BABE #99, BECKY MORGAN, Founder + Interior Designer @ Bmorcreative, Inc.
Becky is an absolute badass. She's a licensed commercial interior designer who specializes in historic preservation with a focus on small business, and she's located right here in the heart of Jacksonville (where she works from the attic of her historic Springfield home - how fitting.) We're so honored she took the time to give us such a comprehensive look into her day-to-day work in the Commercial Interior Design industry. Thanks, Becky! You're a total babe.
Hometown: Culpeper, VA
Current city: Jacksonville, FL (Springfield)
Alma mater: The Art Institute of Jacksonville
Degree: BFA, Interior Design
First job: Server
Hustle: Interior Designer and Founder @ Bmorcreative, Inc.
Babe you admire and why?
I am always rooting for the underdog. I enjoy learning about people’s paths to success and find it particularly interesting when they achieve it against all odds. I really admire Suze Orman. Not only do I think she gives solid financial advice, but her story is pretty remarkable. She came from a family of modest means and put herself through college only to end up waiting tables. After pursuing a dream to open her own restaurant, she learned some valuable financial lessons and became a successful broker (in a male-dominated industry.)
Must-have item in your purse?
I’m a pen snob. When offered a pen to sign something, I will not hesitate to whip out my own. I don’t sign in red and I don’t do ballpoint. Ever.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Pizza - full gluten!
Three things we can always find in your fridge?
Spinach, Feta Cheese and Salsa. Scramble a few eggs and you have breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I really love New Orleans. I lived there a short while in my early 20’s, and love to return. The food and history there are pretty amazing, and the people are so resilient and full of pride for their city. It is strange to reflect on some of my favorite places and connect the dots. They are all historic. I love old buildings. And I love being a part of a progressing community full of passionate people.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Florence Knoll. I would love the chance to meet her whiles she’s still living. She is a total rockstar in the world of commercial Interior Design.
Tell us about your hustle:
My firm specializes in interior design for small business and historic preservation. We work with office, retail and hospitality clients to open or relocate their business in the Jacksonville urban core and surrounding areas. We help them navigate the process of finding the right space, and create a uniquely branded environment for their clients and staff.
What does your typical workday look like?
Most mornings start the same - coffee and emails. I might have a site visit or conference call first thing, or I may have blocked out the morning to focus on drawings or renderings. It really depends on the workload and where we are with projects. I keep regular coffee and lunch appointments with friends and work contacts, and have weekly meetings with my teams of both internal and outsourced help. Sometimes I may have an event or meeting in the evening. My clients are small business owners, so we often work when they aren’t working.
What is your work environment and office culture like?
We relocated our studio back into my home early this year. I have a great finished attic space that's the perfect size for me and a few others. I am the only full-timer currently, but have a part time admin and work with a few designers on an as-needed basis. I like for my staff to have the flexibility to manage their own work/life balance and pursue other interests. I try to maintain an entrepreneurial spirit in our studio. We work hard as a team so that we can reach our unique personal goals. Business should give you life.
What is the design industry like in Jacksonville? How does it compare to other cities?
I think we’re in the middle. We’re certainly not leading the way, yet we aren’t the furthest behind. When I graduated, a lot of people recommended I go to a bigger more design-forward city to practice. As much as I love "big cities," I just felt like Jacksonville needed me here. Having lived here for 30 years, I’ve seen a huge amount of progress. I think we have a lot of opportunity and momentum in Jacksonville. As a designer, having enough room to make an impact is far more appealing and fun.
What keeps you passionate about working with small businesses rather than corporate ones?
I came from a corporate firm working with corporate clients, and it just wasn't my thing. I learned a tremendous amount about the industry and how to make money as a design business while working there, but there was still something lacking - passion. I started moonlighting and teamed with an architect to design a nightclub downtown. The club never came to fruition, but it was such a refreshing process to design something with a client who truly gave a damn. He wasn’t just getting paid to watch the bottom line, he was the bottom line. It takes a certain type of person to pursue a dream as big as starting a business. It requires being brave, stepping out of the crowd, and thinking differently. I learn so much from my clients and feel honored that they trust me with their businesses.
Similarly, what made you choose commercial design over the other sectors?
I actually wanted to do residential design and decided to go back to school to get into the field. I graduated in 2010, which was a really bad time to be entering the workforce. I always knew I wanted to start my own business, but that was actually a long-term goal. I still needed to do a 2-year internship in order to sit for my exams and get registered, and I was eager to learn. I lucked out and met my previous boss at a networking event right before he posted an opening, and was able to interview and get started right away. It was at an Architecture and Engineering firm doing commercial work. I had always had an interest in business, so I ended up enjoying it far more than I would have imagined.
What inspired you to focus on historic preservation in your work, and what does that process look like?
I moved to Springfield in 2010 and fell in love with the quaint commercial corridor of Main Street running right through the center of our community. Sadly, it was mostly inhabited with crumbling buildings and a few Pawn Shops. I dreamed of these storefronts coming to life with quirky small business, similar to the type found in 5 points and pockets of Downtown. When working on Historic Buildings, you must adhere to guidelines furnished by the Federal Government to avoid losing the character of the building and the community it resides in. This can be a daunting process for someone who is, say, a baker who just wants to make cakes. I develop the plans and applications necessary to present our ideas to the city and ensure that the renovation adheres to their requirements. It is not rocket science, but does take experience and familiarity with the guidelines to make it a quick and relatively smooth process.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
There have definitely been situations in which I was treated and spoken to differently because I am a woman. I call people on their stuff, whether it’s directed at me or anyone else on the team. I do so in a calm, productive manner, with a smile on my face. Humor helps, too. Sometimes just bringing light to a situation is enough to shut it down. The construction industry is not for the faint of heart, regardless of gender. I think it requires confidence and grit to effectively communicate with all of the various trades and keep everyone focused on what’s important - our clients!
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
A lot of people do not understand the highly technical nature of Interior Design at the level I practice. Not that one is better than the other, but I am a Designer, not a Decorator. And yes, while I pick paint and furnishings, I also design commercial spaces to ensure the safety of the public. Like creating enough clearance with a short enough distance to an exit for every occupant in the building to safely escape in case of a fire. And that a person with a disability, say blindness or wheelchair bound, can safely navigate the building and be accommodated equally to a well bodied person. Even the paint, flooring and furniture I specify are rated to perform differently than something you would use in your home. For instance, they would be more durable and scrubbable and would reduce the chance of someone slipping and falling, et cetera.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The biggest struggle that I face as a small business owner is managing the business and doing the work. There are a lot of tasks that have nothing to do with design and everything to do with owning a business. It is hard to find balance. I have to make sure that I am doing the work I love, so that I stay excited on focused on the good parts. Great clients and cool projects makes it all worthwhile.
What is the most important way for you to serve your client as an interior designer?
To solve their problems. A photo-worthy ending is just one result of a successful project. Often clients are trying to address workspace, storage and organizational needs, on a finite budget. Form follows function!
What's it like to see your work, designs and spaces come together in real life?
There is seriously nothing like it. After all of the hard work and behind-the-scenes coordination, this is why we do what we do. I feel lucky to share my work and ideas in a three-dimensional medium that so many people get to enjoy.
What have some of your biggest career milestones looked like?
Starting my practice was a huge milestone for me both personally and professionally. My biggest driver in making this decision was to get some of my life and flexibility back. Everyone knows that the first few years of owning a business are exactly the opposite. At times I felt like I was held together by coffee and red wine. I finally feel like I have found my flow and am starting to get close to the life I imagined. It’s wonderful and so worth it.
What’s your ultimate dream job and/or dream design project to work on?
I would love to work with investors and developers to revitalize historic and industrial areas. I have always been attracted to the simplicity of industrial architecture. Maybe it’s my farm girl roots, but would love to design some cool industrial adaptive reuse projects.
What does success look like to you?
Success to me is doing fun, creative work and having time with those I love. I recognize money is a huge component of that regardless of how hippie and free-spirited I might actually be. I don’t obsess over it, but recognize that it is a tool that will, in fact, help me get the projects and the flexibility that I’m after.
What’s next for you?
This year, my focus has been on creating the proper foundation for growth. I want to expand my team and scale my business. I am working to position myself in a more macro role within the company. I want to focus on the bigger picture and move away from handling so much of the day-to-day. This has been a super hard transition for me, because although I am getting my life back, I am giving up having control. I think this is something we all struggle with as small business owners.
What are your goals for the future?
I would love to write more and teach again. I really enjoy practicing design, but love the academic side, too. It’s exciting to live in the world of what-if, and it helps me to be more creative in my design work.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Whatever it is you’re thinking about, whatever dream you are hesitating to follow, just do it. There is no better time than the present to start making changes. So many times, we as women (myself included) really limit ourselves based on what our life might look like in the future. No matter how hard we try, we can’t predict the future, but we do get to influence it through our actions. Figure out what you love, and get to it!
In partnership with: StringStrangStrung
Owned and operated by Brandy Brong, StringStrangStrung is a modern string art and decor company right here in Jacksonville, FL. Check out our interview with Brandy here, browse her collection here, and use offer code 'BWH15' at checkout for 15% off your purchase!