With a family to support and an amazing job offer on the table, Bridgid Coulter decided to follow her gut instincts and jump into the world of self-employment before leaving design school. She launched her eponymous design firm with the goal of creating “warm, livable homes filled with beauty and personality” and has continued to do so through her design and textiles line. Today she is sharing her journey from student to biz owner, with all of the pitfalls and parties along the way. –Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Photos courtesy of Bridgid Coulter
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I did consultations on several small projects during design school, which primed me for going solo. Then, right before I graduated, I was offered a position at one of the top hospitality firms in the country—it was enticing—but my kids were young and I wanted the flexibility to work around their school schedule. That was surely the deciding factor, but I kind of always imagined that I’d hang my own shingle.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
I looked at other design careers that I admired and tried to think about what I could add to the table with so much great work already out there. I am also an education junkie, so I approached it like a student: prepared a thorough business plan, completed market research and drafted a high-concept mission statement. I very much wanted to be a designer that was part of a community of artists and thinkers.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
I probably would have made this journey easier if I had apprenticed under an established designer that I admired – that is certainly the best advice I ignored. I have a hard head and wanted to figure it out on the fly. Thankfully, I opened shop with a most talented colleague who went through the trenches with me in the early days. But it was a longer road, for sure.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
The long hours! I had all the family support anyone could ask for, but keeping that in balance with the time it takes to run a company was news to me and no one could be inside my brain to realize my vision into a reality. There’s only so much time in the day and whatever you’re feeding is what grows, so you miss something along the way. It’s all a juggle.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
It’s a thrill ride but, like a roller coaster, there are highs and lows. Sometimes during those lulls you’re alone trying to do the work of five people. I’ve been lucky enough to have projects where you can support a staff – and a great team is invaluable – but finding the most talented people who are compatible is not always easy.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Frankly, I’ve had so many failures. I’ve missed opportunities, miscommunicated and misunderstood more times than I wish. I have grown and learned greatly from the mistakes so, even though they were painful, I am thankful.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
Time. This cannot be emphasized enough. I had the luxury of not missing important moments with my children, but the effort of keeping a business going has definitely compromised my energy and attention when I was in their presence.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I am lucky to have been able to work with great clients and friends to create environments that exceeded expectations. Working with friends can be a tricky tightrope, but when it goes well, it’s a dream.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Talk to as many people doing it as you can. Go to mixers, lectures and conventions. Immerse yourself in the world you’re interested in and become part of that community. It will mostly be solitary, but all the advice out there is helpful.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
Passion. Patience. Perseverance.