Graduate Feature: Michele Schweppe
Meet Michele Schweppe, founder of The Redesign Habit. Dedicated to helping people love where they live, Michele’s business is rooted in a philosophy of eco-friendly interior design. We caught up with Michele to learn more about her unique business and her passion for design.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I have a terrific family and live in San Diego, which is a remarkable corner of the world.
The Redesign Habit is relatively new. We’re building our web and social media presence and are just beginning to market our products.
The whole philosophy of my company is to emphasize “redesign,” which I define as designing in a green manner (e.g., reusing, refinishing, recycling) as a way to save money and create a unique style. The motto of my business is love where you live, and I love helping people who have that as their goal.
What first motivated you to get into the design industry?
In my 20s I was able to attend San Diego Design Institute for a couple of years. That did it. I was over the moon in love with interior design! I knew what I wanted to do with my life. However, life doesn’t always go according to plan, so for many years, design was my personal passion but not a way to make a living.
You don’t run a traditional design business – instead, you focus on teaching people about interior redesign via your website and your toolkits. How did you come up with the idea?
For many years, I didn’t have much disposable income and I had to satisfy my love of design by cutting corners, improvising, and looking for inexpensive ways to make my home look its best. It struck me that there must be millions of people like me who couldn’t afford a design professional but who would benefit greatly from learning about color, style, space planning, budgeting, project planning—anything related to transforming a home.
My aha! moment was realizing that a “toolkit” could fill this need. I eventually shared the idea with my husband, fearing he would think I was off my rocker. Fortunately, he was supportive. Even more fortunate for me, he’s a marketing professional, so we soon became “business partners.”
What are the benefits of your online business setup? Are there any challenges?
Running an online business is amazing! It lets you connect in real-time with people who share your passion regardless of where they live. In general, the barriers to starting an online business are few compared to launching a brick-and-mortar business, but it does require expertise to do it well. That’s the biggest challenge. There’s so much competition and so many tools available that I recommend getting assistance from experienced people who know which tools make the most sense for your business model. Again, counting my lucky stars, my oldest daughter specializes in social media and marketing and she has been a key to our success so far.
This kind of online business model is a big shift from where the design industry was even ten years ago. How do you think the Internet has helped the industry? Are there downsides?
The internet makes shopping and comparing much quicker and easier. That’s true for any product and service, including the design industry. In my research phase, it was interesting to learn how many professional designers now offer some type of online services—virtually everyone does.
At this point, I’m not encountering downsides with the online model except that it can be challenging to grab the attention of the right audiences—but that’s true regardless of the model. The potential for the right offer or message to go viral is exciting. I would love for my business to be the “next big thing” to be discovered. It’s a lot of fun to dream about!
Green decorating and redesign seem very important to you and your business. What inspired this passion? Can you share some tips for other design professionals?
Certainly, economics had something to do with it. You wouldn’t believe how many times in my life I’ve recovered the same chair, repainted the same lamp, or rearranged the same furniture to change the mood of my living space. I get bored easily and love changing out my interior in ways big and small. I’ve always had the attitude—much to my husband’s chagrin—that saving money on one project should allow me to do more projects.
I also have a great deal of respect for older furniture pieces, or staircases, or anything with age and character. It gives me great satisfaction to bring new life to things that have been mistreated, overlooked or forgotten.
Can I share some tips? Sure, shameless plug time: please visit my website, TheRedesignHabit.com or purchase some of my products and you’ll have access to more tips than you can imagine! Actually, I share tips all the time for free through my blogs and other web and social media postings, and love to do so. In this limited space, I think the most powerful tip I can share is to experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new projects or new treatments that you’ve never seen before.
What made you decide to pursue online education?
When I made up my mind to pursue design later in life, I pursued certification from QC Design to help me reconnect with my previous education and gain the confidence and credibility I wanted as a businessperson. QC Design School is a great way to fit education into the busiest schedule with its flexible and work-at-your-own pace timeline and that was just what I needed at that time.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
I’m now doing what I love to do. It’s as simple as that.
Many of our students dream of owning their own business. What’s your best advice for those who are just starting out in the industry?
With my background, I have to say never give up on your dream. If it takes longer than you had hoped, you’ll appreciate it all the more when it finally arrives. On a practical level, I would advise students to connect with people who can fill in the gaps in areas where you lack skills or experience.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you started out?
My biggest challenges were self-inflicted. I was my own worst enemy. I lacked confidence. It’s easy to listen to the inner voice that tells you to play it safe. It can be terrifying to listen to the voice that says ‘you can do this.’ All the old adages are true. If you’re afraid to try, you’ll fail 100% of the time. Find something or someone who inspires you and don’t let go!
What does the future hold for you and your business?
Our products are now being sold on Amazon and other sites, and we’ve expanded The Redesign Toolkit to e-book and printed book formats. This summer I’m branching out into refinishing furniture for resale and providing more redesign consultations locally. I’m also going to experiment participating in local street fairs. For me, it’s a search for the right mix of activities that are satisfying and bring in the revenue I’m hoping to achieve. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store!