Shelagh Conway may have studied to be a fashion designer, but it wasn’t until she renovated her own home in 2016 that she found her true niche in the design world. Today, Conway is the founder of Triple Heart Design, an award-winning Austin, Texas-based design firm that offers a range of remodeling services. Whether clients are looking for an interior designer to make over their entire home, or an expert to help with project management, Conway says she has found her sweet spot by combining her eye for detail with her passion for all things design.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about how you started your business.
I was working in the corporate mortgage world when I remodeled my home and discovered my talent. My boss kept buying homes that he wanted remodeled and furnished – so he tasked me with these projects (along with my full-time job). I was managing the projects remotely and it was very stressful. One day God put it in my heart to quit and open my own business: Triple Heart Design. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, with no degree or formal training, but I haven’t looked back since.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
My systematic approach to developing, documenting and visualizing adds clarity for all parties involved in a building project. My packages offer entry points for those that need assistance but can’t always budget for a full-service interior designer. The documentation that I provide to both the builder and client gives everyone the needed visuals, details and information to keep the project running successfully until completion. Design is both creative and analytical – and finding balance between the two is key.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
In my first two years of business, I entered a design competition competing with seasoned and certified professionals. I won first place without any formal training in interior design. Everything I do is self-taught.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Sales and marketing. I feel like there is so much misinformation out there and I have spent countless hours attempting to really learn and understand the market. I’ve not only taught myself the design industry, but I’m learning the marketing side, too.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I started my business in Seattle and a year later moved to Austin to launch it again in a new city.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Passion always exceeds knowledge and you can carve your own path with that drive. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do something, or that you are not qualified.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Reminding myself of the successes I have encountered keeps me going.
Who is your most important role model?
My mom. She was an entrepreneur to the core and found success in a time when a woman-owned small business wasn’t supported or as common as it is today. ◼
Check out our Advice + Tips for entrepreneurs starting-up
Watch our latest videos
Subscribe to our podcast