Growing up, home wasn’t just one place for Amy Sklar. In fact, it was changing all the time. Thanks to her father’s job as an executive for Saks Fifth Avenue, the family was required to move to new store locations regularly. By the time Sklar turned 18, she’d lived in seven different states across the U.S.—and had just as many chances to reimagine a space of her own.
“When you’re nomadic like that, you’re looking for something to give you a sense of ease and a sense of space—that would be my room,” she tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of Trade Tales. “Each time we moved I would get excited, and I would move things around. That was the first spark.”
Still, Sklar’s early career took a few twists and turns—from a degree in furniture design to a stint in stand-up comedy—before she found the interior design program at UCLA, then landed a role in the interiors department of an architecture firm. Over time, she soon realized that the firm’s high-concept and high-end approach to design didn’t actually mesh with her own preferences for fun and functionality. Five years later, she left to launch her own business, Amy Sklar Design.
When it came to growing her own design team, Sklar knew she wanted to follow a strategy similar to that of her former boss at the architecture firm, who’d once “thrown her in the deep end” at a client meeting. The experience had given Sklar confidence and ownership over her own work—and on the other end of the equation, she hoped it would place her in the creative director role she most coveted. Put in practice, she’d come to find, this framework also involved leading actively without descending into full-blown micromanagement.
Another learning curve Sklar hadn’t prepared for: grasping how to charge for her own services. In the early years of her firm, her flexible approach to fees and billing felt like a necessary rite of passage for a newbie business owner. Then, as her firm’s 10-year anniversary loomed, she realized that the business had never turned a profit—in essence, making it just a hobby.
In this conversation, Sklar shares the mental and practical overhaul that pushed her to finally bring in revenue, how deliverables define each step of her firm’s process and why she wants employees to feel like they work with her, not for her.
Homepage photo: Amy Sklar | Courtesy of Amy Sklar Design