“I started off working alone, but now I am very proud to have a great team working with me. They are my pride and joy!” – Grace Tan
The Creative Girlboss team recently had a lovely chat with Grace Tan, Founder and Interior Designer at GDA Concepts. She currently leads a team of five (5), and have been in the interior design industry for more than 10 years now! Let’s find out what motivates and inspires this passionate young entrepreneur, shall we?
How did this desire of becoming an interior designer come about? Was it a lifelong childhood dream?
Grace: I suppose the desire came about during my childhood days. I was naturally attracted to decors, buildings and furniture since young, guess those were my “subtle” inspirations. I would work on the arrangements of sofa and dining sets in my living room probably 2-3 times a year, and then asked for my mom’s approval. During playtime with my best friend, we would make miniature furniture out of Styrofoam sheets!
What were you doing before you founded GDA Concepts? How did the idea of having your own business or interior design studio come about?
Grace: I worked in three (3) different Interior Design firms around Klang Valley, and a high-end furniture retailer within five (5) years after graduating from college. The idea of running my own firm came about during the third year of my career, as by then I’ve developed certain skill sets and experience.
I wanted to set a better working environment for us interior designers and practise work transparency while dealing with clients. In this industry, it is very normal to work late hours and even round the clock during peak seasons, with no overtime claim whatsoever. I felt that interior designers are under-appreciated in some ways, and that became my motivation to bring about a change by starting my own business.
How was your company founded? And what made you take the leap of faith?
Grace: I started my first business as a sole proprietor and named it Graceous Design. I’d like to call that an eventful detour, as I’ve always thought that I would only start my business when I’m “ready” and “older” (like 30 years old and above). (laughs) In that process, I quickly learnt that there is never a perfect timing but good timing.
During the fifth year of my career, I was already a senior interior designer holding a project designer role in a design firm where I intentionally wanted to “settle down”. However, ironically the 4-year-old firm decided to close its operation on the third month while I was serving my probation period. Long story short, I was at my first career crossroad. I eventually asked God for direction and found the peace to start off my business after my existing clients from the closed down company encouraged me to do so!
How do you define success for yourself and for your team?
Grace: Personally, I consider myself successful as I am living my dreams. I can testify that I am living my dreams because every morning when I wake up, I just look forward to the day. So nothing really intimidates me, and when life pressure comes, I don’t feel the stress because I am living my dreams! For my team, I define success as working in unity, complementing one another towards gaining healthy profits, with happy and satisfied clients.
What does a normal day look like for you? We want to know more about a day in the life of Grace Tan.
Grace: A normal day for me would start of with me checking my emails even before I get out of bed or leave the house. Then, I would attend meetings and supervise on-going sites, coordinate and negotiate with my suppliers and subcontractors. And finally, I will try my best to spend time in the office to engage with my team in creative brainstorms and marketing ideas.
Coming thus far in your career, what do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt in regards to the business?
Grace: Coming thus far, one of my greatest lesson is humility. I was very privileged to rub shoulders and spend time with top working businessmen who are greatly successful, yet they remain humble and willing to share. Aside to that, I’ve also learnt that paperwork and accounts are to be done as neatly possible and there is no shortcut to that.
How would you advice a younger person who wants to be an interior designer?
Grace: I’d be happy to tell them that having the talent to draw or in art is just a bonus, what matters most is they should have the spirit in pursuing excellence! Two, they should constantly educate themselves in checking out what is the latest trend and innovation in the market. And thirdly, they must pack up with loads of patience because we always have to gauge and discern our clients’ needs and requirements.
Share with us your design inspirations. Who is your current role model in the industry?
Grace: I am inspired daily by my very own teammates in the company. They are creative young people with fresh new ideas, and together with my experience we achieve our design goals. We do spend time browsing Pinterest and other design blogs, to educate ourselves with the latest trends, materials and technology. I personally admired the late Zaha Hadid, she is such a bold female architect, truly one of the best in the world.
What can we expect to see from you moving forward? Or rather what are your goals for the near future?
Grace: It’s going to be very exciting! We look forward to creating more sustainable interior designs for our clients, making the world a better place whether it is in the comfort of one’s home or in workspaces and public places. We’re also keen to be more actively involved in hospitality design in the near future such as hotels and resorts. Stay tuned!
Thank you Grace for you time to so willingly share with us about your career adventures. Also, a big Thank You to Mei Ying from Myris Consultancy who lend a hand during the interview process. Do check out similar stories of creative entrepreneurs such as this – Have the Passion for What You Pursue: Lynn Wong. If you wished to be profiled or to share your story, reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.