Being an Interior Designer came naturally to me…but being a business owner did not. Frankly, it completely freaked me out and I was petrified at the idea of running my own business! I had always worked for others and I was used to that…felt comfortable with that…but trying to navigate as a self -employed person making all those decisions on my own was so frightening that I almost didn’t go down that path!
Let’s back track a few years. In the early 90’s I went to Niagara College in Welland, Ontario for a 3-year Interior Design program. I decided 6 months before graduating high school that THIS is what I wanted to do with my life and by that time all the “good” programs had already been filled. Took the courses and LOVED them--graduated with top marks even! But by the time I hit the streets looking for a job there was a major recession and there was NOTHING…unless I wanted to venture to Toronto, which is not what I wanted to do at all! I have always been a Hamilton girl and didn’t like the idea of commuting every day. I spent a bit of time working at a paint store and then about 10 years working various jobs until the economy was in a much better state. But now I didn’t know if I wanted to work in firm…or in a store…or what kind of design appealed to me! What would be the best fit for me?
I got some great advice from an interview with one of the top firms in my area and she suggested working as an assistant to another interior designer to get my feet wet and then take things from there…that advice changed my life! I worked for two different designers over the next few years and learned so much, but as the economy turned downward again, I was eventually laid off from both jobs. Then, a friend of mine who was also an entrepreneur I had gone to in the past for advice gave me a gift--a referral for an interior design client—my very first client of my very own! I jumped at the chance to re-do my client’s bedroom and was able to transform it from a blank slate to a French inspired retreat that they just loved.
And I enjoyed every single bit of it!
And that’s when I was faced with the decision…do I open my own business? Or…not? I wrestled with it for months—especially when my previous employer called me back. But one day I was asking God for direction and I felt a question burn inside me…what do you REALLY want to do?
“Follow my heart” was my answer.
And that was it. From that point on I decided that Bella Casa Interiors would become a reality! But I was still petrified!!!
I knew I needed training and didn’t want to go to business school to get it; with a young family I didn’t have time for another 3-year program! I knew of a government program where you can apply to get training to start your business and write a proper business plan, so I got the info and went through the lengthy application process. After a few months of paper work and a presentation of my business idea, I was accepted! Step 1 complete! I completed the 6 weeks of training and then began the process of writing the business plan and actually getting clients and working with them. That was over five years ago.
When I started the business, I had a family that consisted of my husband and one child. We planned to have one more and I thought that it wouldn’t be too hard to do both…be a mom and have a business…just be part time for a bit and it will all work out! Oh...that is not at all what happened…no, no, no! I did get pregnant with our second child and had a miscarriage at 10 weeks. After healing (mentally and physically) from that, we tried again and had a healthy baby. I kept working just as I had planned and helped a client renovate their main floor. Things were working out according to plan!
Just as she was approaching her 2nd birthday, we had a surprise—we were pregnant with our third! Say what???
To say I was shocked was an understatement. This was NOT in the plan in any way whatsoever!
I knew that the business had to take a back seat and to be honest I really had a hard time with that. For over two years I went through a really dry season where work was very sporadic, and doors just kept closing, much to my disappointment! Our baby arrived healthy and beautiful and he made our family so complete and brought so much joy, yet I struggled inside, as this passion laid dormant. I eventually came to accept that this just wasn’t the time to build the business but that being there for my little ones was the best start to life I could offer, even if it meant that part of me felt unfulfilled temporarily. I worked on other things—building my website and starting a blog. https://www.bellacasainteriors.ca/blog/ That season felt like our last winter…long and never-ending…but my faith in my prayer to God kept me from quitting and I just kept persevering.
But the thing about winter is that you know Spring is coming! Now that my little guy is over two years old, doors have begun to open again, and I have been busier than ever. I am far more organized and ready to move ahead…slowly of course…but at least I feel alive again! Even though balancing life and work is crazy and chaotic at times, I am SO happy to do it. The course of life and business hasn’t been an easy road, but one thing I have learned is that I am not a quitter. It may take me longer to reach my goals than for others, but little by little, I get there. If there is anything I have learned as a business owner, that is it. Don’t ever give up!
When I compare myself with others, I feel like I fall short.
All. The. Time.
But as more time passes I gain more confidence in doing what I know is right for me and my family AND my business. I’m not the best at social media advertising. I don’t have an Instagram account filled with amazing images. I work in short stretches of time rather than the typical 9-5 day. I’ve learned—and still am learning—how to be more efficient with my time. But I LOVE what I do and when I see what is in my head come to life and have clients that are more than thrilled with the results…that is the best feeling.
Joanna Gaines says it best. “It’s as if our whole lives had been preparing us for this experience. We didn’t know it at the time, but it’s as if the seeds had been planted long ago. Have you ever looked at the bud of a magnolia flower? It’s a tight little pod that stays closed up for a long time on the end of its branch until one day, out of nowhere, it finally bursts open into this gigantic, gorgeous, fragrant flower that’s ten times bigger than the bud itself. It’s impossible to imagine that such a big beautiful thing could pop out of that tiny little bud. But it does.” Even though this journey as a business owner had not been smooth and seamless, I do feel like all the layers of life have led me here and I am doing exactly what I was created to do in life.
Photo by K Doucette
Now I am so glad that I made that decision to start my business and face whatever challenges have come. I look forward to what’s ahead and know that all that life experience will lead to better things…bigger things…and more than I could ever ask for or imagine! Bella Casa Interiors may not be a household name, but little by little, I’ll get there…and I won’t give up.
Written by Emanuela Little
Bella Casa Interiors