We’re so excited to introduce our next Aspiring Woman Who Inspires, Kate Lester of Kate Lester Interiors. With over 15 years of experience, Kate has been transforming the world of luxury residential and commercial interior design in Los Angeles. Since launching her own firm in 2010, she has become an industry leader who works with clientele including professional athletes, entertainment industry insiders, and the Hollywood elite.
Please welcome Kate!
I’m Kate Lester. A 30-ish Interior designer, shopkeeper, south bay local, mom and wife. I am a total workaholic, I swear a lot, I am brutally honest, and I drink too much tequila. My company designs homes from the ground up, so we are with our clients from framing to furnishing and I love every minute of it. Our projects have been featured in House Beautiful, HGTV, CA Home and Design, Martha Stewart, Domino, and many more, so apparently other people like our work too. I am a true businesswoman at heart, and run my companies that way. Business first, design second. You can’t showcase your design talents if you don’t have a company… so it’s all about process, procedures and knowing those numbers.
How did you get into your industry? Was this always where you saw yourself?
I came from corporate America with a degree from USC in business, so obviously design was not my original path. Once day, in my corner-office, I decided that I could not imagine working day in and day out in such a ridiculously monotonous environment. I had always been creative and had a passion for design.
So… I went back to school to study interior architecture. Then I finished school, worked for other designers, and sold furniture at a retail store. I wanted to learn all facets of the industry before starting my own company. In 2011, I started my company with $500 in my guest room. I absolutely NEVER thought I would be in interior design. I loved design, sure. But as far as I was concerned- this was a profession for the wealthy wives of the world. I didn’t grow up affluent, so I wasn’t sure how I would be able get clients, or get rich (which was my real childhood goal) picking people’s wallpaper and tile?! Turns out design is a business just like everything else. Know your target market, know your margins, and know your numbers- and you’ll be profitable. I’ve known a lot of uber-talented designers who went out of business because they focused on the design and not the business. In my industry you have to do both to be successful.
From your experience, what are the three key factors or strategies for starting and establishing a brand?
- Wake up early. 2. Find a mentor 3. Have a five-year plan.
What’s an accomplishment you consider to be the most significant in your career so far?
A few months ago, one of my projects was showcased in Martha Stewart. She is the ultimate unapologetic, OG female master of design and brand building. I would skip class in college and watch her show with my roommate in the mornings, and have been obsessed with her drive since then. She built an empire out of simple everyday nuances. She’s a marketing genius, she speaks her mind, and she lives and breathes her work. It was a really cool feeling to be aligned with her in some small way.
What’s a failure that turned into a blessing?
Every. Single. Failure. Here’s how I see it. Every time we didn’t get a project, or a brand collaboration, or a TV show- it was because some other door opened that took me in another direction for a reason. No mistakes just opportunities. Keep saying it until you believe it.
Wake up at 6am. Drink coffee and check emails then get on my Peloton. Shower and head into the office. I’m usually in the office by 9am most days.
Who’s an aspiring woman who inspires you?
Erin Foster. I am obsessed with the Foster sisters. Not only are they savvy businesswomen, they are hilarious and authentic. Authenticity is key.
What’s one piece of career advice you’d give a young person looking to follow in your footsteps?
Find your niche, and what sets you apart. What can you provide to the marketplace that no one else can? What’s missing in your market? Be authentic. Once I stopped trying to be who or what I thought people wanted a designer to be/look like- and started being myself, my business skyrocketed. I am quirky, I swear too much, and I wear ripped jeans and sneakers instead of skirts and pumps. People gravitate to those who are themselves and unapologetic about it.
When you’re not killin’ it in your career, what can we find you doing?
Thinking about more ways to kill it in my career…. Seriously, I have no hobbies- but do try to get as much family time in as I can on the weekends. Also, running or Soul Cycle.