Makers Series: Interview with Interior Designer Beth Diana Smith
Last Sunday, my good friend Beth Diana Smith, owner and principal designer at Beth Diana Smith Interior Design which is based in North Jersey, had her home featured in NBC's Open House NYC!
As friends for the last 4-5 years, I've been welcomed in her wonderfully eclectic enclave several times and although we've gotten to know each other pretty well, I realized that I never knew HOW she became an interior designer. I figured this interview would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about this incredibly talented designer who has been featured in magazines such as the New York Times, Ebony Magazine, and on HGTV as the star of her own episode of Restoring Glory, as well as have her share some nuggets of wisdom with creative entrepreneurs hoping to succeed in their own journeys.
1. Beth and friends at her viewing party for Restoring Glory on HGTV.
2. Me taking a selfie at the viewing party.
3. Beth with the Executive Producer and staff of Restoring Glory in her kitchen.
Introducing Beth Diana Smith:
Me: Beth, you hold a MBA and have had a very corporate career before becoming an interior designer. You worked in finance for companies such as Viacom and Johnson & Johnson. Most people are not blessed to have the ability to easily switch between right & left-brain functions, let alone right & left-brained careers. What do you owe this flexibility to?
Beth: To be honest, I don’t know. I never viewed myself as a creative nor was I ever one of those kids that was drawing and exploring creative avenues. I was always very organized from organizing my toy box as a kid, to organizing the nail polish on my dresser as a teenager, to organizing my house as an adult. I started my business initially as a Professional Organizer and within a year I had fallen in love with interior design and realized that there was this creative realm in me that I didn’t even know existed.
Me: I know that much of your decision to pursue your passion in interior design stemmed from being a homeowner at such a young age. Was homeownership at the tender age of 23 a personal goal of yours?
Beth: It became a personal goal because at the time I didn’t feel as though I had much of a choice. My mother had gotten very ill when I was 20 and I knew I had to eventually become a caregiver. I hustled through college and I only had 2 choices, get an apartment or buy a house. I knew that once I got an apartment it would be harder to save for a house, so I literally made every sacrifice possible and bought a house because I was willing to make all the short term sacrifices for a long term goal. And to this day I’m still happy that I made that decision, even though at the time it was beyond stressful.
Me: You were able to turn tragedy into triumph! I admire that in you, Beth. Leaving the so-called security of corporate America (and I say "so-called" because the politics and downsizing that occurs never gave me the comfort or illusion of security, personally) is terrifying for many. Especially for people of color because the achievement of an advanced degree and a "good" job is what our parents and ancestors have raised us to believe would be the defining mark being deserving of being treated "equally" and seen as a success. Was walking away difficult for you? Or did you slowly transition by side hustling?
Beth: Leaving Corporate turned out to be the easiest decision because the situation at my job was insane to me. The behavior that I was witnessing at the time was so disgusting that I felt like whatever doubt I had about leaving Corporate America in general had disappeared. I felt like God was aligning all these crazy things just to say to me “Girl Go! I can’t be any more clear that this isn’t where you should be!” Me: Looking back now at all of your successes, did you have a clear roadmap when you launched that guided you from one client and opportunity to the next? Do you recommend that a creative entrepreneur has a business plan or strategy in place before moving forward or do you think that the creative industry is too vague and murky and that you should just start and remain consistent?
Beth: I’m a woman that likes a plan and am much more comfortable with a plan and strategy in place. However, I’ve also learned that you can’t plan for everything and that most things are out of your control. I think you need to be prepared with a plan, a strategy, and an outline of what your end goal is… but you also have to be prepared to pivot and adapt, and most importantly have faith and believe in your vision. There’s a huge difference between giving up and taking a minute to gather yourself to refocus your efforts.
Me: Because you do have a business mind, you likely are able to make better decisions that affect your career than many creatives who are more whimsical. Do you recommend that all creatives that lack business acumen invest in a business education?
Beth: I strongly believe that all creatives should have some sort of business knowledge so they can run their businesses successfully. But I don’t believe it has to be through formal education, I think you can learn a lot through books, podcasts, classes, networking with other business owners, and asking questions. Me: Are their any books, podcasts, blogs or publication that inform and inspire your entrepreneurial journey that you can recommend?
Beth: I would recommend the book "In The Company of Women" by Grace Bonney, it’s amazing!
Me: YES! I have it. One of my faves!
Beth: The podcast "How I Built This" especially the episodes with Howard Schultz, Ben & Jerry, Jenn Hyman, Raegan Moya-Jones, Barbara Corcoran, Sara Blakely, and Nolan Bushnell which are some of my favorites from that podcast. I listen to a lot of podcasts in general but this stands out a lot for me for general business.
I am an article junkie and I read a lot from Thrive Global, The Editor at Large, Huffington Post, and probably more than a dozen more. I literally start my morning by reading articles and end my day the same way. Knowledge and reading different perspectives seem to keep me motivated and reflective.
Me: How important is networking and belonging to organizations to being self-employed?
Beth: Networking is very important to me. Surrounding myself with like-minded people has been critical to my growth. Jim Rohn once said that “you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with,” and I believe that to be incredibly true. Me: Your design style is distinct. Color and texture done in a sophisticated manner seems to be your signature. How do you stay in your own lane constantly and not be overly influenced by trends or what other interior designers are doing?
Beth: I can honestly say that I happily stay true to self. My style is a reflection of who I am and how I view things, so although I can love and admire what someone else did, I don’t let it change my style. How my style changes is a reflection of how I have evolved. And I am a strong believer that trends should not be followed, the only thing that should be followed is your own style which should be influenced greatly by your own experiences. Me: Any parting words for creatives who want to venture out and see their entrepreneurial dreams come to fruition?
Stay humble, work hard, network, believe in yourself, stay positive, and hustle!
Find out more about Beth Diana Smith at her website: BethDianaSmith.com
Stay in touch with her via IG: @bethdianasmith
Sponsor: Terina Nicole Design Studio