This is a bit more of a personal post than I usually put here on the Fuchsia Design blog, but I wouldn’t have been able to reach this goal without the support of my clients, so I wanted to share this milestone with you.
This past week, I was recognized by the Grand Rapids Business Journal for their prestigious 40 under 40 Business Leaders list. Making this list has been a long-time goal of mine, and not only did I want to make the list – I wanted to make the list before I turned 30. Two years ago, I was nominated, and as I filled out the extensive questionnaire, I remember feeling like I didn’t have enough experience and community involvement. The application was a challenge for me to fill out, and a few months later I was notified that I did not make the cut. It was a good wake up call. I knew I could be better, and I knew I could give more of myself. I had spent the past few years focused on growing Fuchsia Design, and it was time for me to shift some of that focus on the community of Grand Rapids. I sought out new organizations, new leadership positions, and new ways I could make a difference in West Michigan. This July, I received an email that I had been once again been nominated, only this time as I filled out the application, I ran out of space for all of the organizations I have filled my calendar with. It hadn’t even occurred to me just how passionate I had become about being involved until I had to put it all in a single list. The application no longer felt like a challenge and my responses came easy. In August, a mere month before turning 30 and while volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, I received the email I had been waiting years for.
“Please accept our sincere congratulations for your selection as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2018 “40 under 40” business leaders. We received an amazing 479 nominations and reviewed 294 final candidates. I extend congratulations from our judges, Bob Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Lansing; Lou Glazer, President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., Ann Arbor; and Jennifer Kluge, President and CEO, MichBusiness/Michigan Business & Professional Association, in Warren.”
This past Wednesday, October 17th, was the celebration and ceremony to recognize the 40 honorees, and what a proud night it was.
This year, the theme of the event was #40secondstories. The honorees were given no prompts, no rules, and could spend 40 seconds telling their story. If you’re into short videos, here’s a link to a few of the honoreers, including myself! My story starts at 4:32
As a business owner and a passionate member of the west Michigan community, I’m beyond proud to be considered a top business leader. I don’t talk about my community involvement a whole lot, so I wanted to give some insight into the application process and why Lou Glazer, Jennifer Kluge, and Bob Thomas felt I deserved a spot in the GRBJ 40 Under 40 Class of 2018. Below is a small sampling of some of the information I provided after being nominated for the list:
December 2014: Became NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) Certified – this is the highest level of qualification in the interior design industry.
January 2016: Grand Rapids Magazine Featured Artist – Best of GR Issue
August 2016: Grand Rapids Woman Magazine Cover Story: Featured Female Entrepreneur
Spring 2018: Cosmopolitan Home Grand Rapids Interior Designer of Cover Story + 14 page article on recently completed lake home
Spring 2018: Michigan Home and Lifestyle - Featured Designer
The Rising Tide Society – Co-leader (1 of 2): The Rising Tide Society is an international organization that focuses on community over competition. With over 500 local creative entrepreneurs, our group meets once a month to discuss various topics relevant to building a creative business.
West Michigan Interior Designers – Founder: Upon starting my own business, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a local organization in the interior design industry that focuses on community building. WMID was founded shortly after. Each interior designer has different skillsets, resources, and experience, and with over 250 interior designers involved, West Michigan Interior Designers focuses on growing from each other. We believe that there’s enough success for everyone, and we are stronger together than we are on our own.
Home Builders Association
HBA Professional Women in Home Building – Secretary
National Kitchen and Bath Association
The Economic Club of Grand Rapids
Who has inspired you most?
Growing up, I was a hard worker, a great student, and actively involved in the community, and as a result, I received a lot of negative feedback when I announced that I would be attending college for interior design – an often misunderstood industry. Family members, friends, and even teachers discouraged me from pursing my creative career goals as many felt it would be a waste of my intelligence and academic achievements. Being stubborn, gritty, and determined, this only fueled my fire more. I’m the type of person that is pushed harder when I’m told I can’t do something, and those who didn’t believe in me are the ones who inspired me to get to where I am today. When I was told that a woman couldn’t study construction management, I became the girl sitting in the front row of Building Codes class and taking electrical wiring courses. When I graduated college in 2010 during the worst job market of my time and was told I wouldn’t find a job in my (nearly obsolete) industry, I landed one that helped me get to where I am today. When a builder told me I’d never be able to sustain a business in residential interior design, I founded Fuchsia Design, and today we are thriving in the west Michigan community. I am so grateful for everyone who hasn’t believed in me. Tell me I can’t and I’ll show you I can.
What was your biggest professional break?
My biggest professional break was landing a job as an interior designer in Grand Rapids after graduating college in 2010. For most people, their first job out of college is not their biggest professional break. However, 2010 was a really hard time for the building industry, and jobs were few and far between. I grew up in west Michigan, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to start my career here with the struggling economy. Because there were so few jobs available, I was competing with interior designers with 10+ years of experience who’s jobs had been eliminated. I applied for jobs all over the world, and landed a position here in Grand Rapids. My first job helped me develop the skills needed to land my second job as a residential interior designer, and that position inspired me to start Fuchsia Design. Every experience along the way has gotten me to where I am, and today my company helps clients build custom homes ranging from $500k - $20m. Looking back on all of my professional breaks so far, I’m so happy to have established those initial roots in west Michigan, and I attribute a lot of my success to my humble beginning in that very first job.
What’s your biggest accomplishment:
The NCIDQ is a national interior design certification exam. While passing the NCIDQ is not a requirement in Michigan in order to be able to practice interior design, the moment I decided I wanted this career, I decided that passing this exam was my ultimate professional goal. Taking the exam required a combined 8 years of education and professional experience, and the 3 day exam consisted of a 10 hour hand drafting exam and 700 multiple choice questions. On top of those numbers, 70% of those who take the exam fail at least one portion on their first try. After passing on my first attempt, I’m not sure I could ever top that accomplishment in my professional career. When a homeowner hires an NCIDQ certified designer for a project, they hire someone who has achieved the highest level of qualification in the industry. Being able to offer my clients that level of expertise is incredibly rewarding and sets me apart from most residential interior designers in west Michigan.
Why do you deserve to be an honoree of 40 Under 40?
The GRBJ’s 40 Under 40 is not just a list of accomplished young adults. I see this prestigious list as a group of successful professionals who are also committed to the growth and development of the Grand Rapids community. Professionally, at the age of just 29, I own Fuchsia Design – a full service interior design firm in Grand Rapids. I’m passionate about breaking gender stereotypes and showing that women can be involved in the building industry. Others are often surprised that I develop electrical plans, plumbing diagrams, and every other detail that comes with building a luxury home. Aside from my professional accomplishments as a business owner, my other passion is community development. Through my leadership with the West Michigan Interior Designers, The Rising Tide Society, and my new position with the Professional Women in Home Building, my goal is the same throughout every organization. The three I’s: Create a group where people feel inspired, important, and included. I believe that there is enough success to go around, and other’s success does not mean there is less success to be had by me. I'm constantly inspired by the words of Helen Keller who said, “Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.” I love being a resource for others, a leader in these organizations, and someone who is fostering communities that help develop west Michigan businesses. I’m passionate about all things Grand Rapids, and I’m honored to be considered for the 40 Under 40 list.
Thank you, Grand Rapids Business Journal for this opportunity. If you’d like to read more about the other 39 professionals recognized, you can scroll through the online issue below. I also must say thank you to everyone who has supported me, but more so - to everyone who hasn’t. Your honesty and inability to believe in my goals have pushed me to be a better business leader and community member.