Season 3 – epiBLOG 15:
You guys are in for the biggest “treat” ever… and I know it’s not even close to being Halloween! I have another spectacular featured artist that will “wow” you beyond your beliefs.
I had the opportunity to meet this young lady through my Greater San Diego Business Association networking group last year! I met so many successful people from that group. Anyway, she and I did our networking group “one-on-one” lunch last fall at one of her favorite restaurants, and I was able to learn more about who she is on a personal level.
She chose a restaurant with the most unique interior design, and I thought, “How fitting since that is what she does for a living.”
The food was phenomenal, the venue was perfect, and our conversation naturally had a wonderful life of its own. She is an amazing person!
Today’s topic is my interview with Interior Designer Megan Siason. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to learn from another entrepreneurial artist.
Nitara O: So, Megan… when did you first realize that you just HAVE to get into the field of Interior Design? Was this an epiphany or something that you just fell into?
Megan S: The full answer is this: I’ve always been a creative individual, specific to home design. Even as a kid, during summer in elementary school… I was designing storage organizers out of cardboard shoe boxes, constantly re-arranging my bedroom and our living room furniture – and yes, I was a 50lb kid lugging furniture from one corner to the next… Sketching out images of my dream home.
Nitara O: (chuckling) You did not?
Megan S: (smiling) No, I did. I claim that.
Nitara O: Wow – okay. That’s so cute. Continue.
Megan S: I remember that I used to daydream about my future husband and would start furnishing our house in my mind while browsing the Ikea catalog I stole from my mother.
Nitara O: I did the same thing as a kid. Except I would visualize movie-like story lines and a wife. And there was no IKEA catalogue involved. But there were good plots.
Megan S: (chuckling) I’m glad I’m not the only one with an imagination. I was just a child, and of course had no understanding of what quality furniture was at this time, but enjoyed imagining what these inspirational vignettes would look like in my future home. It’s hilarious reminiscing about these memories now, and it certainly validates me being in the industry that I’m in.
Nitara O: For sure.
Megan S: As a young adult, I didn’t have much direction or guidance as far as attending college or thinking of future careers. In fact, the only reason why I was enrolled at a community college after high school was so I could join a cheer squad. So, with the help of a fellow cheerleader, I figured business classes at Southwestern Community College would keep me occupied. Even with the obsession I had for the home, design, and decorating as a child… it just never occurred to me that I could pursue anything related to that.
Nitara O: That’s amazing how there are times in our lives when we don’t think we can actually have what we want.
Megan S: I know, right? I rode out the general education and few business courses until I received an Associate’s Degree — and even passed the California Real Estate license exam when I was 19. During that time, I landed a job as a leasing agent for a local property management company in Pacific Beach. My main role was to show rental properties to prospective tenants, which proved to be my absolute favorite part of that job. Every single time I would enter a vacant home, without hesitation, my imagination would overflow with design ideas and I would literally visualize how these spaces could dramatically transform. Cosmetically, architecturally, aesthetically. It was a blast.
Nitara O: It was like your purpose was calling you each time you walked into a house.
Megan S: Exactly. At this time, I was working full-time and going to school full-time in pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree in business… that was the plan anyway. That part was not as much fun. If I was not at work, I was at school and if I was not at school, I was studying. Life felt like a machine. I had no purpose. I was just going through the motions… work, school, sleep, repeat. I was depressed. After coming to Christ, I prayed every day to find purpose and fulfillment in God’s will. A blessing very much in disguise had happened.
Nitara O: Please share.
Megan S: One day on my way to work, I was involved in a pretty serious roll-over car accident on the freeway…
Nitara O: No?
Megan S: Yes. I walked out of my totaled Toyota Corolla… landed upside down with nothing but a scratch near my neck from the seatbelt. This was a significant marker in my life. I left it to faith alone to find something I was good at that would make my time on earth worth living. I gave my work notice without having a back-up plan. During the few days I had off from work and school due to not having a car, two lovely ladies came up to my door to chat. They were Jehovah Witnesses. Although they did not successfully convert me to their beliefs, we conversed about many things and I learned that one of their daughters was going to school at San Diego Mesa College for Interior Design. Done. And so the journey of my college career in Interior Design began!
Nitara O: Wow – it’s like the proverbial “knock on your door” was your opportunity to follow your heart’s desire.
Megan S: That’s one way to put it, yeah. I believe my prayers were answered.
Nitara O: What was life like growing up for you?
Megan S: I love my parents dearly, but I can’t sugarcoat my childhood and adolescent experiences. It was difficult being an only child, living in a low-income community, commuting to school 30 minutes away every day, and having my dad deployed in the Navy six months at a time. Going home was not always fun either. Even though my parents were separated, they still lived under the same roof when my dad was not out at sea.
Nitara O: I can imagine that being an emotional strain on everyone.
Megan S: Yeah, and since my parents separated when I was around four years old, I grew up feeling like our situation was normal. But it also made me feel alone and unwanted at times… pretty much until I was able to move out in my early 20’s. One of my favorite activities that helped me forget it all was gymnastics. I am so grateful to my mom for enrolling me at the local recreational center. Bouncing and flipping around on spring boards and balance beams was the perfect fit for my tiny physique and hyperactive personality.
Nitara O: Moms always seem to have the answers, don’t they? I love that you had an outlet with gymnastics. I’m going to switch gears here to refocus back on your booming career. You are super successful to the point that I remember during one of our networking meetings that you mentioned that you are totally booked up and aren’t looking to take on any new clients. Even though you are crazy busy, what does that feel like to have so much business that you literally don’t have the time in your schedule to seek more clients?
Megan S: I feel extremely blessed to actually have steady work as an independent interior designer in my first few years! Putting myself in this position of being my own boss was terrifying, so for me to see positive results, receive great client feedback, and get referrals means the world to me. I’m not sure I would say I have hit that point of being successful, but I am certainly in a good place!
Nitara O: From the outside looking in, you look very successful.
Megan S: Honestly, I’m just grateful. Since the requests for my services have grown, I’ve been able to better focus on the types of projects I prefer and enjoy, and am so thankful that people continue to see the value in hiring a design professional. Every day is different. Believe it or not, actual design is maybe only 10-20% of the business. When I’m not sketching away new ideas, I’m out and about at new client consults, visiting design showrooms or project sites, attending seminars, and of course, there is the dreaded paperwork involved in any business setting. I admit there are days where I feel extremely overwhelmed, especially since I’m constantly learning the ropes of being a business owner and keeping my craft and passion alive, but I have zero complaints and thank God every day. As a small business owner, I’d rather be too busy than not busy at all.
Nitara O: I don’t blame you. You’re absolutely right. Now… in what capacity, or in what role, were you working in Interior Design prior to owning your own company?
Megan S: While in design school, I worked at various showrooms and firms over a four year time period. Some of the trade showrooms included specialties in furniture and décor, fabric and window coverings, and tile and flooring. I also had the privilege to intern for a few design firms before graduating from San Diego State University. It was difficult to find part-time work in the design industry during the recession. Everyone in the industry said it was a great time to be in school! The furniture showroom I worked at sadly closed, but I remained positive and persistent in finding ways to gain the experience I needed. All the past jobs and internships in addition to my involvement with local design organizations gave me confidence and added value in entering the design world post-graduation. A local design/build firm took me on as their first on-staff interior designer. I was there for 3 years or so before starting M Studio Interior Design.
Nitara O: How did you get to the point where you could trust beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were ready to move forward with your own business?
Megan S: (chuckling) I don’t think I was ever ready for ANY of this…
Nitara O: I suppose that is how we all feel whenever we’re getting ready to take on enormous endeavors… we never feel truly ready.
Megan S: Yeah, that’s true, but I’ve heard many great people say that there never is a “good” time for anything — starting a family, relocating, getting married… starting a business. Life just happens. And sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust in yourself and God’s will. This would be the second significant time in my life where I just had to leave it to faith. Throughout design school I had always dreamt of being my own boss and creating some really awesome spaces for people. I just never thought it was attainable.
Nitara O: I’m so glad that you realized that your dreams were achievable. That they were waiting for you all along.
Megan S: That’s so true. The decision to leave my previous employer was prompted by my desire to pursue more in the design world. As previously mentioned, I worked in many different residential design environments and wanted to continue to push my boundaries for design and see what I might be capable of doing.
Nitara O: Which you discovered you’re capable of so much.
Megan S: (humble, smiling) Yeah, and it wasn’t easy. After struggling with the decision for almost a year, a colleague helped to give me the push I needed because I never would have pursued anything like this without that push. He even proof-read my notice to resign. Before the push, I was simply too scared that I might fail. Then I figured that failing wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. I could always find another job. Then again, certain areas of my old job contributed to me leaving. Being there just did not fulfill what I wanted. I slowly became more and more unhappy. It was like I hit a ceiling and there was no more room to grow. A lot of internal struggle.
Nitara O: And look at you now… a success by most people’s standards. What do you use for inspiration when and if you feel stuck with a particular creative decision?
Megan S: It really depends on the creative decision that I might feel stuck on. Usually my clients are fantastic at providing their own visuals that they are drawn to, which gives me a great starting point before a presentation. Like most designers, I feel it’s crucial in having that initial conversation with clients about their design preferences, not mine. After all, even with a bit of influence to ensure the most effective and aesthetically pleasing design, it’s the client’s home we’re designing for. Although, if I’m trying to improve the functionality of a space, I’ll start off with a bunch of sketches just to get my thoughts and ideas down on paper and number them in order of its creation to analyze the progression. If I still struggle with finding a solution that I’m happy with, I’ll start to look for inspiration literally everywhere… online with Pinterest or Houzz… my eyes are constantly searching for design inspiration.
Nitara O: What do you contribute to your success?
Megan S: Hard work and long days aside, I feel that I would not be where I am now without the professional relationships and connections I have made over the years since I was in design school. My education at San Diego Mesa College and SDSU gave me such a great foundation to discover and build my design abilities. My experiences working in the real world helped to polish my skills over time.
Nitara O: And I know that your professional relationships are probably the most important to you.
Megan S: Yeah, absolutely. It’s the many amazing and talented people whom I’ve connected with over almost a decade that truly gave me the confidence, resources, and even clients to help me be where I am right now in this moment. Passionate in my interior design work, free of any complaints… Flashing back to my design school days, the introduction to networking came about when I was encouraged to join my school’s design club. I must have been 21 years old. This prompted me to become a student member of various design organizations including ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) and NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association). The networking that came with it was invaluable.
Nitara O: Connections, relationships, business, and “you-time” are very important. How do you find that perfect work/life balance?
Megan S: That’s a question I’m still working on finding an answer for! Essentially, I find the time because I book the time in my schedule. As a small business owner within the first few years of business, I have to be honest and admit that I still struggle with that work/life balance. Spontaneity in my social life is something that I have not experienced in the last few years and has not worked well for me, at least for now. This sounds pretty lame, but I actually have to schedule “fun time,” and if it isn’t scheduled, that time slot ends up getting filled with a client appointment or catching up on other work-related items.
Nitara O: I wish we had more time. I learned a lot from you. Nevertheless, I want to close this interview with something powerful. So, my last question to you is: What crucial piece of advice would you give to up-and-coming interior designers, artists, and business owners based on your experience of what you know absolutely works towards the attainment of success?
Megan S: You’re putting me on the spot here. Well, let’s see… (1) Get that experience under your belt before attempting to start your own gig! (2) Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know certain business practices. (3) Do not ever underestimate the power of networking! And finally, (4) is something I’ve learned on my own, but I feel that it has been very important in my every day thinking… which is simply finding positivity in life.
Nitara O: Well said. That’s fantastic! You’ve given something valuable for us all to think about. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Megan S: No, thank you, Nitara! I really enjoyed sharing.
Today’s LESSON is to always pursue your dreams, even when they may feel so far away and so impossible to reach.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Find, research, and join a networking group online AND in person within your industry so that you can connect with like-minded people just like Megan has done as an interior designer.
Megan is an interior designer in San Diego, California. If you have any interior design needs, please feel free to contact her.