Jarret Yoshida founded his Brooklyn based studio, Jarret Yoshida Interior Design, in 2002. With over twenty years of experience running his own interior design firm, Jarret has been through a learning journey that has seen him face many of the common, yet costly mistakes that plague so many interior designers.
The business of interior design involves a dizzying amount of administration with big dollars at stake, making it a steep mountain to climb. Instead of giving up, Jarret found solutions in establishing processes and implementing software that not only guides but enforces structure to operations.
Jarret also credits his team as an integral part of his studio’s success; hiring people who are not only talented, but will add to the supportive environment that enables everyone to perform to their greatest potential. We are grateful to Jarret for sharing his hard earned wisdom on how to follow one’s passion as an interior designer while building a viable business with the structure it needs to flourish.
(Image: Jarret Yoshida Interior Design)
The Journey of Discovery
Jarret knew he had a creative mind from an early age, which his parents fostered despite not coming from a financially privileged background. In the fourth grade, his mom let him redecorate his room and even other parts of their family home, allowing him to pick out wallpaper, carpet, and furniture. It was an exhilarating and formative experience that sparked a passion for design, leading Jarret to immerse himself in learning about fine and decorative art and where the two meet.
When Jarret was working at the Smithsonian, a friend asked him, “What do you really want to do?” The answer was interior design, but Jarret didn’t think it was possible. Yet, his friend insisted she believed Jarret has what it takes causing something to shift inside of him.
He says, “For once I was thinking about why I should do this when before, I only ever thought about why I shouldn’t”. At that moment, Jarret realized that the support of a friend goes a long way in helping to overcome doubt and think through difficult problems. With this principle in mind, he began a journey toward becoming an interior designer and starting his own business.
The Early Days as an Interior Designer
After diving into his interior design studies, it wasn't long before Jarret landed his first job at an interior design studio in New York City. This was the next formative experience in his path to becoming the successful business leader he is today. Working in a studio opened his eyes to the dynamics of the different parties involved in the interior design process and the many possible ways to conduct business. Working for someone else also taught Jarret a lot about his own personality and how he wanted to manage a team of his own one day.
In 2002, Jarret left his job and established his eponymous firm, Jarret Yoshida Interior Design. While it felt great to achieve what at one point seemed unattainable, Jarret was starting from scratch with no firm guide in how to create structure for his business. Interior design involves so many arduous and intertwined processes that involve spending large sums of money on your clients’ behalf. Jarret says “I've lost over $100,000 in lost billing and lost accounts receivable. That's a lot of money. People have uncollectible accounts receivable all of the time and it’s a big problem.”
When you forget to bill a client for money you’ve spent or are owed for working hours, you have to take the loss. Then learn the lessons for next time so that you’re better prepared to run your business.
How He Found Business Solutions
After considering implementing interior design software into his business operations for some time, Jarret finally got started with Design Manager. The structure Design Manager brought to Jarret’s project management and accounting processes changed his business overnight. He says,
“Design Manager enforces discipline and structure by forcing you to follow along with the flow they've created. You can't close out transactions without following the steps the systems prescribes, creating a workflow based on best practices. Suddenly you're looking at your accounts receivable every week, otherwise you can't close out.”
After losing so much money to administrative mistakes that were previously expected for any business owner, Jarret says, “I’m always evangelizing Design Manager!” Because of the improvements it made to his business operations and profits.
Jarret’s Team and Studio Environment
Jarret believes his team is a key part of his success and guides them to grow in their own careers. He actively seeks out their opinions and ideas for improvements with projects. Engaging with his staff and giving them these learning experiences helps launch them into the next step of their career. He says,
“I get my staff very involved in everything. Assistants help choose materials, they come to client meetings, they work in our Trello for project management — after two years with me, they can skip a step on the ladder when moving to their next job. I explain everything and then I have the assistant teach the intern because they engage a different part of their brain and learn it better.”
Encouraging his employees to share their ideas has allowed him to evolve his business across many functions. For example, he’s had positive feedback from his colleagues on his marketing and communications departments, and makes sure the credit goes where it’s deserved. When complimented on his studio’s engaging newsletter, Jarret explains that he hired an excellent communications director who previously worked for the Art Institute in Chicago through the Renzo Piano expansion, and he has a talented graphic designer on his staff who previously designed posters for successful movies.
Jarret’s ability to listen to his team, respect them and support them has resulted in them giving their best and in turn, supporting him in ways that help him grow both personally and professionally.
Jarret’s Best Advice to Aspiring Interior Designers
One thing is immediately clear about Jarret: he’s a great mentor. His willingness to talk about his mistakes and share how he has worked through them provides practical instruction on how to find success in the complex business of interior design.
Jarret’s first piece advice is to get a solid foundation of experience working for a competent interior designer before thinking about striking out on your own. Once you’re sure you’re ready, make bookkeeping your number one priority over everything else, or else you can lose a lot of money. He says,
“Interior designers are not good bookkeepers; don't pretend you are one. You are a designer. The first person you should hire is an excellent bookkeeper so you can focus on the area where you have your core strength. Once you start making money and have stability, then hire a designer”.
Ultimately, finding success requires having the courage to follow your passion and to ask for support. Jarret says, “Follow your truth, otherwise you can end up a really unhappy camper. I used to not be compassionate to myself. Now, there are so many things I am doing by being proactive in seeking support from my team and my friends. I make sure I'm feeling grounded”.
Aspiring interior designers and business owners can learn a lot from Jarret’s journey and compassion with his team and himself. Design Manager is a great component to finding this success and longevity, like Jarret has, in interior design.