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Life and Work with Brenda Thompson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Thompson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After graduating with a Marketing degree, I joined the masses in corporate America climbing the ladder, and I loved it! After almost a decade, my husband and I started our family and I transitioned to small business consulting so that I would have more flexibility with my schedule. About five years ago, when my position in Business Operations was nearing an end, I started feeling the itch to do something different. After much thought, I decided to take the leap and pursue one of my biggest passions, interior design. I’ve always had a natural ability to pull together a space. When I started thinking about what I wanted to do I found myself saying, “I want to give people’s home a facelift,” and that’s how the name HouseLift Design came about.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I could do it. I was a little timid at first, putting myself out there in this new field I really didn’t know much about. The very first thing I did was to create a business Facebook page. I figured since it didn’t cost anything I could test the market and then gauge the response. I posted photos of my own home’s spaces and then shared my page with my friends. And that was the start of something amazing!
When my first client hired me, I was pumped. I worked day and night on plans for their home office until it was just perfect in my mind. I barely made any money on it, but it shot me out of the gate and gave me just the confidence boost I needed. Then another client hired me to design their son’s bedrooms – I WAS ECSTATIC!
Fast forward to 2019 – nearly 5 years in business. We have a booming business with a small dedicated staff, and in the fall of 2019 we will be a featured designer on HGTV. WOO-HOO!
Running my own business has been one of my greatest accomplishments and at the same time one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I give my heart and soul to every project, and the hard work never stops. We strive to improve our process and the client experience with each project we do, and I’m just so grateful. I am SO PROUD of where we are and where we are going. The hard work has been worth it.
Has it been a smooth road?
This question makes me laugh! While I’ve never been a stranger to hard work, starting and running your own business is on a whole new level. Creating beautiful spaces for clients is what we do, but in order to do that well there’s SO MUCH MORE that is required to operate a successful and profitable business.
What goes on behind the scenes has almost nothing to do with interior design! Running any business requires a business plan, marketing strategy, knowledge of accounting, billing, invoicing, taxes, and business financials. After all, this is not a hobby – it’s a business. And to be profitable you have to know how you’re doing financially so you can pivot and make adjustments as needed.
Aside from dreaming up beautiful spaces, typical business activities include talking to vendors and suppliers, solving problems, communicating with clients, learning new software to make us more efficient, etc. There are so many moving parts, and in the beginning I couldn’t afford to outsource most of these things. So I spent many late nights and long weekends trying to figure out what project management software to use, what should I charge, how to find clients, who my ideal client is, the best way to source furniture, etc. An interior designer has to be so knowledgeable about so many things! Things like measuring and space planning, fabric contents and textures, how the color tone affects the feel of a room, and the material construction and durability of seating, to name a few.
While this journey has had its share of highs, when I say it’s taken blood, sweat, and tears to get this far I really mean it! I think you would be hard pressed to find any business owner who wouldn’t say the same. You ARE going to struggle. And fail. And the sooner you accept that the sooner you begin to see these temporary setbacks as learning opportunities to make you better at what you do!
Because struggle is inevitable, my biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with a strong support system – people who understand your industry and who you can bounce ideas off of. I have several people who have shared their time and expertise to me along the way. And, in addition to experts in your field, you need people in your life who will be empathetic with you when you are struggling, tired, or just need some perspective. My husband has been my rock. I couldn’t have gotten this far without involving and leaning on other people.
Every opportunity I get I try to mentor other women in business. There’s always going to be someone ahead of you and someone behind you in the journey, so share your knowledge, give of your time, and cheer for and support other women. The more you give, the more you will receive. We’re all better for it!
So, as you know, we’re impressed with HouseLift Design – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
We design beautiful spaces that feel good and “put together” for our clients. We offer Full-Service Design for which we create room-specific plans and manage all the sourcing, purchasing, and installation of furnishings. We also provide eDesign services for clients outside of our in-person service area, as well as In-Home Design Consultations for the DIYer who just needs some great ideas to kickstart their next project.
Our design aesthetic is cozy, warm, and modern. You won’t find super bright or overly colorful spaces in our portfolio. We love neutrals and muted colors that evoke a sense of calm and invite you in. And we think everyone, no matter where you live, should love the home you live in. It should be functional, represent the people that live there, and feel good.
Our ideal clients aren’t too frilly, fancy, traditional, or sterile – just people who want a casual, all-put-together space. Check out our website portfolio or social media @houseliftdesign to see what we’re all about!
There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
In the beginning, I couldn’t have afforded a professional mentor, even if I’d known how much I needed one at the time. 😊 Just last year, though, I was connected with a mentor in my area who came highly recommended and had helped a number of my peers. The financial investment to retain an experienced mentor is real, but so is the reward. The encouragement, suggested next steps, words of caution, and targeted challenges my mentor has given me have been absolutely priceless. I strongly encourage mentoring for those who are ready and able to make the next-level investment in their business.
I’ve approached networking in an organic way. Since the very beginning, I’ve reached out to people who I connect with on a personal level and have asked for specific advice. Sometimes, this is in person and sometimes it’s online networking through social media forums. It’s been different people along the way. Just this year, I joined a local networking group in my area that’s filled with other women business owners in my city. There’s not one right answer – look for opportunities that fit your current needs. And there’s a season for everything. What worked or helped in the beginning most likely will not be the same thing that helps you as you grow.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Brenda main headshot – Lindsay Whited
The rest of the photos – Macey & Danny Heim

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Diana Whitlock

    June 20, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    I am so proud to know Brenda as a neighbor and her caretaker for their family dog, “Peanut.” I have consulted informally regarding a total upstairs renovation and received several great suggestions on how to begin. Brenda is down-to-earth, creative and warm. I look forward to crafting a vision for a new home vibe.

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