I assumed that I would gain deeper knowledge about a chair’s perfect pitch or the art of well proportioned lighting when I sat down with contemporary design star Holly Hunt recently in Los Angeles. After all, the uber-successful interiors impresario, who started her business in 1983 with one showroom-in-need-of-rehab (she was divorcing; had three young children and needed “an escape plan”) sold her company in 2013 to Knoll for $95 million. Yet, one of the many wonders of Holly is that she somehow manages to impart life lessons when discussing design. Here’s what I learned from the ultimate design #girlboss who has stayed on as CEO of the namesake business she formed all those years ago:
Cop An Attitude: Big ideas begin with an attitude. When Holly purchased her first showroom, her business plan was, “I can do it better.” That was it. Nothing on paper. Years later, when she decided to design her own furniture line, she figured, “If they can do it, we can do it. We’ll just have to figure it out.” Particularly when starting out a business, Holly advises that you ditch the formal business plan. Start with a strong point of view and a stick-to-it attitude.
Discover The Essence: When you’re starting something fresh, whether it’s an idea, a product, a business or anything at all, you need to invest time in discovering the essence. Keep your eyes open and explore until you hit on something that sticks. Differentiate it from what everyone else is doing. “If you don’t have a product, whether it’s a service or a product you can touch and feel, you don’t have a business,” says Hunt. The essence becomes the inspiration, and the inspiration is what breathes life and spirit into something.
Failure Feels Good: Without failure, there is no success. Be afraid to fail! Even embrace it, to take the risk. That’s what leads to success. Remember, some of your ideas won’t work. Expect many moments, days, months of, “That’s not right. I hope no one notices. I better fix it first.”
Ride The Waves: In business, and in life, there are ups and downs, and (fingers crossed) more days of smooth sailing than not. You must be able to go over the rough waves and keep the boat steady. At the end of the day, the most important thing is: You don’t learn from the easy stuff; you learn from the big waves, the hard stuff.