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Lori Bastone

City: Melbourne, Australia

Business: Design rouge

What: Interior Design

1. What was the catalyst for you starting your business?

Design Rouge had been bubbling away in the background while I carved my full time interior design career from ‘A Devil Wears Prada’ graduate position, to interior Design Manager for a series of large scale volume builder companies. Whilst I enjoyed the opportunities of designing and installing display homes (that were essentially the product face for these companies), Design Rouge gave me the freedom to let my design creativity go wild on private client homes – some with unlimited budgets.

I had found my niche…spending other people’s money on interiors!

When my second child was 6 months old, and the GFC had hit the building industry, I knew I could not see myself returning to the daily grind of working a standard 9-5 week. I’m lucky enough to have a supportive husband who said ‘just do it’ – so over a glass of wine I resigned, and with two children under 3 years, officially launched Design Rouge. It will be 3 years this June.

2. What do you love most about what you do now?

There are many things that could make this list. First and foremost, is the diverse client base and the scope of work this brings to my studio. I haven’t lost touch with the volume builders that set the foundations to my career, but this is balanced by developers from the private sector and those who simply wish to improve their home environments. Second, the ever expanding network of contractors, sub-consultants and suppliers that help on the delivery of my interiors. As a small business, the support from others who you trust completely to reach the end goal is in my opinion, invaluable. At a personal level, I love the complete control I have over my calendar! No more time spent in management meetings or ducking for cover in avoidance of office politics that waste away your day. And of course, the flexibility of running my own business means that I can balance my clients needs with that of my family.

3. Describe the biggest setback you faced when establishing your business? How did it affect you and how did you push through?

Business Activity Statements and general accounting – yuck! There was a good reason I failed math at school. I was given advice early on to do what you do best and outsource the rest… Xero has been a huge help (thank you LOEW for the recommendation!).

Now as I look towards growing my team and everyday cashflow, I know I need to hire a bookkeeper soon. Oh and there was the time I ordered a customised upholstered king bed which couldn’t fit through the front door of my clients house. One guess who ended up with a new king size bed! Always do a check measure! Another increasing area of concern is when a client requests a certain style of furniture and we have it designed and made to suit their needs but when it arrives onsite they don’t like it. Heartbreaking. I’m still working my way around this!

4. Everyone has days where they feel flat or uninspired – do you have any tricks or tactics for overcoming these feelings?

There is yet to be that everlasting moment of the perfect work life balance. I’m still juggling the many joys of setting up a business, responding to my clients, being a ‘super’ mum, and of course a ‘sane’ wife. Feeling flat is not an option for someone in an industry that requires inspiration and creativity. I’m still working on the perfect answer – but time out for myself via meditation or fitness are on my list of lifestyle changes. Plus, the most important life lesson I re-learned last year was to always follow your gut and surround yourself with positive people.