Trade Affiliations and Why They Matter

By Julie Schuster, President - Interior Design Society, New York City chapter


What do you do when the going gets tough? Where do you find strength, creativity and stamina when you feel like you’re running on empty? As an interior designer working in New York City, I’ve been thinking a lot about my answers to these questions of late, and I keep coming back to the groups I belong to – the colleagues and friends that have emerged from them, and the amazing work I see from the companies I do business with. No one gets involved in creative endeavors like interior design because it’s the “easiest path to make a living.” We do it out of love. Out of passion. Because we want to share our gifts by creating beauty in our living spaces and enriching the lives of our clients.

The Importance of Fellowship

When becoming a “solopreneur” in the world of design, some days get a bit lonely. Having a society like Interior Design Society here in New York City creates a unique space where we can discuss ideas with other designers and share the joys and trials of our craft. Our clients, of course, are wonderful and necessary if we are to prosper, but at the end of the day we all need to talk with like-minded individuals. Family and friends are absolutely necessary for support, but a fresh perspective from fellow designers is invaluable!

One common goal for these groups is to attract a diverse cross section of professionals that service the industry from a variety of angles. The auxiliary professionals I funnel business to have typically been sourced from networking groups where I’m also a member. Having access to a rolodex of talented and enthusiastic professionals is a real “game changer” in this industry, ensuring you deliver the best results to your clients in a timely, professional manner.

The Importance of Networking

Networking is of crucial value, regardless of your industry. As a Feng Shui practitioner, I am a firm believer in the notion that positive energy comes back to those that give off the most positive energy. In plain English: “by giving, you are given the most.” And let’s be honest, helping others and collaborating feels good! To quote Gary Vaynerchuk in his hugely successful book Jab Jab Jab Right Hook: “[t]here is no sale without the story, no knockout without the set-up. We need to be willing to give in order to receive.” Amen!

How Has This Helped My Business?

I’ve recently started attending the Interior Design Society’s National Conferences – a wonderful and rare opportunity to make new connections from across the county. These new connections have allowed me to market myself as a guest speaker at the intersection of Interior Design and Feng Shui. I even presented at this year’s National Conference in Dallas, Texas! I’ve recently been approached by a number of companies to come on board as a brand ambassador for their product lines; yet another new and exciting way to promote myself and by business; all while enjoying myself and connecting with great people! 

When potential clients check out my website or look at my business cards, they can easily see that I am an active member of the interior design community, taking advantage of all that is new and innovative in our industry, as any professional should.

Inspiration, networking, making connections and friends… What could be better!?

It might surprise you, but life as an interior designer isn’t all fabulous showrooms and cocktail parties. Some days it feels like you’re Don Quixote, all alone out there tilting at windmills. While a stroll through the park or travel to far off lands certainly does wonders to re-inspire one’s creativity, I also derive motivation from local organizations of like-minded designers. I proudly belong to several trade affiliation groups where I regularly meet and mingle with colleagues, learn more about wonderful new products and recharge my spirit.

As part of my business and personal growth, I currently work as President of the Interior Design Society (IDS – New York City chapter), am an active member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and the International Feng Shui Guild (IFSG). But why do I do this? It’s simple. Fellowship, networking and business development.