podcast | May 22, 2024 |
Why Ali Budd wants to do design TV differently

After graduating college, Ali Budd reached an impasse. On the one hand, she was wildly creative growing up. On the other hand, she had earned her English degree, and something like law school felt like a logical next step toward job security.

“I sat down with my parents, and my father was like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you going down that typical, expected [path]—is that really what you want?’” Budd tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “He basically said to me, ‘If you weren’t scared, what would your choice be?’ and I was like, ‘I want to go to design school.’”

Suddenly, she was back on track. Design school didn’t end up being what she’d hoped—the courses focused heavily on commercial design, and her first job at a major architectural firm felt underwhelming. Undeterred, she recruited residential design role models for herself, and by 2010, she had launched her own firm.

But the process of finding her voice wasn’t over yet. Budd had to learn to quit comparing herself with other creatives and embrace the freedom of full expression (aided by social media) to shape the success she knew her business had in store. Today, at the helm of the 12-person team at Toronto-based Ali Budd Interiors, the designer is fielding a world of new opportunities—including her own TV show, which puts a new spin on the genre—and inspiring a team that can carry that vision even further.

Elsewhere in the episode, she shares how she sets her firm apart from the competition, what it takes to create a safe space for employees, and how she found the sweet spot where she can play a role in every project.

Crucial insight: As Budd’s firm grows, she carefully considers the tasks she’s willing to hand off (administrative work, ordering product, AutoCAD) and those she wants to hold on to (design team management, creative work). “We’re a big enough firm that we are efficient and responsible and accountable and work within time frames and [produce] deliverables extraordinarily well, but we’re small enough that I am really involved,” says the designer. “And I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to become somebody who’s not doing the thing that I love.”

Key quote: “I don’t think people talk enough about how challenging it is, from a creative perspective, to find your own voice [and] be confident enough to use it. The biggest thing for me was to stop trying to emulate other people and just focus on what my gut would tell me was good and right and go with that.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Universal Furniture.

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