We had the good fortune of connecting with Tara Lenney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tara, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Normally, I’m completely risk-averse. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to mitigate risks, especially financial ones. I’ve always been a little more cautious or timid than the next person, which is why I NEVER in a million years thought I would start my own business.
I started my Interior Design business very small and very part-time, slowly building up and growing in between my kids naps. But there came a time when the business was growing quickly; too quickly for me to handle on my own. At that same time my husband hated his job and wanted out to be able to spend more time with our family. It became clear that our next move was to go full time in business together. It was terrifying and exhilarating.
Rather than jumping in on a whim, we spent 4 months saying “yes” to every opportunity that came to our door, building up our client list and backlog, and saving all of our spare money. We knew we had enough to sustain us for 6 months should everything turn upside down. We took a calculated risk and had a parachute to catch us if we fell.
That’s how we’ve approached every new opportunity in our business. Taking calculated risks, strategizing our plan, having a safety net, praying for guidance, and then working hard to make it happen.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s funny, because when I was a kid the message was pretty pervasive – there was no money or success to be found in being an artist or a creative. Get a stable job. Be a lawyer or a doctor. Something you can set your watch to and gather a steady paycheck from. I’m glad I didn’t put too much stock in that (though I definitely should have listened to my Dad when he encouraged me to get a business minor in college)!
I’ve never been 100% artist or 100% technical. It has always been a combination of left brained and right brained. There are some amazingly creative Designers who can create beautiful spaces but lack project management skills and have unhappy clients or don’t make a profit. There are incredibly technically proficient Designers who don’t miss a single detail, but struggle to come up with something fresh and original.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been gifted with both the left and the right brained skills, and I feel like that has been the key to our business being successful. Being able to create beautiful spaces and having the strategic and project management skills to run a profitable business.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to strategically hire team members who have skill sets in my blind spots, rather than just hiring younger versions of myself. They round out our team and give our clients the best experience and expertise possible.
Earlier this year we launched a side-business, Humble Abode, with affordable digital and framed art designed to work together. We saw a need in our clients to have affordable art for their walls, but the overwhelming amount of options out there and lack of understanding of what would go together kept them from making decisions. We were able to leverage our technical skills in business and website building along with our creative skills (we create all of the art in-house) to create something to be able to serve our clients as well as a larger need beyond the people who hire us to design their homes. We are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to bring our creative skills out to serve a larger audience.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
To know me is to know of my abiding love for tacos, whiskey and houseplants. Our trip would definitely include hitting up my favorite local restaurant and distillery, Lockwood Distillery in Richardson, for a frozen bourbon sidecar, Ray’s Pastrami Sandwich, and Dirty South Tots. Then to Plants and Planters Garden Center in Richardson where some variety of houseplant would accidentally jump into our carts. Then a visit to Downtown McKinney and a meal at Harvest or Local Yokel would be in order. Then a taco tour, comparing the best offerings from Torchy’s (Trailer Park Trashy taco), Fuzzy’s (shredded chicken taco), Petra’s (brisket street tacos), and basically as much Tex-Mex as you can cram into a week. Klyde Warren Park is a must-visit if you’ve never been to Dallas – a giant green space built over the highway between downtown and uptown, and then onto the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
None of this would have been possible without the support of my husband, Steven. He saw potential in me that I never saw in myself. He supports me inside our business by managing back of house jobs like invoicing and all of our project photography so I can focus on the creative side and strategy. He supports me at home by being the most involved dad I know. And he supports me in our marriage by always believing in me.