I get asked pretty often how I got started with my business and whether I was formally trained as a designer. The short answer is no, but in reality, I've been training informally for most of my life! I was always creative and artistic growing up, and I was SUPER into costumes when I was little. My parents and many family members are entrepreneurs, and I grew up watching my parents start about five different businesses, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins all do the same. This has shaped me profoundly into the business woman I am today. Seeing first-hand the struggle, the success, and the long hours it takes to build something is an education like no other. I have also seen first-hand that when something doesn't work out, it's okay. You just pick yourself up and start again. My parents have really shown me that, and I am so thankful they are a part of my story.
circa 2018, my in-home office | Photo by Amy Bartlam
I went to college at the Fashion Institute for Design & Merchandising and majored in product development. After graduation I worked in costume design in Los Angeles for a couple of years and LOVED it. But at 21 years old, I was working 50 hours a week (or more!) on set and I felt like I was missing out on a social life. So, I decided to take a break and enjoy my twenties more and took a job at Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic as the East Coast Wholesale Manager.
There, I was responsible for getting Rachel's line of products into home stores and for setting up vignettes of her products -- which I LOVED. This was my first taste of interior design, so-to-speak. I loved seeing the inside process of developing products and how she grew her business into license deals with Target. etc. It was such a great learning experience and one I didn't even know I would carry with me into my own business. After four years, I left Shabby Chic to follow one of my previous supervisors to her start-up lingerie company. I didn't realize it then, but being a part of that company and helping her build something from the ground up was a HUGE learning experience.
When I got married in 2010, I fantasized about being a stay-at-home mom. But after I had my first baby and I was living this dream of being home with him, I started to feel lost, and it killed me that I didn't feel creative anymore. So, I started nesting and decorating our little apartment as an outlet for my creative energy and to keep me sane! We didn't have a ton of money, so I had to be really resourceful to get our spaces to look the way I envisioned them. I still didn't feel totally satisfied so my close friend (a therapist!) suggested I start a blog and Instagram account -- she even came up with the name Lindsey Brooke! This was 2014, when Instagram was really taking off, and posting photos of our home along with design inspiration resulted in a wonderful community of like-minded people there. The blog was never a big hit, so I focused my efforts toward building an organic following on Instagram, and in 2015, my best friend bought a 4,000-square-foot home and asked me to help her decorate it! This was my first time working on someone else's home and it was such a RUSH. I loved every moment of it. I was pregnant with our second son during this time and still documenting it all on Instagram and continuing to grow my audience and community there. At this point it was still very much a hobby and I worked on it while my son played, took naps, and after he went to bed at night. But, I was really finding my purpose outside of being "James' mom." We finished up the house right before my son, Beau, was born, and I decided to take a break and get settled into life with two kids.
But I started getting the same question on Instagram -- "do you do e-design?" I confess I had to Google "e-design" that first time, ha! I'd connected with another Orange County Instagrammer who had started her own design business, and after attending one of her events, we started chatting and she answered so many of my questions. Danielle Oakey (you may know her for her beautiful line of pillows!) was my first Instagram-turned-real-life-friend!
In 2014-2015 I did a bunch of e-design clients (learning through a lot of trial and error) and helped friends with their homes (some for free and some for barely any money), all while my husband and I raised our kids. This was now a full-blown hobby, but really just a part-time career. In 2016, another friend whose home I had been working on recommended me to her friend for a makeover of a playroom and remodel of her fireplace. I consider her my first paying client ($50/hour!) and the real start of my business. August 2016 is where it really got started. This client recommended me to her friends, and before long it had snow-balled and I had five small clients. I knew I needed to change this from hobby to a full-time business but I was unsure whether it was right for our family and if I could even pull it off. I had a conversation with my husband and he didn't' even hesitate and said go for it! We hired a babysitter, put my older one in preschool, and I turned a spare bedroom in our house into an office and got to work. I worked on the days we had help with the boys, during their naps, and had plenty of late nights, and with each new client, I was developing my processes, systems, and eye for design. I made a lot of mistakes, shed a lot of tears, and had a lot of exciting, happy moments. Owning your own business is nothing if not a ROLLERCOASTER!
In 2016, I got my first whole-house design project from a friend referral. I didn't know about trade vendors yet, but it helped me gain the knowledge of what a project of that size entailed. I worked my butt off on my own and had it photographed professionally. It was -- alongside my friend's home and the playroom remodel -- my first set of portfolio pieces for my website, and by the end of that year I had about six projects completed and ready to show off. I knew I needed to look as professional as possible and appear bigger than I was at the time in order to gain credibility for where I wanted to go. By now I had a really had a strong group of women designers as Instagram friends whom I was able to lean on, gain advice from, and help me gather the information I needed to make my business a success. Without them, I know it would have taken me years to learn some things on my own that they told me about. This is why networking and community is so important -- it's a huge part of my personal story and the reason I do Design Camp.
In 2017, I got another big furnishing job from Houzz, alongside some word-of-mouth referrals. This was the first year I learned about to-the-trade vendors and what a game changer that could be for my clients and my business. I spent the whole year really working to learn about that side of the industry and not worrying too much about the building the clients up yet. I wanted to be super prepared for the next step.
In 2018 LBD grew tremendously and we got our first big kitchen remodel and several jobs from Google searches and Instagram. It was a BIG year for us, as this is when I started working with IDCO Studio on marketing and social media management. I also I hired my first full-time employee, Katie, by the end of the year. It felt like a major step for our little business.
In 2019 we continued to grow, adding more and more clients and bigger jobs, and I grew my team once again by hiring another employee. We got our second full-home furnishing job (our first from Instagram!) where we touched EVERY SINGLE aspect of the house. We really stretched our creative energy and did a lot of custom pieces and challenged ourselves in both design and our processes. This was the year we started planning Design Camp, and the tickets sold out in 7 minutes! We did our first show house and got our first out-of-state full furnishing job, as well. I set a goal at the beginning of the year to get the business out of my house and I just barely made my deadline and signed the lease on December 1, 2019. We started construction on the Studio and ended that year excited and optimistic.
And then, 2020 happened! We held Design Camp early in the year, and then everything came to a grinding halt. We were definitely scared about what would happen, but we took the opportunity to restructure our team and fix some internal processes while working on projects that were already in progress. During the quarantine, we signed on three of our biggest projects to date -- it was crazy! We finally opened our Studio for in-person shopping and events. And by the end of the year I had hired two more designers and felt like our processes and systems were ready to handle a bigger team and bigger projects. Instead of collapsing like so many feared, our industry was the busiest it had ever been!
And that brings us to the present. LBD made it out of the craziest year on earth, grew by 200%, and has expanded by another three employees so far in 2021. We are still changing and perfecting our systems, adding new services, and setting ourselves up for growth. So no, I don't have formal training, but I have a lot of big dreams, plenty of heart, and am willing to put in lots of blood, sweat, and tears!
I hope my story inspires you to follow your dreams! You can learn more about our design services here, find out about my passion project, Design Camp, here, and get in touch here if you'd like help with your own upcoming design project.