Well it was a whirlwind trip to Arkansas but well worth the effort. I had not seen Maria in over two years so it was nice to room with her and hang out. She is such an intense energy, an extravert by nature, that my introverted energy gets great boosts of activity (and chaos) when I am around her. Holy bananas woman breathe! hahah  I also find great joy in jabbing at her intensity in a fun light hearted way so she doesn’t take herself so seriously. Like this photo below, she hates her bangs…..I think she talked about them for like 20 minutes. Sooo high maintenance, but of course this particular character trait is why she is so successful. When you are an entrepreneur it is all about the details and the particulars…..like bangs. She has the same myers-briggs personality as Tobi Fairley, also an extrovert determined and motivated by big vision and details.

The three day course hones in on how to run a real design business, and look at it as a business. I know that may sound weird, but many in this industry run their business like a hobby. Giving away the farm and never charging enough for their intellectual property. There were several women at the seminar with net margins of less than 15% a year. Unfortunately, that is not sustainable. To run a real business that pays staff, covers overhead, provides ground breaking customer service and creates unimaginable design concepts, you have to net a minimum of 35% to stay in business. Less than half of design firms make that. Spending personal savings, (check) taking out loans (check) and living off of a spouses income (check) to continue doing what they love. Oh dear, I’ve done all three at one time or another!

Tobi Fairley Designer MBA

Tobi Fairley started this course four years ago. She saw a huge decline in design firms closing their doors due to the economy and lack of business knowledge. Tobi is not only a trained interior designer but also has an MBA in accounting and business. An impressive mix of education for someone considered a right brained creative. Working with thousands of designers every year she has made it her mission to educate designers across the country and help them step outside of the ‘no worth’ mindset.

Lisa Fergusen Decor Mentor

Another treat was meeting Lisa Fergusen from Decor Mentor. These ladies (Tobi and Lisa) are truly changing the landscape of interior design. Training designers to charge what they are worth and put true value in their creative abilities and intellectual property. I think that many creatives feel that because something comes naturally it should not have value, but nothing could be further from the truth. I just read in the New York Times that writers are also up against this battle. Once being paid well for their skill set, many are now approached to give away their ideas and articles for FREE. Would we ever go to an attorney or doctor and expect them to work for free? Or walk into the Lexus dealership and tell the salesperson ” Hey look I know the new LS 460 is $80 grand but I am only willing to pay $50 grand.” What do you think that salesperson is going to do? But in our world, this happens all the time.

Along with our long days of learning we also goofed off at night. Maria and I broke into Santa’s Closet, a big Christmas extravaganza, that highlighted local vendors. Maria, like most entrepreneurs had bright, shiny, object syndrome and flocked to every jewelry booth. I just wondered where the eggnog was….

We also had a terrific cocktail party at Bosco’s where Maria and I totally monopolized Tobi’s time and did not allow her out of a corner for over 30 minutes. We talked about newsletters, blogs, business and my future in creating healing spaces for a healthy home. I quickly realized how much of a need there is for restorative design when everyone at the conference was asking me my best tips for raising the energy in their homes.

Maria Killam, Tobi Fairley, Amanda Gates

All in all I came back energized, motivated and goal oriented. I have been practicing Feng Shui for over 14 years and despite my experience and investment into this profession I have been schizophrenic about whether or not to offer it to the masses. It has been solely a word of mouth thing, with a secret hand shake and special code word to get in. But at the end of the day it is my passion. My home is filled with love, intention, balance and harmony and I am excited to embrace it as a profession. I’ve also got some very exciting things in the works that we will be launching in the new year, so stay tuned because you’ll want to get in on this exciting opportunity.

And lucky for all of us, Maria’s bangs were a huge success on the last day…..she’s unstoppable.

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