Yep, that's a reference to the Adele song. You'll understand why I titled this post that way if you read on!
I thought that today we could pretend, just for a moment, that we're sitting down in a cozy corner of a cafe, chatting over a warm cup of coffee and starting to get to know each other. You know, like new friends would do.
As I've followed different designers and design bloggers over the years, my belief is that in order to really enjoy picking up what they're putting down, I need to know the person behind it. I want to know their story, how they got to where they are, and why they feel passionate about doing what they do. It gives context to what they're writing about on their blogs and sharing on social media outlets like Instagram, and it breaks down a little bit of the barrier the screen puts between us. The internet has an amazing way of connecting us, and yet it often feels less and less personal as time goes on.
Let's pull back the curtain on that. Today I'm going to tell my story. If this is your first time here, or if you've been following along since the beginning, thanks for being here. I'd love for you come out from the shadows of the internet and say hello! Tell me a little bit about you too, ok? Hopefully by the end of this you'll know a little bit more about who the girl is behind Mix & Match Design Company!
Mix & Match officially started in the fall of 2015 and it became my full time gig in the summer of 2016, but the true story begins long before that. For as long as I can remember, I've always had a desire to create and design, and to share that gift with others.
My first creative entrepreneurial endeavor was in high school - I sewed preppy-style ribbon belts for a summer to sell to friends, family and neighbors. I literally set up a table on the sidewalk outside of my family's Arlington, Virginia home on Saturday mornings (just like a lemonade stand) and showed off my wares. I took custom orders, sewed everything myself, and made some pretty good money!
When I headed off to college, I retired the ribbon belt business and turned my attentions to academics and my new life away from home. Though I had toyed with studying something in the creative field (I considered everything from architecture to graphic design to textile design), I ultimately chose to pursue something completely different - biomedical sciences (a pre-med track). Science, or more specifically, genetics, was my other other love, and I felt called to that world for the next season of life. Perhaps there would be a future season to chase down my creative passions in a professional way, but that period of time wasn't it. Also, I knew would always find ways to be creative as a hobby, even if it wasn't my career.
So off I went to graduate school for genetic counseling. After finishing up my master's in 2012 in Richmond, Virginia, my husband and I moved to Washington, D.C. and I started a job as a prenatal genetic counselor at a private practice that had a new office in southern Maryland. While the practice was recruiting new patients to fill appointment slots, I had some spare time on my hands, so I did the natural thing to fill that down time - started a DIY, home design, and lifestyle blog! JK, that is definitely not the natural thing to do, but after spending two years in graduate school with no time for creativity, I was desperate for that outlet. I missed decorating, photographing things, and working with my hands. I used our little apartment as my design playground on nights and weekends, and wrote about my projects secretly at work when I had extra time. Eventually, my patient load increased enough to where I couldn't write at the office, but I stuck with the blog anyway and kept it up it for four years total. For the first two and a half years, I published five posts per week (and two to three per week after that). Kind of crazy, right? It was basically another part time job that I did for free.
Looking back, I realize that writing this blog was laying the foundation for Mix & Match Design Company. I was learning so much by practicing on my own home, learning how to photograph interiors, teaching myself Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and heck, even a little bit of basic HTML coding. In a strange way, I self-taught my way to a decorating and design degree of sorts. I worked so hard to make our homes in Richmond, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and currently Philadelphia look beautiful while sticking to a pretty tight budget, but I loved it. I was having such a great time doing it.
As I shared my projects and our home with the world through the blog, people started to ask me to help with their decorating dilemmas. This was during the rise of HGTV and Pinterest when more and more people were being exposed to beautifully decorated homes and realizing they wanted their homes to look like what they were seeing. They wanted what they saw, but didn't know how to get there. I found that people appreciated my budget-friendly, thoughtful approach to design, and I was happy to dish out tips and share my design eye with them. Quickly though, I realized there a bigger need - that there was a gap in the interior design market that needed filling. People wanted access to great design, but the idea of hiring an interior designer under the traditional model wasn't a great fit or was too expensive. I founded Mix & Match Design Company to bridge that gap.
I discovered that through all of these different experiences and touch points with people over the past 5-plus years that I'm passionate about helping folks create homes that they love in an affordable and approachable way. After much brainstorming (thank goodness for my business-minded husband who is my biggest supporter!), lots of scheming about business models, and a few trial runs, I landed on the model we have today with e-design. By harnessing the power of the internet, I'm able to give people all over the country access to great design for their homes in bite-sized chunks by tackling one room at a time. The design fees are transparent and affordable, it can all be done through email on your time frame, and there is no minimum budget! I wanted to create a service that I would want to use and would be willing to pay for, and I'm grateful to have landed on just that with what Mix & Match offers.
I also wanted to provide lots and lots of education and design tips, and share completed projects alongside the one-on-one e-design service, which is where this blog comes into play. I love to write and teach, and I wanted to provide great content for folks who may not need or want e-design at this point, but still appreciate learning about design/decorating and want to engage with that kind of information. So on Tuesdays and Fridays, that's what you'll find right here in this little corner of my website. Tuesdays tend to be education-focused, and Fridays currently house my Best Of series, but that'll be changing in a few weeks - stay tuned!
Anyway, back to more of my behind-the-scenes story...
After starting the company in the fall of 2015, I was still working full-time as a genetic counselor. It was absolutely nuts trying to get a business off the ground while working at a very busy medical practice. My husband was going to school full-time for his MBA at Wharton (University of Pennsylvania's business school) at that point so I needed to stick with my steady paycheck, but we decided that once he started working full time again, I would leave my genetic counseling job and run hard at getting Mix & Match going. If it wasn't for his incredible support and encouragement, I would never have taken that risk, but I am so glad I did. I left my job in May of 2016 and haven't looked back.
I absolutely love what I do now, and honestly I can't believe that I get to do it for a living. I love working with clients and writing this blog. I'm constantly studying and honing my skills, and the business is ever-evolving in effort to provide the best experience for my clients. The ability to use technology in a business like this is amazing, and it's creating an entirely new opportunity for the rest of us to get a little help with creating homes we love to live in. I've never had more fun with a job in my life.
Obviously my career has taken a few twists and turns along the way, but I never feel like I took a wrong turn. For all of my adult life, I've thought about my different careers as seasons - all of them good, special, and right for that period of time, and never being afraid to enter into the next one. If any of you are thinking about making a switch, or feeling that itch to move onto something new, don't ignore it. Take time to explore and understand it - it might be just the right next thing.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on topics like this in future blog posts!
Photos by Ashley Gerrity Photography