podcast | May 10, 2023 |
Kelly Collier-Clark on narrowing her focus to chase growth

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 launched her firm with a full suite of offerings before deciding to scale back and channel her energy into the central tenets of her design business.

Although Kelly Collier-Clark had successfully established herself in the corporate world, friends and family who admired her well-designed home couldn’t help but tell her that she’d “missed her calling.” Really, Collier-Clark hadn’t missed anything—she just needed the right opportunity to carve out the time to chase her passion and make the leap.

That moment appeared when she became an empty nester after her daughter moved out to attend college. “I didn’t have anyone else to really mother or nurture or take care of except for myself,” Collier-Clark tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “I had all this time on my hands, so I decided I was going to go to school [while working my day job]. I went and took design classes and loved it.”

Within three months of enrolling, Collier-Clark’s Pennsylvania design business was already off the ground. In early 2019, she signed the paperwork for her LLC, finished up her nighttime design classes and started spreading the word. It was a quick start to her second career, and she kept the momentum going—rolling out e-design and real estate services (thanks to a license that had long been in escrow) to complement her full-service design offerings, all while still holding her full-time job.

When the pandemic came, Collier-Clark’s corporate job slowed down just as demand for her design services picked up, so she kept expanding. She launched a popular design podcast and moved her business into a new brick-and-mortar space. But eventually, the pendulum started to swing in the other direction: Corporate life started getting busy again, while changes in Collier-Clark’s personal life meant she could no longer pour endless hours into her multipronged design business. Spread too thin, she realized that something needed to change if she was going to maintain the level of excellence she expected of herself.

“It reached a point where I was like, I am not making money, and this is not servicing people in the way I set out to because it’s not consistent,” says Collier-Clark. “That’s part of my brand with my clients and in general—showing up and being consistent—so I felt the word ‘mediocre’ come to mind. It was not giving what it was supposed to.”

On this episode of the podcast, Collier-Clark provides a primer on the crucial decisions that arise during the early stages of a design career, sharing the emotional journey of paring down her offerings, how she’s learned to become comfortable with being new at something, and how she’s finding joy on the journey to success.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Homepage image: Kelly Collier-Clark | Courtesy of Kelly Collier-Clark

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