For the third season of Trade Tales, the show will feature stories of business pivots—large or small—that fundamentally transformed a firm. This week, the show covers a designer who is learning how to take back his time even as his firm enters a new phase of growth.
Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, Byron Risdon always knew he had an eye for design: While his friends were glued to their computer, his happy place was the house paint simulator program at his local home store. “I was obsessed with that thing—every time we would go to the store, I would be like, ‘You know where I’ll be,’” he tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “I wasn’t a video game kid, but I loved that!”
Still, a career in interiors wasn’t in the cards right away. Risdon instead earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education before realizing teaching wasn’t for him. After redesigning his own home and helping a few friends course-correct their own DIY projects gone wrong, Risdon soon nabbed his first full-time design job at a New York firm. The position was a dream job for Risdon, who soaked up everything he learned, but it was short-lived: Within two years, the 2008 recession led to layoffs within the firm, and Risdon found himself job-searching once again. Before long, he landed at a Washington, D.C., design store that offered consultations on the side.
Then, in 2016, came a moment of pure kismet. When a Maryland-based client purchased a consultation from the store, Risdon arrived on-site to discover that the client was actually seeking a full renovation—a service the store did not offer—and asked Risdon if he would take on the project. After taking a week to set up his new business, Risdon officially had his first clients under his own design studio.
The early years of Risdon’s eponymous firm brought their fair share of business lessons, like how to structure finances and fees in order to actually turn a profit. More recently, he has embraced a new working approach that’s taking some adjustment: slowing down. On one hand, that means taking a break from photographing projects to wait for the spaces that best capture his design style. It also means delegating more tasks to his newest hire, allowing Risdon to finally cut back on the after-hours work that got his firm off the ground.
“If tomorrow, the ultimate, most wonderful client came along, that would be great—but if it doesn’t happen tomorrow, I’m still going to keep working on the things I have today, and I’m happy with that,” says Risdon. “I’m happy to allow things to happen on their own time.”
Homepage image: Byron Risdon | Courtesy of Byron Risdon