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Family Balance Appeals to Interior Designer

Shalena Smith Interior Design was established in 2015 as a follow-up to Smith’s first design firm, GaGa Designs. Through her businesses, Smith’s expertise ranges from residential and commercial design to childrens’ room design and baby concierge services. The business is based in Porter Ranch but serves clients nationwide.  

What inspired you to start your business?   

When my love for interior design first grew, which was when I was younger, I worked at a retail store that specialized in baby and kids’ furniture. I’ve always had a heart for people, so when I mixed design with helping expectant parents prepare for the arrival of their baby, I never looked back. In 2001 after the birth of my first daughter, I opened my design firm called GaGa Designs, which specializes in baby and kids’ rooms interior design and baby concierge. Later I established my current company Shalena Smith Interiors in 2015, which focuses on residential and commercial design.  

Do you like being your own boss? Do you ever think about trading it for a steady paycheck?   

I love being my own boss. Over the years there have been times where I did consider trading it for a steady paycheck, but my heart never let me. I would never want to give up the freedom and creativity I have with being my own boss.

What’s the best aspect of running your own business?   

Being able to create my own schedule. My family means the world to me, and I never take it for granted that by running my own business, I get to put the priority of being a wife and a mother to our two daughters first in my life. Working for myself has allowed me to show up for my family and friends when they need me. 

  

And the worst?   

Managing and running everything myself. Thankfully I’m not in that season anymore, but I remember there were times throughout my career where I’ve had to be a one-woman show, making me juggle several hats and at times it felt very overwhelming. 

  

What’s the biggest challenge your business has faced? And how did you deal with it?   

I would say my biggest challenge my business has faced was when the world shut down in 2020. I think most business owners can relate to that, too. But it was challenging not being able to fulfill orders or meet with my clients. I always try my best to work at having a positive perspective, so looking back I definitely appreciated that for the first time in 20 years, it was OK to be doing absolutely nothing but love on my family and spend quality time with them. After the stay-at-home order got lifted, it definitely got better, and I appreciate my client meetings so much more now! 

  

What’s your favorite story about running your business?   

Being able to use my gifts to give back to various organizations, communities and people. I was once on “The Real Daytime Talk Show,” and we were able to surprise an expecting couple that were experiencing hard times with a nursery of their dreams! We were also able to support a battered woman’s shelter called Genesis Center with makeovers as well. 

  

Has your race or culture affected the way you operate your business?  

Race/Culture doesn’t affect the way I operate my business because I continue to push through, and I believe that God is the one that opens and closes doors. But at the same time, it has been challenging being a Black woman in this industry. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced discrimination, and, in some ways, it has affected the growth of my business, especially in the area of design television shows and endorsements or sponsorship opportunities. 

 Is interior design something you were mentored into or was it a relatively solo venture for you?  

Interior design was definitely a solo venture for me. I always say that I got my experience through the school of hard knocks. It has been an exciting process and it makes me even more proud to have had a successful business for over 20 years. 

 

What advice would you give someone who wanted to start their own business?  

Dream big, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to work hard! Keep shattering ceilings! 

Antonio Pequeño IV
Antonio Pequeño IV
Antonio “Tony” Pequeño IV is a reporter covering health care, finance and law for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. He specializes in reporting on some of the biggest names in the Valley’s biotechnology sector. In addition to his work with the Business Journal, Tony has reported with BuzzFeed News on the unsupervised use of Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition technology. Tony, who also conducts freelance reporting, graduated from the USC’s Master of Science in Journalism program in 2021. He is in his fifth year as a journalist as of 2021.
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