Katie Deedy had always planned on going into an artistic trade, but never knew that a simple technical mistake would lead her into the world of business ownership. While she got her start in the freelance world, Katie eventually realized that she wanted to produce illustrations based on her own ideas rather than her clients’. Thus, Grow House Grow was launched, where she now creates custom designed wallpapers, fabrics and tiles. Today, Katie shares a bit about her career path and the lessons she learned along the way. —Stephanie
You can click here to listen to Katie talk about inspiration on After the Jump, too!
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Although I knew from a really young age that I wanted to be an “artist”, it wasn’t until I was working as a freelance illustrator that I really considered what that meant. I wasn’t enjoying the freelance illustration as much as I thought I would, and quickly grew tired of making artwork based on other peoples specifications. Deciding to start my own business was ultimately inspired by a desire for independence and to create something that made me happy each step of the way, as opposed to focusing on a final product I wasn’t truly invested in.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
I remember the moment I decided to make wallpaper quite clearly. I was sitting at my computer, and had scanned in some watercolors I’d painted. Through a mishap of key commands, I accidentally copied and flipped the images, making a mirrored repeat. It was one of those comical lightbulb “Eureka!” moments, where I realized that I loved pattern (how I’d never put two and two together before is still a mystery!), and that THAT was what I wanted to create. Five minutes later I decided wallpaper would be my medium. Two years later–after a lot of struggle, research, and ink-slinging–I figured out how to produce it and put out my first line.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
That’s a great question. Though I did often seek out advice, the biggest thing that has affected my outlook on running my own business is something I discovered on my own along the way. Simply put, you just have to participate and persevere. In the darkest moments, then it feels like you’ve done nothing and are getting nowhere, don’t give up. And sometimes those dark moments can last for months. You really have to trust yourself, believe in what you’re doing, and have happiness as your ultimate goal.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
When Grow House Grow was but a glimmer in my eye, I was an untrained pattern designer. I’d never even taken a textile course in school. Not to mention that, at the time, I couldn’t find a single class on wallpaper design or history. I was really at a loss on how to make my dream a reality, and that was scary. I think the hardest part was starting from ground zero, with so much to learn and a million places to start in. I ended up chipping away little by little by brushing up on my silk screen printing, reading books on starting a business, taking time to understand interior design terms, figuring out the best type of paper to print on, what the differences between American and European hand-printed wallpaper standards were…I could go on and on. Actually, going back to my earlier point, I think not giving up was the most difficult part of starting my business. There were so many reasons to quit.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Be nice to everyone. Be thankful, and know that you’ll always have more to learn. Remember that you may not always be at the bottom, but you’ll also probably never be at the top. Be happy–that’s why we’re doing this, right?
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
I think my biggest failure came before I started my business, but it’s related. Senior year of college, I applied to SVA’s graduate program for Illustration. It was a small program that only accepted about 20 students per year. I flew up to NYC from Atlanta for my interview, and remember thinking that this trip could change my life. I was so nervous, but incredibly excited. After my interview, back home in Georgia, I learned I wasn’t accepted. I was totally heartbroken, and realized how much I’d been counting on that neat little pathway into the future. After sitting with the news for some time, I tried to find some good in it. In the end, it was oddly liberating, and that was when I decided to save my money and move to NYC to “make it” in illustration. Four years later I launched my first wallpaper line. I was very hungry for a long time!
Something else that has been difficult, though it’s not technically a failure, is being a full time mom and business owner. I’ve really had to relax and let things slide more than pre-baby super-driven Katie would have. Accepting that I could only do so much was really hard. It’s been outright painful at times.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
Any time someone buys a roll of wallpaper I feel fantastic. I mean–wow!–someone loves something I created enough to pay hard earned money for it, and then to live with it every day as part of their home. That’s huge! It never ceases to delight me when I make a sale. But if I had to choose one thing that I am supremely proud of, I’d say it was the day the Curator of Decorative Arts at the Brooklyn Museum approached me and asked for my wallpaper to be added to their permanent collection. I never in my life thought I’d be in a museum, and it’s something I’m very proud of.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Craft, Inc. by Meg Matteo Ilasco came out not long after I started the process of creating Grow House Grow, and it was a valuable resource. It’s easy to read, inspirational, and gets into the nitty gritty without being dry. I recommend it to anyone interested in starting their own business.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Do I love this? Do I love this in my gut?
2. If this fails will I consider the time spent working on it as wasted time? Or do I love it so much that the process/journey is fulfilling?
3. Am I ready to be my own boss? Can I be strict enough to make myself work, even when it’s the last thing I want to do? Will I be gentle enough on myself to allow a break if I need it?