Control What You Can with Tina Ramchandani (TRC)
Katerina: Hi Tina. Hi, how are you?
Tina: I’m good I’m good.
Katerina: Great to see you and thanks for being on the show.
Tina: Thank you for having me.
Katerina: I guess the first question everyone would like to know is how did you become an interior designer?
Tina: Well, I actually went to school or undergrad… University for interior design, so I’ve been doing this my entire career.
Katerina: Yeah, but what motivated you because I’ve read one of your articles where you were featured than when you were 19 you went to India?
Tina: Yeah, well I was, um, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life, and I was, you know, constantly exploring majors and careers and when I was in India, early on when I was about 19, I was there for a wedding, and I visited a hotel with my family and I was just so inspired by the feeling and emotion evoked in me when I walked into the hotel, it was really beautifully designed you could see through many layers of tables and settings to the ocean. So, and it had just a really great vibe, and so I felt like whatever that feeling was I wanted to capture that and have that in my life. So I decided on interior design.
Katerina: Yeah. So you did your university degree and then and then you just started your own business.
Tina: No, I actually… I got my Bachelor’s in Interior design and then I worked for a women-owned commercial interior design firm for several years. We did hospitality, hedge fund offices, health care and then I decided to explore residential interiors and I worked for an alias designer Vincent Wolf, based in New York for about five years, and finally decided that it was time for me to go out on my own, so I’ve been on my own for about six years now.
Katerina: Okay so yeah you’ve got some work experience first. Yeah, understood what the industry is all about and then you decided to start your own thing.
Katerina: And you started it in Manhattan right? Of all places? It’s competitive, right?
Tina: Yes, that’s right, very competitive. Yeah, but I mean this is where I’m based in this is where my clients are so it just rolls with it. So we’re doing work not just in Manhattan but in all of New York State. The Hamptons included up-state New York and in New Jersey, and we’ve also done some work in Los Angeles.
Katerina: Yeah. So, what were your experiences when you just started? How did you feel starting your business in such a competitive environment?
Tina: I think that it really helped that I was naive about starting a business because if I knew all of the challenges, I think I would have been a little bit more scared and I don’t know that I would have fully dove into it. Um, it was definitely nerve-wracking. And there were a lot of sleepless nights. It was tough.
Katerina: Yeah, cuz you did have some anxiety, didn’t you?
Tina: Oh, I didn’t really realise that I suffered from anxiety until I started my business. I started in 2014, and I was already seeing a therapist just because we’re in New York everyone sees a therapist. We’re all really mentally healthy or are trying to be. But soon after starting the business I wasn’t sleeping which was leading to backaches which were leading to anxiety and it was like a never-ending circle and then I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.
Katerina: Gosh, yeah so so starting a business actually made it even worse, right, because it’s kind of hidden right?
Tina: It was definitely hidden. Yeah, it was brought to the forefront and I really had to deal with it. And I tried to avoid taking medication, just because I felt, there’s like a stigma around it right. Maybe I can beat this it’s not a real thing I had to really understand that I needed to take the medication to settle and calm down, I just thought, oh exercise or you know get over it, it’s not a big deal but it really wants a big deal and once I started teaching… I’m still on a low dose of medication, but it really helped.
Katerina: Yeah. Did you have any family or friends that would help you would support you when you start your business?
Tina: Yeah, I mean I, my family was really very supportive of the business. They’re definitely all my cheerleaders and my husband here who’s a cheerleader for me so that was really amazing but the anxiety was tough to explain. I have some friends that are well versed in mental illness and they, you know, we’re very supportive and they said there’s nothing wrong with this, you know, take the medication and do your meditation and exercises and you’re going to be okay but then I had some family members that don’t understand it so they just kept saying it’s all in your head and I’m like, you’re right — it’s all in my head. So there was you know there was a lot of… I was stretched in different directions about it.
Katerina: Yeah… I guess… when you just started the business… has it become profitable straight away or did it take some time for you to actually find your footing and find clients?
Tina: I was lucky because when I decided to launch I had clients lined up. So we were able to have a look… like the first two years were strong. After that, I think, the anxiety kind of came back because then I had to really learn to run a business right when I left I had clients and I was able to design which is what I’m really good at. And I didn’t have to or I didn’t know that I had to actually run the business, look for clients. A lot of behind the scenes aspects and then once those projects ended I had to learn to be a business owner and then the anxiety spiked again. But you know it’s something that I’m constantly struggling with but now I’ve learned to identify the clues.
When my anxiety is going to spike and what to do and how to you know, take a moment for myself and really analyse if it’s a real feeling or if it’s an anxious feeling. And I’m able to kind of move forward. And now… now that I know. Once you solve one issue business-wise, it gets easier right so now I sort of get excited and I look forward to it or before I was afraid of it. Yeah.
Katerina: Have you ever thought of quitting?
Tina: A lot but I think everybody does. This is what I’m good at this is what I meant to be you know I’ve been designing for over 16 years now, or maybe more so, um, I don’t think that I could do anything else in life and I’ve been working for myself for so long that I really don’t want to go back to working for anyone else. I mean, obviously, we’re in a precarious situation right now with COVID so if things fall apart and I have to I will, but I now feel that I’m a business owner and not an employee, so I’m gonna do everything I can to make this work.
Katerina: Yeah. What would be your advice today I mean given the current situation with COVID? What would be your advice to say to entrepreneurs who are struggling with their business at the moment?
Tina: Um, I think I would take that question in twofold right one from the anxiety or mental wellness point of view. This has thrown everyone through right we all thought, Oh I thought I was in a great path, um, you know I was studying with my meditation and my journaling and my medicine and seeing well but you know there are so many fears that come out of this crisis, it’s not just business it’s also health and health of others and you know where’s the economy going to be and I think when you can’t control the outside world for me, it helps to just try and control a couple of things about my own day so it’s my morning routine my evening routine it really keeps me grounded. And then that allows me to have the rest of the day to focus on your business. So from a business point of view, I would say to everybody. Um, if you are in a good mental place, then this is a great time to really work on your business and do all of the things that you never had time to do before you know so I’m taking it as an opportunity. I’m grateful that I’m happy and healthy and have my home and my dog and my husband. So I’m just taking the working hours of the day and working on my systems and my processes and my marketing and things that I can control and we have a couple of clients that are still working so I’m doing that but that doesn’t take up the majority of my day. I’m just trying to you know be proactive, but also enjoy the day because when are we going to have this time again to really relax. I mean it’s not always relaxing.
Katerina: [laughs] You are the first person who said this.
Tina: It’s true it’s not relaxing, relaxing but you can in an hour you know give yourself a facial, you know, we’re never gonna have this time. Do your make up, do your hair like there’s no…, you know, take some time for yourself. We can’t get a massage so there are other things we can do.
Katerina: Yeah. Are you generally an anxious person?
Tina: Yes. Yeah. Have you always been an anxious person or is it just when you started running your own business? It’s kind of…
Tina: I think society runs in my family, and it was not, it’s not recognised, to be honest and I don’t know that I was anxious when I was younger but as I started to get older, I started to recognise those symptoms in myself. And other family members.
Katerina: Yeah. Do you have a mentor?
Tina: I have lots of coaches. Okay, so one is my therapist who’s you know really great we speak once a week now on zoom during this crisis. I have two business coaches. I look to a lot of my friends who are designers and business owners for advice, we have sort of a mastermind group so I have a lot of people that I can ask questions when I have issues which I think is really helpful because you can’t do it alone.
Katerina: Yeah. But in your business who’s helping you with your business? Do you have a lot of people working for you?
Tina: I had some staff we but we had to, unfortunately, stop work for the moment, so I’m handling all of the work that’s coming in, and hopefully we can get back to it soon.
Katerina: Yeah, cuz this from my discussions with, you know, women entrepreneurs. One thing that keeps popping up is that when… during this situation a lot of women have to kind of pivot their business because, you know, it’s all well and good if your business is online, but if you have a business like a restaurant or like in your case, the interior design company, what do you do because everything is today online, and there are already news. You know, people saying that we may expect another six waves of COVID next year or so something like that right. What can you do if you are running a physical business you know you have a physical location, what’s your strategy?
Tina: So I did pivot, a little bit. So, typically we were doing full-service interior design. So that means we did everything for our clients from the second we met them until we’ve installed their home and handed them the finished project or product, including any deficiencies that happened afterwards we manage all the trades. You know the clients didn’t have to lift a finger. So we’ve sort of developed a, like a different model where we are designing virtually. We’re doing a lot of zoom meetings FaceTime meetings, screen shares to present the finished home to our clients and then we’re offering them the option to purchase the items themselves or we can purchase items for them but we can’t physically be there to accept deliveries, and it has started to pick up we only launched this two weeks ago. But I’ve gotten a lot of interest and we’ve signed a couple of clients that are interested in doing this because people are sick of being in their homes and looking at these walls with no art or not the sofa that they want or whatever it is. And they just want to be a reality in a really comfortable, safe environment so we have pivoted that way.
We’re also doing just, you know, consultations where I can tell people like, do this, do this, do this and it’s not a full-on design. So we’re just trying to offer people help in any way that we see fit and I’m also offering a lot of free content. You know on Instagram Live. A lot of articles that we’re doing, posting on social media. I think that now is the time to really be a resource for people. So, if, like a restaurant, if you’re not physically able to go in and make food for people that I would say maybe do free videos on Instagram because everybody’s cooking and then when business picks up hopefully they’ll remember you. I think you just have to sort of think about what, who, who are your clients, what do they want and what can you do to support them right now.
Katerina: Yeah. So, you actually treat this period of isolation as an opportunity right.
Tina: I am looking at it that way. But, you know everybody’s different I have friends that are in other industries that are not looking at it that way, just because they’re not ready to accept where we are so I think when you’re ready to accept it, then you can pivot.
Katerina: Yeah. So looking back at your six years of running this business. What was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome?
Tina: Lot of fears, all the challenges were my own challenges. I think, learning to communicate with clients in a more …way. I’m learning to get out there and market and put myself out there that was, you know, a lot of my own issues I had to overcome what would I look like to other people and now it’s like “Who cares what I, what other people think of me, I’m running a successful business… I don’t need to have that on my, you know, myself”. But in the, you know, it’s all my own issues that I’ve had to overcome and it’s definitely not done. I’m still doing a lot of work on myself.
Katerina: So yeah what are you not good that?
Tina: I’m sorry.
Katerina: What you’re not good at? You have amazing designs… is there anything that you’re not good at?
Tina: I definitely can’t hang art by myself and I’m a bad installer. I’m really clumsy, there’s a lot that I’m not good at. I can’t tell jokes, I’m bad at lots of things, I can’t sing.
Katerina: If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Tina: I wanted to be a singer like if I had a superpower if I was the best singer ever I would be singing to everyone.
Katerina: No, that’s interesting. I guess another question I’d like to ask is, what would you advise to females… to girls or maybe boys…. who want to start a business today or wait till COVID-19 is over, should they start planning? Because the situation today is that many people are losing their jobs and the job market is getting saturated. We’ve looked at some job descriptions and there are about 200 applications for each job so it looks like entrepreneurship might be the way forward right in this situation, so what would be your advice should people wait to be out of this?
Tina: No, I think people should start. I mean, there’s never going to be a correct time to start anything. I think if you are out of a job, why not focus on your business if you’re in a job that you don’t like, why not take those after hours when you’re home from work and focus on the business like there are so many hours in the day and I know that we’re not optimising them and I’m so guilty of it right because I can sit home after work and watch TV for four hours or I can take one or two of those hours and work on a different business.
Katerina: Don’t you think that people are not taking those hours is because they are not in the right mental state?
Tina: Yes, I agree. They’re definitely mentally not in the right seat, but I think if you want to do something you have to figure out how to change your state of mind. I think there’s enough time in the day to spend even an hour on your business. And once you start doing it, you’re more motivated and you’ll spend more time on it so I think it’s just taking the first step which everyone’s afraid of, I was too. So, baby steps.
Katerina: Baby steps right. So, what resources would you advise to starting entrepreneurs? With hindsight, if you were to start your business, again, what would you do differently?
Tina: I would have started my email newsletter list right away because I don’t have a high MailChimp list, but if I had started it six years ago, I would have been collecting emails from day one. So I think that is the number one thing I can tell people is to start collecting contact information for people that you encounter and just start networking and you can always pivot just you know we’re in strange times so start with something and if it’s not working adjust it as you go. I think you know, don’t be afraid to just change because no ones gonna remembers what you did a year ago, they’re only gonna remember what you’re telling them right now.
Katerina: Right. Are you busy on social media?
Tina: Very busy on social media.
Katerina: Are there any new platforms that you need to explore, which you haven’t done before the COVID-19 situation?
Tina: I started watching a lot of Tik Tok.
Katerina: Funny you said that, I am actually trying to figure it out.
Tina: I’m not participating. But I am stalking it late at night because it’s really fun to watch so it’s definitely given me something to look forward to at night to watch people dancing. Um, but, Tick Tock is a fun one. I’m definitely on Instagram because interiors are a visual thing that we are sharing our work on Pinterest and Instagram, and I’m on LinkedIn, you know because that’s, I think, where you can network with people.
Katerina: How do you find business clients, are you working with customers, or are you working with other businesses?
Tina: I usually work with clients directly not businesses so my ideal clients are people that are busy and don’t have time to design the home, their homes themselves, but understand the need for a beautiful and functioning home. So my clients typically have young kids or are in transition either having their first or second kid or the kids or going to middle school. And then I also have clients that are retiring and are setting up their home for their next phase of life. And just need help, creating a beautiful environment that functions so kids can run around and jump on the furniture but also they can have friends over and feel like they’re living in an adult house.
Katerina: Yeah. All right, so what would be your last advice to entrepreneurs.
Tina: Um, I would say, you’re always going to be afraid to just, just try it and what happens, you know, when I first started my blog, I was so afraid to even publicise it so I was just secretly writing a blog with no readers, which is so silly because I was afraid of what people would say, and then finally I would, you know, start kind of putting it on Facebook and putting it out there so just do it even if you’re not ready to share it with people yet just get started, I think you’ll gain confidence.
Katerina: Yeah, because that’s that’s the problem for many small businesses when they start the Facebook page, and there is no one that follows them. How do you stay motivated to put the content out there if no one is listening?
Tina: Yeah, but it’s also you know your own fears right I didn’t want to tell anyone. And then once you start telling people are excited for you they want to help you you know you just have to kind of be a little brave, take baby steps.
Katerina: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you so much for being on the show and good luck with your pivoting and you got an amazing website, amazing designs so I’m sure our readers and listeners will check you out because I’d like to have your design in my home.
Tina: We can, we can make that work. I’m sure.
Katerina: Thank you so much.
Tina: Thank you.