Not bitchy enough for NYC fashion? Build a successful interior design business

In 1979, Judy Pickett started her business with $500, her passion for interior design, and her naïveté.  Throughout the 80’s, she built her business while being a mom – and suffered from mom guilt before that was even a common term.  On the show today, Judy and her daughter Hilaire talk about growing up in entrepreneurship, why they joined forces in 2008, and how their differences make them stronger.

Judy Pickett and Hilaire Pickett Martin are the founders of Design Lines Signature, an interior design firm based in Raleigh NC.


Judy: Here I am in the conference room trying to do a presentation and this little one is in the bathroom throwing up and I thought, oh my God, what am I doing? I should have canceled, rescheduled, and I felt that was like the worst moment of me trying to incorporate my business and my mom. 

Hilaire: The people I work with now and vendors, those people knew me when I was little. So it’s very cool to have a depth of like, Hey, I knew you when you were little, you’re now a professional and you’re working with her. So that’s like a really cool dynamic to work with people who’ve known me basically my whole life

Dana: Welcome to Hustle and Gather, a podcast about inspiring the everyday entrepreneur to take the leap. I’m Dana

Courtney: and I’m Courtney. 

Dana: And we are two sisters who have started multiple businesses together. And yes, it is as messy as you think. Because we know that starting a business, isn’t easy. 

Courtney: I mean, we’ve done it four times. And on this show, we talk about the ups and downs of the hustle and the reward at the end of the journey. 

Dana: And we love helping small businesses succeed, whether that is through our venue consulting, speaking, or team training, we love to motivate others to take that big leap. 

Courtney: You could just use our misadventures to normalize the crazy that is being an entrepreneur because every entrepreneur makes mistakes, 

Dana: but we like to call those unsuccessful attempts around here.

Courtney: And we know it’s just part of the process. And today we’re learning from a mother-daughter team, Judy Picket and Hilaire Picket-Martin, founders of Design Line Signature, a Raleigh North Carolina-based interior design firm. The established firm focuses largely on both luxury residential and commercial projects, all with a client-centric driven approach to customizing interior design. In North Carolina, where they’re based, they have just completed the Wade, NC state chancellor residence, and a mix of residential projects throughout Raleigh.

Additionally, their work can be found in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, the Carolina coast, and even Bermuda. Hilaire, and Judy, welcome to hustle and gather. 

Thank you. Thank you. 

Well, we’d love to have for you guys. Just take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to what you’re doing now in your business. 

Judy: Yeah, well, it really started in 1979, so we had a long run. Went to Florida state loved fashion. My roommate said you’re not bitchy enough to be you know, go to New York and deal with that stuff. And so I thought, oh my gosh, I’m not, so I went to interior design. I just went and changed my major, but I still get to do all the wonderful things with textiles and color and art and portion and scale and understanding all that.

So I still am in my passion, just in a different actually yeah, more wonderful field, I think 

Dana: so when did you start your firm? 

Judy: In 79, I graduated in 74. Now think about that. No cell phones, no computers. I barely had color television. I mean, seriously, it’s kind of in the dinosaur, so when you think about, you know, early on, we wrote checks and on the carbon thing, you know, you’d put them in the little, line it up, right?

The check, there was a carbon for it. And then you had to manually enter everything. You know, everything was by hand, drew by hand, painted by hand, and everything was colored by hand. So the leap, like from where we started to, where we are now is monumental, astronomical. 

Courtney: Take us back to those five years. Like what’d you do from graduating until opening? Did you work for other interior design firms? 

Judy: I’ve worked for large retailers. So I got my feet wet and what that did is put me in front of a lot of different kinds of people. And so I was like in the mix with people who had great budgets, people who had very little budgets and we always are problem-solving, we always there trying to get the client, you know, what they need, what their vision is, how do I, how do I, how do I get there from what I have? And so I worked for some, two large retailers, before I started the business with $500 in like, 

Courtney: Did you, did you go, were you’re like, I’m done working retail. I’m just going to start my own thing, here’s hoping, or did you kind of gradually segue into doing some projects? 

Judy: No, I was doing projects in for the retailer. And I literally just made the decision and asked my dad if he had, can loan me any money, and he gave me $500. Literally, and we rented this little yellow house on Glenwood avenue.

Courtney: So you’re in Raleigh at this time? 

Judy: Yeah. I don’t know as partly a naive, but interestingly enough, the chair of the interior design department at Florida state, her husband was the Dean of the business school.

So all the interior design majors had to go through this five course. We should have taken one more course, cause then we would have had a minor, one course shy of having a minor in business. There’d be all these guys in there doing business, and then there’d be these interior design, all female, right. Interior design students. You know who they were, but it, it got, it really was the best thing they could have done for us. Totally the best thing.

Dana: I say all the time. I wish we had taken some business classes. 

Courtney: I have a degree in biology and chemistry, and Dana has degree in chemistry and math. That’s totally related to what we do.

Judy: Yeah, you know, business law, accounting, marketing, management. We had to go through all of those entry-level courses. So it did, it gave us a good background. 

Courtney: I love how you mentioned that you started your business with $500 and just being naive, and I think that sometimes the best businesses are made because you don’t know what you’re jumping into.

I know, definitely for us, like we had no idea and like, if we did have an idea, we probably wouldn’t have done it. I know we would’ve been like, no, like I’m not going to put myself through that, but I think sometimes, like not knowing and just having a lot of like faith and belief in what you can do can get you so far.

Dana: So I’m curious, how was it growing up with an entrepreneur parent/mom? 


Full Episode Transcript

Hustle and Gather is hosted by Courtney Hopper and Dana Kadwell, and is produced by Earfluence.  Courtney and Dana’s hustles include C&D Events, Hustle and Gather, and The Bradford Wedding Venue.

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