If you have ever fancied learning more about interior design and/or setting up your own business, I think you will love this inspirational interview from Anne who along with her partner Rachael offers online interior design courses. She has an interesting life story and some great tips on making business dreams come true.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenager years
Well, I have 3 brothers and one of them is my twin. You’d be amazed how often I’m asked if we are identical!
My mum says I was a ‘born organiser’ and it’s true that I love planning, scheduling and making events happen. Apparently from a very young age, I was organising my own birthday parties.
We lived in Bedford, as my dad was one of the pioneers of The Open University in nearby Milton Keynes. Now that I run online, educational courses, I feel life has come full circle.
What was your first job? What did you learn from this?
My first job was at Earls Court, as an Event Organiser, which I absolutely loved. It was really hard work, but totally exhilarating. We ran very glamorous fashion shows four times a year, including the catwalk shows as part of London Fashion Week.
I learned the importance of working as a team, that good communication is key and everyone’s contribution should be valued, if you want to deliver a successful event.
What led to you setting up your business?
That’s an easy one! It was a chat at the school gates with my friend Rachael, who I knew was an interior designer. She told me how she wanted to run private, interior design workshops. Within 4 months of our chat, we had launched the business and run our first colour workshop. 10 years on and are still running Colour School TM.
We were incredibly lucky to have Fiona Fullerton (ex Bond Girl and property expert) attend. She gave us a lovely testimonial and photo for our new website, which set us on our way.
What does your business provide?
Online interior design courses and face-to-face workshops.
We’ve been going 10 years now and the business has changed a lot. We get students from all over the world, including Nepal, Ecuador, The Bahamas, Spain, Hong Kong, France and Portugal.
It still amazes us, to be honest!
What makes your business special?
It sounds corny, but seeing how our courses and workshops can change the lives of our students. It’s why we ‘do what we do’.
Most of our students are women, and the reason they enrol with us can be quite emotional. It is often the desire to change their lifestyle. Do something they’ve always dreamed of, invest in themselves, change career, unleash their creativity and learn something new.
We love being a small part of that.
Seeing their confidence grow and how their lives can change after a course with us is pretty special and very rewarding.
What tip would you give to someone who wants to set up a business but lacks self-belief?
Ha! We are experts on this, because that is exactly what most of our students want to do. To set up their own interior design businesses.
A lack of confidence is the most common reason holding them back.
So how to overcome this? We recommend getting the skills, knowledge and a qualification with us (we would say that)!
Then, just ‘go for it’. You will never be 100% ready, so get your family and friends on board, your finances in place and then give it a try. “Better to try and fail than fail to try” – so the saying goes.
How do you ensure you look after yourself properly? What do you do for self-care?
Walking my dog Dougal, is the best way for me to unwind, get fresh air and exercise at the same time. It also makes me sleep better.
Also, before Rachael and I make a radio appearance or give a talk at the Ideal Home Show, I practice my delivery, out loud to the dog on a walk. Sounds bonkers I know, but for me, saying stuff out loud helps me plan, revise it and feel more confident.
Who supported you as you set up your business?
Lots of people! I do think it’s important before you start out on your great business journey that you have your friends and family on board. It’s crucial for them to know how things may change, especially if you are a mum with others relying on you.
What things would you like to see change about the position of women in society?
The cost of child care should be subsidised a lot more. We have one of the highest rates in Europe, which I think could be a barrier to younger mothers becoming entrepreneurs.
Another factor would be the lack of investment into women-led businesses. Fortunately, at My Interior Design School we have never had to seek additional funding and have grown organically, but I know the statistics in this area are disappointing.
If you could recommend ONE book to women what would it be and why?
Oh that is too hard to limit to just one! I’ve always been drawn to strong female protagonists, so as a child my favourite novels were Anne of Green Gables, Harriet the Spy and then on to admiring Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.
Now I love to read about inspiring women in business. On my bedside table at the moment are Michele Obama’s autobiography, Emily Matilis’ account of her time as a BBC journalist and Jo Malone’s story of passion to profit!
If you could recommend ONE website to women, what would it be and why?
Well it’s got to be ours about interior design courses, hasn’t it? If that’s not too cheeky, our website at My Interior Design School has I hope, some inspiring stories for women about our female students, and advice on setting up a new business, blog posts, top tips and guidance for female-run companies. So even if you’re not wanting to do an interior design course with us, I hope you will find something of interest on there!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just that collaboration is key. I think as mums, women, female founders, ‘wanna be’ entrepreneurs, we should support each other.
Let’s hear and celebrate the stories of success, but share the struggles too, so we can all benefit and make those business dreams a reality.
Anne Wall, Course Director
My Interior Design School
Which interior design courses appeal to you most?