Women in Business Q&A: Jennifer Adams, Jennifer Adams Worldwide Inc

Jennifer Adams is a designer, entrepreneur, TV personality, writer and columnist. Her company Jennifer Adams Worldwide, Inc. specializes in helping families turn their houses into homes with how-to/practical solutions and aspirational products that inspire them to live their best lives possible and love the feeling of coming home.

Jennifer's story began with her parents and three siblings in a 1,000 square-foot home in a small town in Oregon. Despite her modest circumstances, Jennifer's desire to frequently redecorate her tiny room was hardly limited by budget -- her creativity and passion for decorating as well as her strong work ethic allowed Jennifer to make the most of whatever is available.

Together with her sister Erica, Jennifer grew up picking strawberries, working at a department store and cleaning houses as a teenager. Her desire to create beautiful spaces that don't cost a fortune led to the launch of her award-winning interior decorating firm, Jennifer Adams Design Group in 1999, in Portland, Oregon.

She launched her popular Jennifer Adams Home bedding products in 2009, which was picked up by Costco.

Jennifer moved her firm Jennifer Adams Worldwide to Scottsdale, Arizona in 2011. Their products expanded into additional categories including furniture, apparel, fashion bedding, cleaning products, area rugs, bath accessories, pet products scented home accessories and more.

Jennifer's TV presence began as the lead designer on HGTV's "My First Place" and she's now the design expert on Hallmark Channel's "The Better Show." Her articles and weekly newspaper column "Ask Jennifer Adams" appear in major newspapers including The San Diego Union Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Dallas Morning News. Jennifer's new book Bedrooms that Inspire Rest, Romance and Relaxation was released during February, 2014.

Jennifer believes in the power of giving back and inspiring the passion through education and opportunity for youth in need. She spent many years working with national organizations with comprehensive troubled youth programs, particularly Self Enhancement Inc., (SEI) in Portland.
Coming from humble beginnings herself, Jennifer understands the impact mentors can bring. She relates well to the kids of SEI and their families, and has committed to offering internships for students and support for SEI's entrepreneurship programs.

In addition, Jennifer Adams Worldwide recently launched an initiative to provide bedding to people in need through SEI and worldwide. She also provides office space to other charities.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Starting from the ground up, out of necessity I have had to run every single position in my company at some point during my career, which has resulted in me having higher expectations of excellence from my team. Mistakes will always happen, it is a given in any business, but what sets us apart is we always take the opportunity, to turn it into a learning experience. Excellence can come from mistakes. If you just brush past it, it is apt to happen again. I have empathy for others starting in the industry as I have been in their shoes and have dealt with the highs and lows that come with launching your own business.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as a designer?
I wouldn't say that my employer experience has necessarily shaped me as a designer, but rather learning firsthand from my mother has been more of an influence in my position as a designer. From a young age, I was involved with making things with my mom-everything from drapery, bedding, painting the walls, she even made our sofa!. As a teen, I started a housekeeping business with my sister. That was my very first entrepreurial endeavor! I think it instilled in me a greater understanding of what it takes to run a home, and the importance of a home that is well-maintained and orderly.

What have the challenges been during your tenure as a designer?
When I first began designing, I had no confidence and often was afraid to charge for my services. I think this is typical in any type of creative business. I loved what I was doing so much that I didn't think it was fair to charge. Over time, and out of necessity to keep my business alive, I learned the importance of monetizing the creative process.

Also, Design and remodeling always brings up a lot of emotion. I am frequently in family's most intimate spaces and navigating through those emotions can at times be a bit tricky!

What have the highlights been during your tenure as a designer?
In terms of highlights, emotions can be a positive aspect of the process. I rarely complete a project that doesn't leave me crying at the reveal. It is so rewarding to know I have helped play a role in creating a home that a family loves coming home to! A place for them to thrive. It's an amazing feeling. Some of my closest friendships have come from client relationships.

I'm also an extremely curious person, and always have been. In my career I am able to use my curiosity every single day! It aids in my design process. I gather inspiration everywhere I turn and then get to implement it into the homes and the products that I design.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in a creative business?
My main piece of business advice for women is to never hold back. If you have a passion and believe that you can be successful in that career path, you can make it happen. Just be prepared to work hard! If at all possible, get on the job experience in another company that specializes in something similar to your passion, even as an intern. There is no substitute for real life experience. This will make you better equipped to excel once you start your new endeavor. I also have found that having some go-to individuals who have a strong business sense, and better yet a deep understanding of your industry can be crucial to your growth. It can give you invaluable insight maneuvering through challenges and highlights.

In terms of growth, I am a strong believer in delegation. The moment you can afford to hire an employee(s) to take over the tasks that don't play to your personal strengths, do it! It will free you up to manage the more strategic pieces of your company.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I continue to find this a constant challenge and I actively work on it every day. A key part of my morning is meditation, and yoga. I find that it provides me with balance and reinforces in me what is most important. One of those things being balance! It helps ground me and better enables me to tap into my true passions and motivations for working so hard. It also helps to remind myself that I am in control of my own schedule. If I don't add in balance everyone and everything in my life suffers, too include our company. I am a very early riser, so when I am not traveling I work from home for the first few hours of my day and then go into the office. This gives me the time to focus on the most important things first and I am much more free of distractions. In my free time I love being home! Nothing is better than spending time in the backyard with my husband and our dogs. I also enjoy golf and hiking.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think one of the biggest issues that women deal with in the workplace is guilt. We naturally have that feeling that we have to do it all-have a successful career while still having dinner ready at the end of the day. Women should know that it's okay to get help in other areas of their lives, and that it is completely acceptable to not be 100%. It is important to give yourself a break at home and escape the daily grind every once in a while.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been fortunate enough to meet successful people along the way and I frequently ask those that I respect if I can "pick their brain." In general, I do not like asking someone to be a "mentor" because it can seem too time consuming to an already busy person. However, successful people love helping others, so as women we should not be afraid to reach out. Most importantly, take the time to get advice from someone you respect, and when they do talk, listen and take it to heart. Many will offer advice, and I take that for what it is worth, but when I ask for advice, I feel I owe it to the person to take action. Usually the advice I get seems scary and a bit out of my comfort zone, but doing those scary things have been what has gotten me the furthest in my career and life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Kathy Ireland and Martha Stewart. Both women have taken a vision for their company and actualized it. Both have survived seemingly unsurmountable challenges and come out better for it in the end. It is really incredible when you see where they both came from and where they are today. They are both incredibly hard working women who have done a lot for our industry.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
Mainly, I want to be able to touch more people's lives and make a difference through the power of home. Home is where it all begins. One of my goals is to help empower others to create a home for themselves that their families love coming home to without having to spend a lot of money. I came from very humble beginnings, but home was always very important. No matter what someone's economic situation happens to be, or the size of the place where they live, we all deserve to have a home where we can thrive. Making a difference in someone's life is a significant focus for me and is the essence of why I started doing this in the first place.