entrepreneurs who meet once a month about business strategies, marketing techniques and vendor recommendations, and also help with challenging client situations—we even get specific and help each other write difficult emails or figure out processes to implement for best practices. When I first started attending the meetings, I was a design assistant and the youngest member. I remember being so inspired by their business acumen and how they weren’t afraid to say no to projects that didn’t fit their trajectory. Over time, I was able to start contributing to the group, specifically with insight about social media and new technology. The group also gives me confidence in knowing how to charge and when to raise my rates. If a client asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, I can ask the group, and within minutes, have a wealth of information on the topic! It truly is my secret weapon. I have found my tribe!” —Brooke Lang, Brooke Lang Design, Chicago

Mother knows best

Brooke Riebeling
Brooke RiebelingCourtesy of Brooke Riebeling

“I would say my biggest mentor is my mom. She is not in the design field, but she decorated our home from top to bottom when I was young, and decorating has always been her hobby. I am not formally trained, but I feel like I developed a good eye for design through my mom. Mixing patterns, colors, textures, old and new—I feel like that’s something you can’t really learn, it’s more innate. And I definitely credit my mom for that!” —Brooke Riebeling, Brooke Riebeling Interiors, Nashville

Aryn Guillory
Aryn GuilloryCourtesy of Aryn Guillory

Pay it forward

“My [best mentor is my] fellow interior designer Elizabeth Garrett, hands down! Elizabeth has been so generous with her time and knowledge since the moment we met at an interior design retreat hosted by another wonderful firm. She has shared her resources, vendor contacts and lessons learned. Most designers like to keep this information to themselves—not Elizabeth! She was more than willing to help guide me in establishing these relationships. She also showed me the ropes at The Houston Design Center, for which I will forever be grateful. I hope to return the favor to another young designer learning the ropes someday. There is room for us all, and I truly value ‘community over competition’ in this great industry.” —Aryn Guillory, Oyster Creek Studios, Houston

Sharing is caring

Kate Smith
Kate SmithAshley Therese Photography

“In an industry where we can often get siloed in our own businesses, I’ve found the act of ‘co-mentoring’ to be extremely helpful. You can pick a partner, or in my case, I have a few local designers I like to meet with regularly. One person may have more technical experience, while the other is more successful with business processes. You each take a turn to share challenges within your business and learn from the other’s experience. You help each other set goals and create actionable steps to achieve them. It’s such a mutually beneficial relationship, and it feels really rewarding to help as much as you’re being helped. The key to making a co-mentorship work is to have a deep level of trust and be very transparent, so this model only works if you truly value collaboration.” —Kate Smith, Kate Smith Interiors, Fairfield, Connecticut

Janelle Blakely Photopoulos
Janelle Blakely PhotopoulosCourtesy of Janelle Blakely Photopoulos

Virtual reality
“My most valuable mentors in the design field are fellow designers! Nothing is better than connecting with other designers that face the same issues as I do day in and day out. Each month, I meet virtually with Darci Hether and Amy Peltier, two fellow designers I met at a design conference years ago, and we discuss pressing issues such as challenging clients and employment concerns, share marketing ideas, and generally lift each other up.” —Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, Blakely Interior Design, North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Whitney Jones
Whitney JonesBritt Smith Photography

Social Group

“My most valuable mentor has been Veronica Solomon. She has such a wealth of knowledge that she shares almost on the daily. Her Facebook group, What They Don't Teach You in Design School, is the most supportive interior design group I've ever been in (and I've been in a lot), where you can feel comfortable asking questions and not be judged for it. She also does individual and group coaching, offering extra attention to designers who need it. She's invested in the success of other designers like I've never seen before. I love her!”—Whitney Jones, Whitney J. Decor, New Orleans

Homepage photo: A project by Katie Kime; courtesy of Katie Kime

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