We were lucky to catch up with Alyssa Rome recently and have shared our conversation below.
Alyssa, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Can you recount a story of an unexpected problem you’ve faced along the way?
I was only 27 years old when I started my own interior design business, and some of the obstacles I faced while entering the industry were completely unexpected. As naive as this sounds – I had no idea that it would be so difficult to be taken seriously, especially in the construction world. I had clients frequently ask me how old I was or when I graduated from college, and experienced everything from condescending explanations to getting called “honey” by general contractors and builders.
Within the first couple years I learned how to navigate these unwanted construction industry interactions with humor and “dishing it right back” in a way that let them know I was a member of the team that should be respected and valued. Now (after several years of building knowledge, clientele and a strong reputation) I usually don’t run into those issues, but when I do I choose not to work with that individual.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I grew up in Tyler, TX and then went on to earn a Bachelor’s in Animal Science at Louisiana State University. Another millennial with a useless degree, ha! After working in equine veterinary medicine for several years and a brief stint at a guest ranch in Arizona, I decided I wanted to try something new outside of the horse world. My mom is an interior designer and knew that I had a knack for it, so she encouraged me to do a little exploring. Long story short, I ended up getting a job as an office assistant at a design firm in Austin after spontaneously making the move here.
I think it was really beneficial for me to start at the bottom and to see all of the hard work that goes into “making things look pretty.” It’s definitely not all rainbows and butterflies in this industry! I learned so much from the different designers I worked for and got to witness their trial and error, which really helped me envision how I wanted to run my business. When I got started I was doing mostly furnishings and decor, but then had the opportunity to work on a few construction projects that I really enjoyed. Ever since then I really love having a mix of both, which keeps things interesting and allows me to flex a few different creative muscles on each project.
While I do enjoy remodels, I would say that over the years I’ve really grown to love new construction. It’s so incredibly rewarding to be a part of the process from creating the preliminary plans alongside the architect to the final punch walkthrough with the builder and client. I would say that’s something that sets me apart from other designers – that I genuinely care about my clients and the end product, and I always see each project through to the end. I never just hand off a design to a general contractor or builder to implement on their own, I like to be involved throughout the project to help solve problems along the way and ensure everyone has what they need to get things done correctly.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
After two years of trying to get my business of the ground, I still wasn’t working full time and I thought I had failed miserably. There was about a three-day span of wallowing in self pity until the spark came back, then failing wasn’t an option. I did everything I could think of – took realtors out for drinks with money I didn’t have, listened to podcasts, stayed up all night outlining goals and researching business advice, joined local organizations, and went to a ton of random networking events. It was all pretty exhausting, but it worked!
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
Honesty. I once heard a general contractor say, “I’m not a rich contractor because I’m an honest one.” I’m definitely not saying you can’t be successful and honest at the same time, but those words just resonated with me. There are many designers out there that make a lot more money than I do, but many of them mark up everything across the board and never refund clients if something comes in less expensive. I split my discount on furnishings and construction materials with my clients, let them know if something is on sale, and never try to hide mark up or expenses in random charges throughout the project. It’s always been important to me to make my clients feel like I have their back, the same way I would want that if I was in their shoes.
- Website: alyssaromedesign.com
- Instagram: alyssaromedesign
Avery photographed my work, and Twinty Photography took the picture of me.