Meet Gillian - Owner of Gillian McAuley Interiors
Man, has it been a while since I posted a blog about an amazing woman business owner. Unfortunately, last summer my camera (sadly) broke in the middle of shooting a blog session, and by the time it was repaired, I was just too busy with clients to continue my blog. I'm excited to get it back on track in 2022 and hopefully can continue it whenever I have quiet periods. This particular session, I've been working on scheduling for a while and I finally met Gillian on a VERY cold January morning after months of scheduling and rescheduling meeting her. Gillian is an interior designer and wanted to use her own home as the feature of her blog session. As someone with small children and very little interior design skills, I was excited for this session, but also a little intimidated. I know that might sound silly, but sometimes as a mom, it’s hard to keep up with all of the things - and for me it’s especially hard to keep up with all of the house things (especially decor). Being a work at home mom, I spend a lot of time alone, or just with children, which also means I spend a lot of time in my head (which leads me to judge myself and over analyze things).
Let me tell you, Gillian’s house is absolutely beautiful, and I had no reason at all to feel anxious about meeting her or intimidated by her design skills :-) She was kind & welcoming, and when I mentioned how my house has NO cohesive interior design, she asked about the ages of my children (who are 2 & 6), then assured me that when her kids were younger, her house probably looked a lot more like my house, than her current house. We chatted about our families, kids and how we got to where we were with our respective businesses. It turns out, we had a very similar (but slightly different) path that brought us to our career that we’re passionate about. Gillian used to work in corporate America before leaving the workforce when her second child was born and decided to go full into a career that she was passionate about when her kids were becoming more independent.
As Gillian showed me around her house, all I could think was how gorgeous everything was. Every piece of decor fits perfectly together and the colors she uses are amazing. I loved all of the details - especially the tile in the bathroom and her tile-like kitchen mats. The house felt so inviting, I think sometimes when I think of houses that are professionally designed by interior designers, I think of staged real estate listings, where it looks like no one lives in the house. I definitely didn’t feel this way in Gillian’s home.. I felt like I wanted to grab a cozy couch cushion and curl up on the couch by the fire :-) As with all of my blog sessions, I sent Gillian some questions before our meeting - keep scrolling to see her responses!
What’s the name of your business and where is your business located?
Gillian McAuley Interiors, LLC in Holliston, Massachusetts
You can find Gillian McAuley Interiors, LLC here:
What type of business is it?
It is a residential interior design business
Tell me a little bit about yourself
I grew up in Acton, MA and have been living in Holliston since 2009 with my husband, two daughters and two extremely fluffy Siberian cats. I’ve always been an artistic person—drawing and painting were my favorite hobbies as a kid and I always thought I’d go to school for something related to art. Unfortunately I also have a pushy practical side, so ended up studying journalism instead! After graduation, I moved to Boston and 10 days later 9/11 happened, which in addition to all the horrors of that day, the job market completely dried up. I think the truly awful first job I landed is what led me to career hop a bit in my 20s while trying to find what spoke to me most. My most recent role was as a senior marketing consultant and graphic designer for a financial services firm. I really liked my job—it was the perfect left brain/right brain combo for me—but when our second daughter was born, we saw an opportunity for me to be home with our girls which I knew I’d regret not taking. In 2017, when our youngest was 5, I started thinking about my next step. We had been making some updates on our home and interior design had quickly become a new passion. As a job, it seemed like it would be an opportunity to flex the creative side of me, but in a practical and useful way, so that fall I enrolled at Rhode Island School of Design and started driving down to Providence weekly for night classes. It took 16 years to figure out, but I think I’m finally doing what I should have been doing all along!
What has your biggest challenge been starting your own business?
There was a steep learning curve with the business side of what I do, for sure. One of my favorite podcast hosts always says “your talent alone isn’t enough to ensure your success” and she’s absolutely right. In reality, the creative design work is maybe 30% of the job, and all of the other stuff such as learning CAD programs, project management, accounting, establishing relationships with trade professionals, managing vendor relationships and purchase orders (most interior designers are also retailers of furnishings, fabrics, artwork, accessories, etc.) is the other 70%. There are a lot of balls in the air at any given point during a full-service project, so coming up with systems and processes to manage all of that and keep myself organized is an ongoing challenge.
What is your favorite part about running your own business?
Working with my clients, hands-down. I’m a people person, and even though being a stay-at-home mom was rewarding in many ways, it was lonely! I love having the opportunity to really get to know my clients and their families. Interior design can be really intimate work in the sense that you’re in people’s homes, seeing how they live, helping find solutions to struggles, and really digging deep to better understand their lifestyle, tastes, and what they want the end result of the project to be. Depending on the complexity of the project, I can be working with the same client for many months, so it’s also an opportunity for strong friendships to form. I really love that aspect of my job.
What is one thing you wish you knew before getting started?
Probably the depth of what there is to know about this industry. I’ve never been one to “fake it ’til I make it”, so I wanted to know and be good at ALL THE THINGS right away. Taking my time with school and not offering certain services until I am completely confident in my ability to execute them means this has been a slow-grow for me. I love what I’m doing and can see my end goal so clearly, so taking it at a slower pace was frustrating for me at first, but I’m okay with it now.
What advice do you have for anyone trying to start their own business?
If you’re passionate about it, just go for it, even if it starts as a hobby or a side hustle (I called my business my “jobby” for the longest time!). It’s okay to grow slowly and take your time. And also read and listen to everything you can get your hands on pertaining to your business type. Knowledge is power for sure, and being highly informed helps fend off the feelings of “imposter syndrome” so many business owners struggle with.
Who is your role model/who inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve always thought my grandmother probably had something to do with my (eventual) love of beautiful interiors. She had the most impeccable taste and it showed in everything about her—from her fashion sense, to how she carried herself, and it was definitely on display in her home. She lived across the street from us for half of my childhood, so her influence on my life was huge. I credit her for helping to bring out this side of me, but the crazy idea to start a business was all me. For better or worse, I’ve always gone after what I want and made many decisions based on gut feelings. I tend to have a “leap first, look later” mindset. It often pays off so I’m hoping it has here!
As always - if you don’t already follow Gillian on Instagram & Facebook - make sure to do that :-)
Thanks for stopping by!