Design always hit close to home for Amy Kartheiser—a trend that started in childhood, as she watched her mother go back to school for interiors and then launch a design business out of the family home. Despite studying engineering in school and eventually pivoting to a career in sales, it didn’t take long for Kartheiser to follow the same path. She joined her mother’s Chicago firm early in her career before eventually launching her own company, Amy Kartheiser Design, in 2014.
The connection between her personal life and design deepened in a new way during a shopping trip to France in 2017. The designer had recently lost her brother to suicide, and had participated in fundraisers for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On her flight to France, Kartheiser was struck with the idea to use her sourcing prowess to launch a series of pop-up auctions in the U.S. to raise even more money for the organization. While the venture, Under the Same Sky, began as a way to process pain and foster connection, it soon grew much bigger, becoming an essential piece of her business and bringing new meaning to her work along the way.
“I’m sad that this happened in my life, but I’m proud of the fact that I’m doing something about it—and hopefully giving other people a voice, and touching other people in a way that they find they’re able to work through their grief or connect with someone who has experienced the same thing,” Kartheiser tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast.
Elsewhere in the episode, Kartheiser shares the policy that helps her firm cultivate stellar client relationships, how she’s protecting her business in case of an industry slowdown, and how her charity is firmly enmeshed with every part of her business.
Crucial insight: One way to ensure your firm’s philanthropic efforts aren’t just a passing phase: Build them into your business. Kartheiser enlists the help of all her firm’s employees in sourcing auction items and executing pop-up shops. Overseeing the charity is even part of the designated responsibilities for one of the positions on her team, keeping the initiative at the forefront of the firm. “When I hire someone to work at Amy Kartheiser Design, one of the discussions we have in our first interview is about my charity, because it is intertwined,” says Kartheiser. “My team is so supportive of what I am doing, and they’re some of my biggest cheerleaders.”
Key quote: “Every time we do a new project, something news comes up, and we’re like, ‘Put that in our process.’ It’s never done [evolving], because new clients are going to bring up new ideas or new objections or things that you’ve never thought of before. I’ve been in the business nine years. I haven’t been in it as long as some others, so I haven’t seen everything—but I don’t think you ever will.”