BABE #192: MARJAN SATTARZADEH; Owner/Lead Designer, Jan
Marjan is the owner and lead designer at Jan, a sustainability-driven, Miami-based studio and shop sourcing unique homeware pieces from India (where she travels to and from in order to find the perfect items.) In addition to a well-curated collection, Jan also provides services including interior design, custom design work, concept development and branding. While being a designer and curator often seems like an exciting (and TBH, aesthetically-pleasing) occupation, Marjan’s interview shines a light on the long hours, hard work and not-so-glamorous aspects that her role demands.
Babe you admire and why?
Martha Stewart. I love her evolution as a person and a brand. She’s been relevant for 30 years! Goals!
How do you spend your free time?
Traveling, drawing, spending time with friends and family, dining out
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Double-espresso over ice/Tito’s and vodka soda.
Current power anthem?
“Maneater,” by Hall & Oates! Just saw them live on Sunday—oldie, but goodie!
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Filet mignon, medium rare.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
What’s something most don't know about you?
I can read, write and speak Farsi fluently.
Tell us about your hustle.
There are two sides to my business: the studio and the product line, Jan, for which I work as lead designer and COO. Our studio focuses on design and development of spaces and products, and then the online shop and brand features pieces that have been designed and curated by me, in India. The product range is broad — from textiles, to ceramics, wood pieces, some small furniture items, linens, etc. I wanted to create a line of products that are approachable both in look and price point, focusing on high quality materials, techniques and beautiful colorways.
What are the various hats you wear throughout the day?
Receptionist, coordinator, designer, quality controller—the whole enchilada.
What does your typical workday look like?
A usual day for me starts with a matcha, checking emails and catching up on any phone calls or messages. I find that’s the best way to plan my day and manage my time. From there, if there are orders to ship, it's a matter of pulling inventory, doing quality control, packing and shipping. Onward, I’m looking at bills daily, making sure my vendors are paid timely—with that comes filing, organizing and looking at numbers. I try to spend at least one hour of my day being creative, whether it’s drawing, coming up with a new color story or playing around with a new product grouping for marketing and photography purposes. Because I’m one person and so involved in my business, I find myself making decisions every day, big and small. Whether it's updating the website, coming up with a marketing campaign or developing a new idea I want to bring to life, my role is ever-changing. My job always is to find more business and to continue to grow.
Have you always had a passion for interior design?
Yes. My aunt, who I’m very close with, was an interior designer when I was growing up. She never had kids of her own and was very involved in my life. She trained my eye and my attention to detail from a very early age. I have always been entrepreneurial and I owe a lot of it to my dad, who’s also a business owner. His years of hard work and dedication has always been a source of motivation for me—and still continues to be. If you want to own a business, you have to be willing to be persistent and take risks. He’s taught me that. I always told myself that I would do something. (That thing is still TBD.) I would love to be a household name; a brand people can rely on for timeless, well-curated, high-quality products.
What inspired you to source your product line from India?
I worked as a creative director for a textile designer in New York City for several years and we made most of our products in India. I connected with the process, the culture and the handicrafts the country had to offer. Connecting with the culture and people was very important to me. I personally have visited the factories I work with and have close relationships with a lot of my vendors. My biggest source of inspiration is travel; some people joke that my house is like World Market. I hope to source globally one day.
Is there a team behind Jan?
Jan has been a one-woman show since the start, from traveling back and forth to India, to building my own website, to branding, designing and developing. I think involvement in your own business is key, especially in the beginning. I learn something new every day and I make mistakes just like everybody else, but the important thing is to avoid making the same costly mistakes twice. That being said, I have to give credit where where credit is due: I have a wonderful photographer, along with a few other freelancers I hire on a project basis.
How do you stay organized and on top of your various (and many) tasks?
Evernote! Evernote is a lifesaver; anything from to-do lists, to dropping in important documents to refer to, to storing the millions of passwords I have for all my different accounts. Also, Google Drive. I know a lot of people are already using it but there are a lot of tools for file sharing and saving. Let's not forget peace of mind and knowing everything lives on the cloud and not on any one computer!
Regarding your studio work, what is your process for discovering the underlying wants, needs and aspirations a potential client may have?
Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen! The biggest tool we all have is communication—what is someone wanting or asking for? Really taking the time to break down those questions helps alleviate the stress of the unknown and assuming things. My client projects are never the same person or the same scope. I’ve done private labeling, staging, offices, residential, hospitality—I rarely say no to work.
How have your past internships, education and work experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
My biggest advice is find a mentor that you trust, who shares your values and professional goals. Someone you really connect with. I would never be where I am today without my last job experience (which, by the way, started as an internship!) I worked for Judy Ross of Judy Ross Textiles, based out of New York City, and until this day, we still talk at least once a month. Learn from your elders and their experiences—you don’t know everything!
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
I remember my first trip to India; I packed my bags and got on the flight. I brought along my best friend (as my fake assistant) and we hit a mega trade show in Delhi. We were amongst Walmart, Anthropologie and Homegoods buyers and designers and I thought, What am I doing? That was the first time I really realized that to be taken seriously, you need to be serious, regardless of your age, gender or experience. When I decided to stop working for someone else and start working for myself, everything changed. You start to realize you’re in control of your time, your resources and that if you want to make things happen, you have to do it.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’m emotional—and that’s not a bad thing! I don’t have kids and can only begin to imagine what that feeling is like, but I see this business as my child. It makes you feel like you’re here and a part of something bigger than yourself. You keep nurturing it, growing with it and giving it your all.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work?
Letting go is something I struggle with, whether it’s that something is not perfect (to my standards), or wishing I did something differently. It’s not worth it. Letting go of the things that are small and irrelevant keeps you sane!
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
Celerie Kemble! I admire any designer who starts to break into different sectors of their industry. She's a great example of that. On top of her career in interior design, she has a few different licensing deals with furniture and wallpaper companies, she's put out several books, etc. Another is India Mahdavi, a Paris-based product and interiors designer. I admire her multidisciplinary firm and her passion for design. She always stays true to her aesthetic and the idea of total design when it comes to product, process and function.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Do your research! A lot of people like the idea of being a designer. There’s a lot of misconception surrounding what it really means; it's not all fun and games (and paint colors and fabric selections). To be successful in this field it means being highly organized, a problem-solver, some days a therapist and most importantly, managing money.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
A bath always does it for me. It's a great way to disconnect from technology and to have some time to myself.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
I think the most important thing for young girls to realize is that to get to your goal, you need to make decisions that help you get closer every day. One step at a time, one day at a time, keep foundation-building and upping your confidence.
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