We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Bushey RID, IIDA, LEED AP and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michelle, how do you think about risk?
I was always that person who was never afraid to try something new, exciting, or even dangerous – even though it might not have been in my best interest and scared my mom to death i.e. skydiving…. I think we are faced with risk everyday from a very young age – playground,school, acceptance, driving, walking across the street, etc…- and how we are taught to look at it and react to it shapes our ability to make decisions and take chances as we get older both personally and professionally. I learned very early on that if you want to learn, move forward and grow you have to take chances. Whether that means putting all of your savings in to keep your business / dream alive, walking away from corporate america to do what fuels your soul and happiness or to just face the fear of failure and go fot it, it’s all about the level of risk you are willing to take. I have failed – A LOT. I think that opens me up to being able tolerate a higher level of risk because I know there is always another opporunity around the corner if I’m willing to see it and take it. Anymore, if I am presented with something I am not familar with or haven’t done before my attitude is – I’ll figure it out. Somehow, someway it always works out – not always the way I’d like – but if you trust your gut and take the chance, the reward or the lesson is always worth it – you move to the next level.

I was a partner in a successful design firm for 20 years and walked away due to personal and professional reasons – I had never worked for anyone but myself and it was humbling to be thrust into senior positions in design fields I had never worked in. I did that for about 4 or 5 years and realized I hated it – the office politics, the hours, the commute, all of it – but I still loved design. I decided to go back out on my own – a huge risk – but here I am, 10 years later and counting.

What should our readers know about your business?
Cohesive Design Group is a full service Interior Architecture and Design Studio that specializes in concept design, development and branding for the restaurant, hospitality and multi-family industries. The bulk of our portfolio work is restaurant design – I have been designing restaurants for about 30 years and before that I worked in restaurants as well as owned and operated a few – which gives our firm a unique advantage, we are able to see the project not only as creatives but also from the standpoint of an owner / operator – been there, done that. Margins in the hospitality industry are tight and COVID made it even more so – being able to help our clients utilize their space for the highest ROI is important to us – their success is our success. In the last few years we have seen quite an increase in Multi-family – even more so with the rise in prices in residential real estate. There are some amazing things happening in world of manufactured homes.

Being an entrepenuer is one of the hardest things you can do – it’s a grind but it’s also a drive to create. The last 2 years have been difficult to say the least – the firm pretty much had no work for over a year and a half. We spent that time helping our clients navigate unknown waters during COVID – from re-working existing layouts so they could ensure social distancing, finding ways to shift from Dining Rooms to Take Out / Delivery to researching new materials for use in a post-pandemic world.

We went through downturns and had to learn to recreate ourselves and how we approached the design industry in 2001 after 9/11 as well as during the Great Recession in 2008 -when more than 50% of the A & D industry lost their jobs – to COVID and the continuing changes the virus brings about. There were times when it was just me – grinding day and night – 7 days a week. Times when my employees got paid and I didn”t, When I lost my firm and had to start over – working for other companies, putting in 80 hour weeks, no time off, no personal life, etc.. the list goes on. In the end though, you realize that all those hardships in the past are what has prepared you for your current and future success. You just keep going because the love for what you do and the fact that you are lucky enough to do it everyday makes quitting non-negotiable. Winter doesn’t last forever…

I’m not saying anything new here – you have to take the ups with the downs, it’s part of the journey. Every failure teaches you something and sets you up for success. I’ve learned that if I don’t know something, admit it -ask the question and do the research. You have to stay relevant or you will dissapear – take classes, go to trade shows, research your industry and the others that affect it so you know and understand what’s coming and how to best incorporate it into your business. Keep learning, keep growing. Also, it’s important to give back – at one time I think most of the young designers here in Dallas interned for me. It’s our responsiblity to share knowlege and experience – to teach the next generation.

As I stated above, Cohesive is unique in that it has real life – hands on experience in the types of projects we design – we know how things work which helps us be better designers and meet the needs of our clients. We build stories and brands for our clients from concept design, interior design, branding (logo, print, digital, signage), documentation, permtting and construction administration – we are capable of providing the full package, CDG has a true passion for what we do as a firm and consider ourselves part of our clients’ team. I take my business personally – I touch and oversee every project that goes out and encourge open communication with our clients. I am fortunate, most of my work at this point comes from referals or repeat clients – customer service and how we treat others is a top priority. I like to think that says something about me and Cohesive Design.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Wow… that’s a hard one – there is SO much to do in the Metroplex and it depends on the time of year. Working in the hospitality side of things, food is a big one. We could have theme days – BBQ one day (Lockhart, Terry Black’s, Hard 8, Mike Andersons, and Fire for the Lord) Tex/Mex the next (Mia’s, Herrera’s, Javier’s, Mesero and of course Mi Cocina for a Mambo Taxi) and maybe we do areas of town. Bishop Arts District – Lucia, Eno’s, Emporium Pies in addition to some fun shopping and drinks at Paradiso. Design District – Drinks and apps at Vino, maybe dinner at the Charles and then a night cap at Virgin Hotel, The Arts District as well as downtown has lots to offer – DMA and the Nasher along with the Perot and Klyde Warren Park – they have lots of social events including yoga and DJ;s during the year. I live near the Arboretum so an early morning Member’s Walk is a must along with coffee from El Porton or LDU. Lunch on the patio at Smokey Rose is always fun as is happy hour at Lounge Here. Shopping and Art at Northpark ( some gelatto from Eataly), shopping at Highland Park Village – drinks at Honor Bar or maybe head to Sachet. Of course everyone wants to see the Grassy Knoll and the 6th floor museum, The Stockyards in Ft. Worth and the Ft. Worth Arboretum – we could take the Trinity Express and then come back and hit Uptown / Knox Hederson for dinner and drinks at Georgie’s and maybe check out Greenville Ave. Then there’s White Rock Lake, The Harwood District, The Star in Frisco, Downtown Grapevine, etc… lot’s to do!!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost would be my Mom…she survived so many hardships – from being a child during WWII in Germany to having to fight discrimination after marrying my father and coming to this country to finding a way to pay the bills and make ends meet with odd jobs after becoming a single parent. She taught me that perseverance and determination are 2 major keys to success – to keep going, even in the shadow of defeat. In her book, failure was not an option – there is always a path to success, you just have to find it.

Second would be my ex-partner Brad Belletto. Although we parted ways, he taught me SO much about the basics of business (and life) – from learning to do the books in a handwritten ledger (this was way before Quickbooks), how to handle difficult business situations, to networking, etc.. the list goes on. He is still one of my best friends – his focus is now on back of house / sustainable green kitchen design for the hospitality industry and we get to collaborate on projects together every so often.

Of course I cannot forget the most amazing group of friends that have supported and encouraged me every step of the way – I am forever grateful for their love and belief in me.

Website: www.cohesivedg.com

Instagram: @cohesivedesigngroup

Linkedin: Michelle Bushey RID, IIDA, LEED AP or Cohesive Design Group

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