You launched Bernard Interiors in 2008, how did you initially get started setting up your own business?
I set up with a former business partner from her dining room table in Gosforth.
Did you imagine you’d be having the success you’re having now when you first started – and did you find this daunting?
I am a very driven person, I continually look for opportunities, so I always thought the business would be successful and it wasn’t daunting. I also plan, and the business has grown in stages. There’s a point at each stage where you ask yourself should we stay at this level or look to grow, we’re still growing and always learning.
Based on your experience and success within the industry, what are your views on education and employment in interior design?
Education is invaluable and commercial training is imperative in order to gain the credibility required in a commercial design industry. One of our team is a recent interior design graduate from Northumbria University. She has been with us for 3 years and it has been extremely rewarding watching her develop and grow with the business. To be successful, as in any field, it takes hard work and commitment as well as talent. But there are opportunities. There are many amazing designers working in the North-East right now gaining national and international recognition and we really need to stand up and shout about this, to put North East designers on the map and to show young people they can have a successful career here.
What advice would you give to creatives wanting to start their own business?
Experience is invaluable, so make sure you have enough of it. Set out with a clear vision and plan and be prepared for this to change along the journey. Also be prepared to make sacrifices in your personal and family life if you want to succeed.
You studied Interior Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, how did you gain the entrepreneurial skills and knowledge to begin your own business following your studies?
I think you are born with entrepreneurial skills and of course you are naturally influenced by those you surround yourself with.
Completing your degree in Edinburgh, what brought you back to the North East?
I love the North East and my family are based here, I looked specifically for a job in the region to start my career. My first job as an interior designer after I qualified was with ID Partnership Group in Newcastle.
Do you find there are many limitations to having a business based in the North East?
Not at all. Most of our business is in London and the South with some abroad. We use North East suppliers, including for storage and logistics, as much as we can, given that we source globally.
How do you find being a female entrepreneur, would you encourage more women to start their own businesses?
As with everything, it has its pros and cons. I love what I do and I’m thriving on growing the business but it doesn’t mean to say that I don’t find it tough being torn between the business and my family. Whether male or female, you should be honest with yourself at the outset about how much time, effort and resources you are willing to commit to get a business off the ground and ultimately grow.
Having been in the industry for 19 years, what advice would you give to remain successful for a long period of time?
Stick at it and remember why you started, never give up.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years time?
Sustaining further growth and doubling in size.
And finally, what has been the personal highlight in your career?
Winning an international design award for our Park Terrace project this year. This has been fantastic from two perspectives – seeing how people have responded to the completed project and knowing how the Bernard Interiors’ team worked together to design and deliver it. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved.