Traci Zeller always cared about how her surroundings looked—from the moment she noticed a kindergarten classmate’s mismatched barrettes on the school bus, she knew the little things mattered. Still, she applied her attention to detail elsewhere, going on to earn degrees in accounting and law before working in business consulting. When a side hobby in design began to eclipse her other career interests, she had to make a decision: Play it safe by keeping one foot in the business world, or dive into an entirely new profession in interiors.
“I thought to myself, The reason I’m stressed out is because this is my hobby and I’m not handling it like a real business. So I either need to quit and just stop, or I need to take it more seriously and go all in,” Zeller tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “And I decided to go all in.”
But Zeller didn’t embark on the journey without doing her homework. Instead of going back to the classroom (hard to do with twin boys at home), she created an informal design school of her own, seeking out mentors and continuing-education classes—and most importantly, dipping into her past life as a business pro to establish processes that would allow her firm to thrive. (One of the hallmarks of her success: effective messaging. “The key is in your communication,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what you’re saying—if you’re not communicating it well, it’s lost. … Usually when I have a failure, I blame it on myself because I haven’t adequately communicated something.”)
In this episode of the podcast, Zeller shares how she invested her early profits back into her business, why she’s always finding new ways to improve client communications, and how she plans to strike a balance between the big-picture vision and staying involved as her firm grows.