Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Fontaine.
Lisa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an interior designer by trade. At age 38, I have over 14 years of industry experience and have been self-employed for the last five, with the most recent 2 years as 100 percent owner and lead designer. Entrepreneurship for me, came after years of accumulating a local design portfolio and as my projects, brand and market knowledge expanded.
My journey began in 2003 and my first job in a new market & a new life as I had moved cross country from PA to AZ. I had worked at a high end furniture store in Scottsdale for three years and hit most every rung on the store’s interior design and retail ladder. My path to being a business owner started when a store manager at a Scottsdale-based custom furniture design store gave me a five months’ severance package. The store manager recognized that they could not provide the opportunities that I was clearly bound for. I say to this day, “It was the best and most honorable thing anyone has ever done for me.”
This moment gave me the freedom to take a risk, dive into interior design and the area’s growing mecca of art and housing. I signed on with a Scottsdale-based model home/new construction design company with the original title of junior designer but was promoted to senior designer and quickly transitioned into a project manager within a short time. I was one of only four employees remaining with the company (down from over 80) during the recession including the especially tough years of 2007-09.
In 2013, with an uptick in real estate and after eight years, I was ready for a shift in my career path. Long-time friend and veteran interior designer Jackie Gibson, offered me the opportunity to partner up and form an interior design firm. I gave my two weeks’ notice and never looked back. Jackie and I formed JLR Interior Designs to tackle local ventures. Our steady execution of projects led to increased referrals and diverse capabilities. In 2015, Gibson departed to pursue opportunities in outside markets while also recognizing that I was fully capable owning my own, independent firm.
At that time, I transitioned my business into Lisa Fontaine Design Studio and took 100% ownership into yet another new adventure. Entrepreneurship. Who would have thought?! Definitely not me!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Business ownership has definitely come with its highs and lows. Starting off in my first venture with friend & designer Gibson was an incredible feeling of jumping head first into a completely untapped experience. What did I know about managing a successful business?! But it wasn’t the design portion, or the networking, or the business building that was the challenge. Those areas I excelled at naturally. It was actually closing a business that became the test. When we decided to dissolve JLR Interior Design it became very clear that one should never start a business with anyone without contracts and agreements in place prior. I won’t get into the “dirty” of it all, and I still have a good friendship with my ex-business partner. But the importance of the legality in a business big or small is so important to the health of the business and the mental health of the people involved.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Lisa Fontaine Design Studio – what should we know?
My Phoenix-based firm focuses on high-end residential projects that span the valley including Central Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Cave Creek and East Mesa. The company’s portfolio also incorporates downtown commercial spaces and projects outside of the Arizona market.
My services include: New Construction, Remodels & Renovations, Space Planning & AutoCAD 2013 Drawings, Construction Supervision, Furniture & Fabric Selection, Lighting Specification, Custom Window Treatments &Tile Design
Today, my firm is trending up, looking to expand beyond original (and traditional) interior design expectations with projects in the unexpected areas more custom and locally made or sourced materials. As a small business owner myself, I do my best to support & work with other local business owners & artisans. It might be a welder, a painter/artist, a custom furniture builder, or a local boutique… I always incorporate and represent at least one local specialized trade in my projects. I love to get the client involved in the process of the craft. They appreciate getting to work closely with the artisan and start to take pride and ownership in the piece being crafted specially for them! They in return have helped put back into their community, developed new friendships and have great stories to share with their friends and families!
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Interior design is not just a career for me – it’s a passion. I love meeting interesting people and I enjoy the variety of experiences a design career provides.
I pride myself on serving the customer’s ideas and turning them into reality. Working on projects of all sizes, from complete design services for multi-million dollar houses to simply helping clients choose the perfect paint colors, is what allows me to meet each client’s demands. After completing projects, my clients often tell me I seem like both a trusted advisor and a close friend! Clients often refer to the design process as more fun than work, saying I keep their personality and comfort in mind. Continued work with my clients and their referrals are the biggest compliment and important to my success!
- Website: www.Fontaine-DS.com
- Phone: 480-262-4711
- Email: LisaF@Fontaine-DS.com
Photo Credits: Fawn DeViney