Conversation with Amanda Barnes, Founder, Amanda Barnes Interiors
Designing Beautiful & Functional Homes for Families
January 30, 2019
1. What is your business?
Amanda Barnes Interiors is a residential interior design firm in the Bay Area. Elegant living for everyday life is the foundation of my business. Designing functional and sophisticated spaces for families to enjoy for years to come is the focus of each project– from start to finish. We take a practical approach to selecting fabrics, layering textures and choosing pieces that will transition with the family as they grow. Whether we are designing for the most talented sofa jumpers or the family that entertains weekly, we focus on livable design and practical finishes.
2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?
I graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in Biopsychology. I spent the next thirteen years of my career in biotech primarily focused on Neurosciences. For many of the years I worked in corporate America, I spent my free time helping friends and family with their renovations and design projects.
After getting married and starting a family, I finally followed my heart into design and founded Amanda Barnes Interiors. There was never one particular moment that made me decide to switch careers. Design was always a passion for me, and it continued to grow over time.
When my daughter was six weeks old and my son was two and a half, I received a call from a friend who had referred me to someone who needed design advice. I had no intention of starting a business with a newborn and a toddler. It just happened to be the moment that I took the leap of faith and I have never looked back.
3. What obstacles did you face in getting started and thinking of yourself as an expert in a new setting?
My biggest obstacle has always been my timing. I have often felt like I have had competing priorities with my business and two small children. I constantly work through the “mom guilt,” and I do my best to balance being a mother, a small business owner and a designer every day.
As far as being an expert in my new setting, I am not sure that I ever feel that way. Every home is new, each client is different, and no two projects are the same. I am constantly working in a state of growth, and trying to stay open to all that is timeless and on trend.
4. Was there ever a particularly tough time that in retrospect was a priceless learning moment?
Yes, realizing that I was one of many people making a career change later in life was priceless. I did not have any other friends, mentors or colleagues in this industry, so connecting with people in the same situation was not a resource I had available to me.
I regularly use Instagram to market my projects. Instead of putting an image focused on a space I designed, I opted to try something a little different about a year into my business. I shared a photo of myself, described my background and how I found my way into the design world. I was terrified but feel strongly that being outside my comfort zone is what helps me evolve personally and professionally.
What I had not anticipated was the response I received from sharing something so personal. Many people posted that they were in the process of doing the same thing, switching careers, becoming small business owners and taking the leap of faith themselves. This became a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with others in transition and foster a connection with local designers who could relate to the joys and challenges that I was experiencing.
5. Was outside funding/cost a challenge to getting your business off the ground?
It is challenging to have a design business without an online presence. Initially, I was not comfortable making the investment to build a website and to shoot some of my projects until I was sure that I wanted to make a career change. I worked for quite a while before I decided to invest in a branding company and a photographer. It was not until everything was online that I officially launched my business on social media.
6. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?
The projects that come from referrals are what I value the most. Knowing a client is happy and sending along their friends and family is a great feeling. Repeat clients also make me very grateful for the business that I have built.
7. What are some of your current challenges?
One of the biggest challenges is working to get a couple to be on the same page aesthetically. Very often couples and families have opposing tastes and competing priorities. Men tend to look at everything from a utility perspective while women look at the house from an aesthetic viewpoint. Their goals and priorities for their budget are often conflicting.
8. What are some of the biggest positive or negative surprises in your business?
I love everything about design. I loathe everything about running a business. There are so many hours that go into managing the health of a small business that I could not have anticipated. Learning to work smarter and be more efficient every year has been my hardest and most rewarding challenge as it gives me more time to focus on the design process.
9. What would be your biggest piece of advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?
I would say to follow your heart as you will always find a way to make it work. In hindsight, I would not have waited so long to take this leap of faith. I used to read Architectural Digest and design magazines every chance I had but I never felt like I could make the switch without going back to school and starting over.
10. What was the best and worst piece of advice you have received as you were starting your business?
The best piece of advice that I was given was to be “selective” from the beginning. The projects I choose to undertake will define my business and the type of work that I will be marketing as Amanda Barnes Interiors.
11. What are your hopes for your business for the next five years?
My hope is for my business to continue to take on projects that both challenge and inspire me. I also hope to stay focused on finding a healthy balance between being a business owner and mom of two small children. In the fast pace of our modern world, I am proud to be a working mom.
Date of conversation: September 13, 2018