march 9, 2018

Behind the Design: Starting Your Own Business

We are so excited to introduce a new series to the blog called Behind the Design! Since starting Bria Hammel Interiors 6 years ago, I have learned so much about growing a business. When I started this company, one thing I always lacked was connections to people that were willing to share what they had learned.

Let’s be honest, why do we all have to reinvent the wheel all the time? I knew there were so many successful design firms out there who had a wealth of knowledge of what worked and didn’t work when growing their business, and yet I struggled to find people who were willing to share.

I decided early on that I would be an open book to fellow designers. I always wanted people to know that we were approachable, and willing to help in any way we could. I TRULY believe in paying it forward, and it has yet to come back and bite me.

Whether it’s with clients, fellow designers, my team, or our readers, I always try and be as transparent as possible and I think this has made our relationships that much stronger over the years. Because of this mentality, the idea of this ongoing blog series came up!

I recently asked you all on Instagram what you’d like to know about me and Bria Hammel Interiors. I have to say, I was overwhelmed with the positive response. Thank you to everyone who sent me their questions. I absolutely LOVED reading them all! To kick the series off, I’m going back to the very beginning. In this post I’ll be sharing a little more about where I started and the journey it took to get where we are today.

When did you discover your passion for Interior Design?

Let’s say I kind of grew up in this role. I started at an early age spending weekends at wallpaper and furniture stores with my mom. We lived in 8 different houses by the time I was 14. My mother was the queen of flipping houses, not to make a business out of it but because she really loved a good project.

When I went to college I thought I was going to become a fashion buyer. Reality struck quickly when I figured out that living in Kansas would make it difficult to break into the fashion world. My junior year of college I decided to make the switch and transitioned into the Interior Design program and never looked back!

Where did your career start?

I was lucky enough to start my career in Kansas while I was in school. I interned for Fine Design Studio, a small design firm in Lawrence, Kansas. I was so fortunate to work under the owner who was so hands on with her projects. We were on jobsites daily, focusing heavily on residential interiors. The skills and knowledge I gained from this job really was invaluable to our business now!

When I moved back to Minnesota I took a job as a designer for Ethan Allen. Although retail sales and design wasn’t necessarily my passion, working for a large corporate company, and learning how important selling skills are for an interior designer are something I’ll never regret. I moved quickly into management, and that is when I truly learned what it meant to run a business.

I dove into 1 final job working for a high end design firm in town before starting my business. This was important as I really had no connections to the residential design industry before taking this position. I built relationships with showrooms, product reps, and other designers in the industry, and when I had my first child, I decided to launch BHI.

How did you take the plunge of starting your own business verses just doing it as a hobby?

I’ve never really been a hobby kind of girl. I’m one of those people, when I start something I dive full force in. I actually wish I would sometimes slow down and process ideas before I tackle on a new venture, but it’s just not in me. When I had my son I knew I wanted more flexibility with my schedule. Not meaning I wanted to work less, I just wanted to be able to decide when and where I would be. It was important for me to be able to participate in my children’s activities, take them to their doctor appointments etc. To this day, even with all the travel I now do, I never miss a school party or doctor appointment. It’s the beauty of running your own business.

People often use the term work/life balance. I don’t think it’s about doing each 50/50. I think it’s about giving yourself 100% to both parts of your life, and making decisions every single day of what is important and where you need to be. I know my children will benefit from having other people in their lives that they can lean on and felt cared for. Yes, I have mom guilt, every single day. But when I look back at my childhood and the experiences I had and maturity I gained from having a hardworking mom and dad, I wouldn’t change a day of it.

I know Brooke and Lou will grow up understanding what it means to work. Not just work, but live and breath your work. I also know they will grow up knowing what it feels like to have your parents present. We have a great team behind us to help too! We truly live the motto “it takes a village”, and my kids are stronger for that.

How did you take your business from at home to a studio in under a year?

This business grew first and foremost from referrals. I started with 1 project. They shared their experience with friends. I helped them with theirs, and the business just kept growing.

A big part of my business starting out was making strong relationships with builders. Copper Creek and Divine Custom Homes were some of the first builders we worked with and we built some pretty fabulous homes together! The clients from those projects have become forever clients. We have helped them on other projects, as well as their family and friends. Referrals were EVERYTHING for us, and we wouldn’t be here today without all of that support.

I’ve always said that I’m not much of a risk taker (some people laugh when I say this!) Honestly though when I decided to move from my house to a office space I made sure that the money the business was making at the time would be able to cover these new costs, without going in the red. I started day 1 in the black and have yet to be in the red with this business. When I hired my first assistant, I started her slow. She worked a few days a week for me and I didn’t over commit. I have always told my employees I would rather start low and be able to increase their pay quickly then overcommit and have to let them go. We have been lucky enough to never have to do that, but I believe part of that is I make sure we are hiring within our means.

Every time we hire a new employee it’s because my employees are working overtime, and can’t keep up. We always make sure the business is there to support the growth. I spend a lot of time working on the business, not just in it. By that I mean I evaluate numbers, track our progress, and have hired a strong team to help me with this! By investing in our business I invest in our growth. It has saved us from making big financial mistakes.

I hope you have enjoyed the first post of many in the Behind the Design series. If you think I missed anything, or have any other questions please feel free to comment below! Next up, my social media secrets! Thanks for following along.


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  • Yvonne Fawehinmi March 9, 2018, 10:11 am

    Great post! No doubt your children will grow up to admire and respect what you have done with your talents. Love all of your work it feels so balanced and fresh.

    • bhammel March 10, 2018, 6:59 am

      Thanks so much Yvonne!

  • Alexis Michalovich March 12, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this behind the scences look about how you got started. I have been an interior designer for 10 years but recently went out on my own so your thoughts about helping other designers really stuck with me. We are all in this together no matter where we are based. I have two little kids and your reasons are so similar to mine about wanting to be there for whatever I can be. Thank you again for sharing.

    • Bria Hammel March 12, 2018, 3:31 pm

      Alexis thank you so much for reading! Imagine the possibilities if we all worked together to make better businesses! Congrats on starting your new business!

  • Kami Beck March 12, 2018, 5:38 pm

    Such a great post! Thank you so much for sharing ❤️

  • amy May 16, 2018, 11:29 am

    I've just found your blog and really have enjoyed going through your posts. I like this Behind the Design series and love the Shop this Post. I'm not a designer and love your style, so you've made it easy for me! Also, most blogs I just look at the pictures, but you take the time to explain why you made the choices you did for that particular client, and then its fun to see another room and how you carried a theme or a color.

    • Bria Hammel June 25, 2018, 8:13 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words Amy! Makes it all worth it <3

  • Sierra November 19, 2020, 2:33 pm

    What a journey! Thank you for taking the time to share it with us all. Your work is amazing, and your consistency definitely shows throughout all three of your businesses!

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