I am a huge HGTV fan. I love dreaming of future homes and designs that could one day (hopefully!) be my own. Due to this love of design, I was so excited when I met Chelsea Larson, an interior designer in Asheville. When I met her, she was in the midst of launching her own design company, Chelsea Benay, LLC. I was inspired by her creativity and drive to launch her own business and am thrilled at the success and recognition she has received so far. Chelsea was recently featured in Carolina Home + Garden Magazine about her business and design aesthetics, sharing that her, “…design philosophy is all about keeping things classic, simple, and functional.”
Taking the dream of owning your own business and turning it into a reality is a venture that takes a lot of preparation and faith. I love Chelsea’s perspective on entrepreneurial risk-taking that she shares in the following interview:
SK: What is your educational background?
AS in Interior Design from Southwest Florida College and BA in Finance from Temple University
SK: What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
An internship with Collins & DuPont Interiors in Bonita Springs, Fl. It’s a large and well known residential design firm, and I had been dreaming of starting my career there since high school. I walked in with my resume, asked if they were hiring, and they happened to have an opening for an intern. After a couple months of interning I was promoted to work in the resource library, before becoming a Design Coordinator.
SK: What brought you to Asheville?
I’ve had family in the area for several years and have always loved coming to visit. After a few years of living in Philadelphia, I was looking for a major change of pace and wanted to get back to nature. I’m glad Asheville has a great cultural scene with festivals, great restaurants, and breweries.
SK: What made you decide to start your own company?
Owning my own company has always been part of my career plan. I made the jump from working with a great design firm in Asheville to starting my own firm last spring because some opportunities presented themselves and the timing was just right.
SK: What is your favorite part of owning your own company?
My favorite part of owning a design firm is the pride I feel in having something I created become a brand that helps other people solve design problems. It’s the craziest feeling to realize I’m able to make a living doing something I absolutely love and help people in the process.
SK: Please share a little about your business:
Chelsea Benay is a full service interior design firm offering services for new construction, renovation, and decor. I use a specialized approach to the interior design process that keeps projects moving forward and helps eliminate the stress of coordinating and communicating selections for clients and builders.
SK: As a huge social media fan, I am always interested in how social media is integrated into a business. How are you using social media to help grow your brand? Do you have any social media tips?
I’ve really pushed myself from the start of my business to have a social media presence and keep people talking about Chelsea Benay. I believe in the power of social media buzz to generate business leads. Having people talk about your blog posts, Facebook posts, or tweets is a great starting point for a meaningful conversation about your business. It also helps to legitimize a new business and keeps your brand in peoples minds.
My biggest social media tip is plan ahead. With social media tools like HootSuite, it’s really easy to spend a Saturday creating and scheduling social media posts for the week and writing a blog post or two. Then you can flesh that out with some ‘in the moment’ posts, like a photo of something you’re in the middle of working on.
SK: What is your favorite quote that describes your creative process?
It’s not a quote, but ‘Organized Chaos’ might describe my process. When I’m deep into developing a design scheme, my office can look like a bomb of color samples. But, I’m a neat freak at heart, so that never lasts long. It’s a process of pulling different things from various sources and creating something that has meaning and is beautiful.
SK: Three things every home should have?
1. Photos of family, friends, or places that have a special significance.
2. A peaceful place to relax and unwind, whether it is the Den, Master Suite, or Porch.
3. One complete and matching set of linens that are decent quality.
SK: One small design change that can make a big impact?
A new area rug (small in terms of ease to update, perhaps not so small in terms of cost).
SK: What is a typical workday for you like?
Every day is different. Some days I’m meeting with clients in their home or office, shopping in local showrooms or furniture stores, some days I’m at my computer doing drawings and working on quotes, other days I’m working on design schemes in my office or a showroom. Mostly it’s some combination of all of these things.
SK: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Lose the fear. It’s something my Mom has repeated to me over the years that has had a big impact on how I live my life. My version of this mantra is notice the fear, face it, and overcome it. The things I would consider my biggest accomplishments are all things I was afraid of doing.
SK: What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs?
Get involved in industry and community organizations. These offer great sources of advice, freindship, and even business leads that you might not otherwise get. As an entrepreneur, you deal with the feeling of ‘I’m in this alone, who can I talk to about this, or that.’ Having organizations where you can talk about things with other professionals in your industry, friends, or people you know in the community is a powerful resource.
Outside the office
SK: Describe your perfect day off in Asheville?
Walk to the tailgate market by my apartment for coffee and a croissant, read a good book, walk around downtown, stop by a brewery with friends and listen to some live music.
SK: Happy hour drink of choice?
A pilsner or glass of red wine.
SK: What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’m reading ‘Love in the Time of Cholera,’ I found a copy of it in the Battery Park Book Exchange and couldn’t resist.
SK: What is your dream vacation?
At the moment I’m dreaming of staying in a slope-side chalet somewhere out West and skiing for a week.
IF YOU HAVE A RECOMMENDATION OF WHO SHOULD BE FEATURED IN NEXT MONTH’S CAREER PROFILE (I’ve already featured Meg Ragland of Plum Print), PLEASE LET ME KNOW! COMMENT BELOW OR FIND ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM OTHER INSPIRING ASHEVILLE PROFESSIONALS!