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Chair's Message - February 2022


A Message from Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID, WELL AP, WELL Faculty, USGBC Member
Chair, ASID Board OF Directors

Small Business Solutions

Five years ago, I left a company I cherished in the corporate world to found my design consulting practice. Personally and professionally, I felt a purpose and readiness for a new creative chapter in my life. 

Being a business owner has been both rewarding and humbling. Along the way, I am grateful for a network of leaders who have been most supportive. Ann Wisnewski, ASID, shared her wisdom, experience, and even her contract with me when I first started out, demystifying that whole process. Cheri Phyfer, President of Fortune Brands, has been my champion, from our years working together to her continued mentorship. 

There is so much to building a business. Employee benefits, financial planning, tax preparation, certifications, marketing… just to name a few. At my core, I am a designer, and in my happiest place when I am working with my clients to realize their unique vision. If only there was a one-stop hub that could bring those services together… 

There is nothing small about the small design business. ASID recognizes the power of its small business community. In fact, 75% of ASID member designers are small business owners. Our practices are diverse, from residential to workplace to hospitality to product design and more. This April, ASID is launching the Small Business Solutions platform. This platform was realized in collaboration with Kari Stringfellow, ASID's VP of Member Experience, Mark Bonnett, President of CorePath Wealth Partners, and with the incredible input - and beta testers - from our AZ and IL Chapters. 

It's an exciting provocation to look at our organizations and businesses as a work of design themselves. I checked in with colleagues Eric Haydel, Doreen Hunter, Jaclyn Moser, and Tanya Alejandra Paz on their perspectives as small design business owners. Our conversations were so robust, we are coming together for a live panel dialogue to share and expand upon our discussion. 

We hope you will tune in for more as we discuss the Small Business Solutions launch live on March 10, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch the Recording
Eric Haydel
President - Creative Director, The M-Geough Company, Eric M. Haydel Design, Inc.
Doreen Hunter
Principal, Hdesigns Group, LLC 
President, ASID Michigan Chapter
Jaclyn Moser
Harken Interiors
Tanya Alejandra Paz
TAP Studio
Kari Stringfellow
Vice President, Member Experience
CAN: What was the driving force behind starting your own business? 

EMH: Unlike most people who start their own company out of desire, I started my company out of need. I never imagined being in a position as a business owner/entrepreneur. It was 2009 and I was starting a design program that required practice as a part of the academic curriculum, very few firms had places to hire and those that did, were only taking highly qualified designers. No firm had time to invest in folks who wanted to be designers, only those that were ready now…and so, the “need” came to figure it out. 

DH: Honestly I have been climbing the ladder continuously in different cycles since starting in the late ’80s. Sometimes, it feels like the beginning, especially when things are running smoothly. Then other times, you realize the business cycle is turning, and you start thinking about succession planning or just stopping. Well, for me (us), we are indeed at the maturity cycle. I have gone full circle; of course, I am not where I imagined myself being some 30 + years ago; however, I am proud of myself for perseverance. 

JM: Chris Sommers and I formed Harken Interiors in 2015 after completing a 1,000-guestroom renovation at Universal Studios in Orlando and an adaptive-reuse Hilton Curio in Chicago together while at a burgeoning Hospitality Giants interior design studio. Chris and I found a synergy in our skillsets, particularly his sharp skills in architectural documentation, construction administration, and project management (with a focus on international resorts). My specialty is in conceptual development, furniture and materials, and overall branding and graphics as I have a dual work history in hospitality interiors as well as advertising (while at Disney!). Our complementary strengths dovetailed for efficiency and collaboration, but our shared vision and values gave us the motivation, longevity, and trust needed to build our own brand.

CAN: Jaclyn, you are an ASID Ones to Watch. How has that program been a catalyst for your career? 

JM: A few months into the Ones to Watch program, my leadership style, self-awareness, and networking efforts have received some fine tuning. Our monthly panel discussions have brought up diverse experiences and points of view that at their very core are valuable reminders that there are so many nuanced ways we all show up and experience the world. Deadlines push us to move fast with a narrow focus sometimes. Discussions within our cohort and with our guest speakers and educational leaders provide a space to pause. I think there is so much growth and power in finding moments of vulnerability and reflection. After all, as designers, we are at our best when we can design beyond our self – to welcome others into a space that feels inclusive. 

CAN: Tanya, what resources could be supported by a professional organization like ASID?

TAP: I would consider specific pain points of interior design, and then the existing tech that can be leveraged for our work. Procurement, specifications, and schedules are processes I would love to hear how different businesses handle, what do their spreadsheets look like!? How are they adjusting to changes in the trade? I have tried all the procurement platforms to always come back to Excel/Google Drive. 

CAN: Doreen, you identified perseverance as a reason for your 30+ years of success in business. Can you share more with me? 

DH: I have learned to set boundaries and limits along with time management. It took a while to understand that I did not have to say yes to every potential project. Also, I learned that trying to accommodate a client’s needs around she/her/he/his/their events was no longer practical as much as I wanted to deliver the goods, they were promises I could not guarantee. 

CAN: Tanya and Eric, what  else should we know about operating a design business? 

TAP: Start slow. It’s easy to get bogged down in superficial components of your business (letterhead, logos, etc.) which force you to make decisions about an entity that is just forming. Your company is going to grow into an entity that really defines itself. Consider your entity at its infancy, give it time to take shape and mature. Like a child, it will have an identity you shape, but it is also born into a world and context you don’t control – you will get certain clients, certain types of projects and it will start telling you what it is going to be on its own.  Having the privilege of working for many years with Roz Cama, I only realized in the past year this is probably one of the greatest lessons of CAMA.   

EMH: I think one of the most important lessons I have learned is not to be afraid to pivot and reinvent yourself, your brand or business expectations. Just as with any part of our lives, things change, we grow, and we develop reactions and accountability based off those experiences. I cannot tell you how many people I engage with that haven't re-developed their businesses even though they have been in business for 10, 20 30+ years. A design business is a relationship, it must be developed and cared for: fed, made cuts to, grown in a different direction, and maybe pulled back in the process. It requires work!!   

Thank you so much to Eric, Doreen, Jaclyn and Tanya for your conversation!  

In our next Chair’s newsletter, to coincide with Earth Day, the impact of interior design on climate will be our guidepost. 


Best wishes, 



Carolyn Ames Noble 
Principal, Interior & Product Design, Ames Design Collective