When you have a passion, you have a passion and sometimes, it can be followed into a lucrative business. At least that’s how Dee Dee Lear came into her interior design business, Delaney’s Design, based in Frisco, TX. The name of her interior design company is a nod to her mother, who Lear says inspired her from a young age. Her mother had a natural talent for interior design, and Lear remembers the furniture and accessories in her home being changed out every couple years. “She was so gifted,” Lear says of her mother. “She loved vintage. She was collecting Fiesta [dinnerware] long before it was a thing. I learned to appreciate and understand the value of vintage from her.”
Whether it was growing up in that design-driven environment or inheriting the “God-given talent” her mother had, Lear’s passion for interior design has led her down that path too; unlike her mom, however, she has turned her design passion into a thriving business.
Lear isn’t a traditionally educated designer, she says. She spent three decades in an IT career before branching out on her own to embrace her design passion and build Delaney’s Design. While she worked in IT, her company gave her the opportunity to redesign new offices as they opened. “Besides my mom, this was probably the most significant impact on my design career,” Lear says.
As an empty nester and while still in her career, she made a financial plan to save enough money to move into her own business. That took seven years, but when she took the leap, she was ready. Lear opened Delaney’s Design within 30 days of leaving her IT career and was profitable within a year. That was 2017.
Lear has primarily been a solopreneur since she started her business. However, with a surge in demand for her services, she’s recently added someone to help her with installs and she’s outsourced the back office portion of her business. “This last year has been a pivot point. My thinking was ‘Do I keep doing this lifestyle business or make this a real business?’” Lear notes. “Having been so career-focused my entire life, I’m now full steam ahead. I’ve seen a change in my numbers this year from last year based on that mental shift.” Lear plans to continue to build, adding more support staff that could include another designer.
The Client Connection
How has Lear built her business to this point so quickly? Attention to her clients’ needs is certainly one piece of the puzzle. “I try to understand my clients,” she says. “I listen more than I talk. I learned that a long time ago in the business world.”
Seventy-five percent of her business comes from repeat clients or referrals. She also uses a marketing agency and Houzz to connect with new clients. “My ideal client looks like my lifestyle,” Lear says. “She’s typically an empty nester or getting ready to make that change.”
For new clients, Lear has a quick qualifier to learn more about that person’s demographic. “I’m not ideal for a 20-something client. I don’t think that would be fun for either of us,” she continues. “I do what I do because I enjoy it. I can have a 20-minute conversation with a client and know if they will be a good fit or not.”
While a lower budget isn’t a deal breaker for Lear, having a clear idea of what that budget is is important to her. Additionally, if one of the first three questions from the client is about her rate, she is not Lear’s ideal client. “They’ll be overly cost-conscious,” she notes. Lear takes a flat-free approach in her design business so clients know up front what the spend will be.
Lear also leans back into her mother’s design style at times. “I try to add unique things in a project, adding coziness to a space” she says. “We’ll use plants or other natural materials. A room can have a contemporary style but it’s nice to add something organic.”
If she were to put a label on her preferred style, Lear says it would be something like modern traditional or modern organic, as she frequently incorporates organic elements and natural materials. That doesn’t mean she won’t go in for a contemporary, modern or rustic vibe depending on the clients. “I have tried my hardest to avoid farmhouse though,” she says. Lear adds that she also loves to learn about different cultures and religions and incorporate the elements that resonate with her clients.
To warm up a space for reveals or photography, she often pulls from her own collections. “I will use things that perhaps resonate back to what I’ve grown up with,” she says. “I do feel my mother’s influence.”