Jean loves to talk to successful women, particularly those who've overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams. Tracy Porter, a model turned home décor and furniture designer, has a particularly original success story—her company literally started in a chicken coop near her home in 1991. She and her husband couldn't afford a heater, so they had to keep her paints under electric blankets. Today, her products can be found in stores like Target and Neiman Marcus. Tracy shares her story and some lessons she's learned along the way:
- They started by applying for gift shows, which got her first pieces—handpainted trays and bowls—into stores.
- At that first gift show, they made $79,000 in sales.
- They recognized when it was time to grow beyond their husband-and-wife team. Once they received that first phone call from Neiman Marcus, they knew it was time to expand.
- Tracy adopted an attitude of "we'll figure it out." She knew when they needed to accept a challenge, and that they'd do whatever it took to overcome it.
- She relinquished some control. Tracy had to allow other people to paint her designs, which taught her to find employees who were at the top of their game.
- Tracy says it's really important to be nice in business. "It doesn't mean you can't say exactly what's on your mind, but you can be nice while you're at it," she says.
Tracy also has tips for staying on a budget during your decorating projects:
- Take stock of what you have.
- Consider moving things around. The dresser in your guest room might look great in your living room.
- Go through magazines and tear out things you're interested in before you run out to the store and spend too much money.
- Move slowly. Start with a small space—a bathroom or foyer—so you can cut your teeth before getting swept up and making decisions you'll later regret.
- Start with the anchors, such as the rug or couch. Make them a little basic so you can live with them a long time.