I have been lucky enough to know Tracy since I was a little girl. We grew up on a neighboring farm and she has most certainly been my mentor and someone I have always looked up to in the interior design world. She is beautiful inside and out, insanely talented and creative and her beautiful shop in Pietermaritzburg, Nom De Plume, really reflects that. I chatted to her about her interior business as well as how she juggles life in general being a business owner, wife, mom and most recently a granny!
How do you measure success in your business? For example is it money in the bank / happy clients / successful design / amount of followers or something else.
For me success is to never give up! Business is never easy, nor is being a mum, wife or parent. A sense of achievement for me is when I have managed to acquire job satisfaction, assist my husband to pay a bill and provide our children with a good education, loving home and strong foundation. That to me is success.
If you can do all this and keep your values and morals in place, be kind and generous to others then I feel you have achieved a lot.
Can you tell me about one of your greatest projects, not necessarily the biggest one, but one that brought you the most joy and sense of accomplishment?
One of my favourite projects was by far the hardest both physically and mentally yet it has been my greatest achievement.
I was awarded the project of sourcing, designing, decorating, arranging and coordinating all logistics to site and the installation of a 24-bed lodge in the heart of the Okavango Delta in Botswana in a time period of 6 weeks.
It was grueling and an interior design iron man for me. I did it with mere minutes to spare before guests walked in but Phew! what a feather in my cap.
When and how did you start your business? Please tell me a bit about yourself.
I started my business in 1999. As a mother of 3 young children and living on a farm the need to travel to town for schooling seemed a huge cost. The time wasted while I awaited my children’s end of day schedules varied from child to child due to their varied ages at the time. My business became a substitute combination of home and work for me during weekdays. It consequently grew as my children grew and eventually became purely a business location as it was no longer needed as a home base for my children.
Can you remember your first design project when you started your business? What was it? Can you take us back there.
Yes, I remember the job very clearly. I belonged to a garden club and one of the monthly meetings was held in my garden. A visitor to that month’s meeting found my home inspirational and asked if I could assist with the redecorating of her home. I had just completed my 3-year diploma and was ready to get going. It was an exciting process and I loved every minute of the project and I never looked back.
South Africa is such a vibrant country and we are so lucky design wise to be inspired by Africa. What are your favorite design aspects or inspirations from South African design?
My parents had immigrated from England to Rhodesia, which was part of the Commonwealth, and this ultimately had a serious impact on my style. The combination of my British heritage mixed with the rich textures and landscapes of Africa converged into my distinctive style. My biggest inspiration comes from the flora, fauna and cultural dress and handmade homeware of the African people.
How do you balance your work and personal life as a woman and the many hats we wear – being a wife / mother / business owner. How do you manage to juggle everything?
I wish I knew the answer to this question. Life is a constant juggling act and when I get one area of my life under control another one starts to spiral off course. Unfortunately, my only way of controlling this is to stop and bring it all back to basics and then kick start the process again, each time trying to improve on the areas I failed on previously.
Do you ever switch off 100% to relax? Or do you see design and inspiration everywhere?
My personality type unfortunately is all Green for Go and sadly has very few Stop signs. I eat, sleep and drink design – it is in my genetic make-up.
How many staff do you currently employ? And how do you manage your staff and inspire them?
I currently employ 4 ladies. I have been fortunate to have been given a wonderful team of ladies to assist me fulfil my vision for Tracy Kelly Design. We are a team and I feel very strongly about working as a team. They are all equally involved in my business and their opinions are invaluable.
What have been your biggest challenges along the way? And has it made you stronger and wiser? What lessons have you learnt from the challenges?
To be very honest my biggest challenges have been learning when to take people’s comments positively or negatively and how to filter them. The general public are very out-spoken, especially since social media has become a huge part of our lives. I am not sure it has made me stronger but hopefully wiser. I have had to learn to listen more and l talk less – hard for me as I am a real chatter box
What are your plans or insights for your business for the future? Do you have any goals that you want to accomplish this year? I don’t want to know specifics of your business but just what are your feelings for the future and do you have a vision / plan / goal for your business in the future?
Under the current circumstances I cannot plan a thing! I don’t think any of us can, but I am remodeling my approach, potentially offering various online options and we will take it from there. I do know one thing: I am not a quitter and this virus will not get the better of me. We will make it through this and hopefully be better people after it all.
Without giving away trade secrets, what is your favorite local shop / supplier / designer / artist / creative person? And why?
Aaah! That’s easy and it’s no trade secret. I have two and I admire them both for different reasons.
Firstly, Cecile & Boyd . They epitomize African design and interiors and they are excellent at what they do. The look is masculine and moody and I personally love that. I am not overly into frills myself and find my personal taste more masculine than feminine.
Secondly Yvonne O ‘Brien of The Private House Company. They are fresh, crisp, classic interiors that are understated and beautiful. I love Yvonne’s use of texture and I simply love the style. Not that it’s totally me, but I love it.
All images used for this blog post belong to Tracy Kelly Interiors