Aishah Coleman: Transforming the Architecture and Interiors Industry
Aishah has a background in architecture and has earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. She wanted to become an architect because she wanted to help rebuild City Bronx as a child of the 1970s and 1980s. When Aishah started her business, she went back to the school for interior design and decorating so that she would be able to tie the architecture and interiors together to have the ability to offer more to her clients.
Aishah has over 22 years of expertise in design and construction, and she has managed projects worth $5 million to $75 million in both the public and private sectors. Aishah started her very own part-time interior design firm in 2006 while continuing her job full-time on other projects.
She believes that the decision to start her business was kind of a no-brainer for her, despite the fact of having to do so during the recession of 2009. As she comes from a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners, the journey was something that was going to happen eventually, but she did it sooner than expected. She always had her business part-time, but when the recession of 2009 occurred in New York City, she was let go by the employer. While trying to pursue a full-time job, she was pushing and marketing the part-time business which ended up becoming her full-time job for 13 years and she has been doing wonders since.
About AC Design & Development
AC Design & Development offers interior design and decorating services, architectural and space planning, and kitchen and bathroom design. They primarily work with homeowners for gut renovations, new home designs, extensions, and interiors. They also have commercial projects ranging from medical offices and beauty salons and currently, they are working with a well-known hotel chain for an interior renovation of the guest rooms.
They start by determining what are the needs of the client and what are their expectations from the results. They identify the budget and whether what clients want to accomplish is within their budget. Once this is completed and their expected timeline, they then start to map out the room and provide different design options as to what can be done along with the anticipated cost for the work. The costs will include any construction work that’s required, along with the finishes, i.e., furnishings, window treatments, tile, kitchen cabinets and countertops, etc.
If the client has their contractor to perform the work, they will work with their contractor. If not, then they make recommendations to contractors that they have worked with in the past and have good work relationships with. They oversee all our projects from inception to completion. At AC Design & Development, they handle the purchasing and coordinating of all the finishes and furnishings and once the work is completed, they then proceed to set up and stage the rooms.
The success of AC Design & Development
Aishah thinks that her greatest obstacle in achieving success was in the early stages of getting the business off the ground. There was a lot that she did not know, basically, the business side of a design business and there were so many things that she had to learn to be successful to sustain this business. She utilized her time by taking as many courses as possible, whether online or in person, to learn the business side of everything. She was grateful to have had her dad at that time, who had a successful restaurant for over 10 years and that provided her with guidance and support.
The driving force behind her success as a businesswoman is the fact that she still loves what she does! She always said to herself that when she gets to a point where she doesn’t like what she does anymore then she has to find something else to do. She believes that she is grateful that she is not there yet. She loves the freedom of owning and running her own business. It’s been 13 years now and the company has grown to a place where they have a team to help them get to the next level. The excitement of getting to the next stage is what keeps driving Aishah.
Strategy of excellence
AC Design & Development focuses on customer service. They maintain a certain level of transparency so that the client is aware of everything that is taking place and why. They hold clients’ hands throughout the design process, from construction to completion, so the client is always aware of every step that is taking place.
Aishah believes that in the early stages of growing this business, it is very challenging to maintain a work-life balance. She is naturally a workaholic so would work 12 to 15 hours a day. Unfortunately, you cannot sustain this for very long without it taking its toll on your health. So, she had to allow herself to take a day off to rest and relax without feeling guilty about the work that she had left on the table.
Whenever it is possible Aishah visits the trade events that they have in the city. Her team and herself stay abreast of the latest design trends or innovations by participating in webinars from trade experts. This enables her to pass along what is relevant to the clients and they appreciate knowing that AC Design and Development is always on top of what is current and can provide honest opinions to them regarding what would be beneficial for their projects.
Aishah approved keys to Success
There are a few points that she considers the keys to success:
- Ambition and setting a goal as to what you want to accomplish.
- Having the ability to be flexible when things don’t go as planned. You should always have a plan B, C, and D!
- Don’t share your business with everyone, share your thoughts and ideas with like-minded individuals who can provide you guidance and support.
- Remember that life will occur and will sometimes push you off course. The goal is to make sure that you stay focused on what you want to accomplish so that you can get back on course!
- Always have a written plan and go back to that plan as often as needed so that you can stay on track and if things change you can always change the plan to accommodate what you need to do.
Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
The advice that I would give an aspiring entrepreneur particularly a woman who is interested in starting their own interior design business is to:
- Never give up on your dream.
- Do your homework and learn the business first because what you love to do and the reason why you’re starting your business only make up about 10% of the business and the rest IS THE BUSINESS!
- Take as many marketing courses as you can take because marketing has changed over the years and is still constantly evolving and you have to explore all avenues to get your name out there to generate revenue for your business.