Julie Schuster on Starting and Growing a Design Practice

Published: May 13, 2024

The former president of the Manhattan chapter of NKBA, Julie Schuster, founder of New York City-based Julie Schuster Design Studio, talks with KBB about her perspective on starting and growing a design practice.

How does your background influence the way you approach the design business?

My first degree is in business. So I have always looked at becoming an entrepreneur as a personal business venture first and foremost. As we all know, interior design is also a passion-driven, creative endeavor as well. But if one wants to survive and keep doing it, we also have to look upon it as a business predominantly.

What has been your biggest challenge – and how did you resolve it?

Oh my goodness, there are so many! But learning to place a high value on my own time is one of the most important. It drives so much of all of the others. The more years and projects that I’ve put under my belt have taught me that there is not a project that I can’t tackle, even one that if totally different than what I have done before. I have the knowledge, the resource base and hard-earned connections to lean on for advice or information to solve the client’s needs. So perhaps the patience with myself and the process might be amongst the top of the challenges list.

What is the most important career lesson you’ve learned?

Learn, learn – never stop learning. Join trade organizations that bring exposure and education opportunities to you. You never know from where a recommendation or opportunity will pop up in front of you. And don’t hesitate to take a leadership role – even when you feel not quite ready, go for it! The rewards are big.

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What advice would you give someone who is thinking about entering the design business?

If possible, work for someone else first. Mentors will come from all areas of life, but get some design creds before jumping off into business for yourself, if at all possible. And as above, expose yourself to the markets you want to learn about through trade organizations and groups. This takes time…you don’t get all of this education in design school. Go to trade shows and showrooms, too. Experience is the very best education and it is not just on job sites. It’s all around. Don’t be intimidated to ask questions.

What is your favorite thing to collect? And why?

Experiences! Travel, people and places you carry in your heart wherever you go. And you don’t have to dust them!

Who or what has been a seminal influence on your design career?

All of my colleagues. Mentors are all around, if you look for them. I learn from outside of our industry as well as inside it. And from other career changers who might also be new to our trade, as well as the experienced colleague. That’s another reason that I just love the NKBA as well as the other organizations l belong to. Most people are willing to share, when asked. And if you get rebuffed along the line, don’t let that slow you down. Just ask someone else – for you will find sharers.

Tagged with: design business

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