Leaving a stable job to start a design business isn’t a risk that many make once in their careers—let alone twice. For designer Nicole White, however, the path to success wasn’t as straight as she expected. Born and raised in Jamaica, the South Florida–based designer was encouraged to pursue one of three promising careers: medicine, accounting or law. But one of her first college professors recognized White’s affinity for words, encouraging her to abandon her pre-law studies and transfer schools to pursue writing. After graduation, White took a position as a reporter for the Miami Herald, where she covered everything from crime, politics and celebrity scandals to the region’s hurricane-chasing beat. On the side, White began to carve out time for the projects that really thrilled her: interior design jobs she completed with the help of a friend.
Eventually, with a few client leads on deck, she decided to take the risk and quit her day job to pursue design work full-time. Though it was the right decision, she soon found out that the timing was all wrong.
“That was 2008—unbeknownst to me I had run right into a recession,” White tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “I’d quit the Herald, left a great paycheck, and now here’s the worst economy in U.S. history, and I had no money. All the clients were laid off too, so I was back to square one. It was the most humbling, humiliating period for me.” Between participating in sleep studies and taste-testing energy drinks, White did whatever it took to get back on her feet financially, and eventually landed a steady gig at a magazine for medical schools. Slowly but surely, clients began to seek her out for design services again, allowing White to get back into design. As she honed her talent and built a rapport with her new clients, the opportunity to make the leap into full-time design presented itself again with some well-timed advice from a client—and despite her previous experience, she decided to take it.
On this episode of the podcast, White shares how she’s spent more than a decade growing her business from a place of passion, and how she’s learned to face mistakes head-on to improve her client relationships and reinforce her firm’s reputation. She also shares how the firm’s recent move into its first office space—a move she once insisted she’d never make—is a game-changer that will shape the company’s trajectory in the years to come.
Homepage image: Nicole White | Courtesy of Nicole White