An exclusive series by Carolyn Grisold that profiles female entrepreneurs in Toronto.
Business Name: Hilary Farr Design Company
Owner: Hilary Farr
Type of establishment: Interior Design
Hours of operation: By appointment only
How did you start your business?
I started in L.A. quite by accident, really. When I moved to T.O. from L.A., I started flipping homes and staging them for sale. That led to a client base of purchasers and people who had seen my work asking me to reproduce the ‘look’ for them.
Why is it important for small business to take an active role in their community?
Individuality is what makes a community thrive. A business needs the support of that community, and that community needs to know the support is returned thus creating a bond of trust and support to preserve the unique qualities that has drawn us to that particular area of the city.
How has your design business kept up with community changes in Toronto?
It has been easy for me since I am now a well-known personality. As a result I have a connection with every demographic imaginable. My business is to beautify homes and make families happy. That will never be subject to change.
When did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I never worked full time for anyone or any company and so I never had to work with someone else’s agenda or constraints. The downside is I have never had a regular paycheck, or regular working hours. Upside is, I can choose who I work with and when I work which is pretty cool!
Do you have business partners?
I have a partner in life who is also my business partner with my private clientele, taking care of the construction side of things.
How do you balance work-life?
That is becoming increasingly difficult! I have the discipline to turn off the phones and switch off that part of my brain to make time for myself and be fully present when I am with friends and loved ones no matter how high the pile of paperwork is on my desk. I have to remind myself that the world will not actually stop!
Can (or should) entrepreneurs separate the two?
I don’t believe that you can’t [separate work and life] to achieve success. It would be so unhealthy if it were true. Not wanting to is another thing. Finding your passion and turning that into a successful company is hugely satisfying and fulfills a big part of defining who you are; but to believe that will sustain you personally is a mistake. I believe that to thrive and continue to innovate in whatever field you choose, you must separate life and work to be whole and able to grow and thrive for the long haul. No matter how driven and successful in your business you may be, having one’s identity so wrapped up in what you do rather than who you are, will not be as satisfying as feeding your mind and soul as separate entities.
What kind of challenges did you face when you first opened?
Being a woman in a tough world. In 1994 not many women were on building sites, telling all male trades what to do! It was not an easy feat to work with banks at that time either. But I still work with lots of the original trades and am still a customer of TD Bank. Mutual respect won the day!
What do you wish you knew when you first started out?
I wish I had known more about bookkeeping!
What have you learned that has been the most surprising?
Not to trust too much and to listen to my instincts, which are almost always right, to walk away from a project if it doesn’t feel right no matter how seductive it is.
Is there an area of new growth that you’ve recently implemented or are planning to in the near future?
I am planning a line of products. It’s exciting, but a slow and laborious process and I am taking a cautious approach. I am learning how different markets must inform my aesthetic but still stay true to certain core requirements I insist on.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love that I can maintain my independence.
Could you imagine being anything else?
I can imagine being many things; my mind is restless. But, I imagine I will be doing some form of design for many, many years to come. Would be great to end up on a beach somewhere though.
Carolyn Grisold is a contributing writer to various print and online publications (Post City Magazines, Toronto.com, Gallery Magazine, Argyle Magazine). Follow Carolyn on Twitter @CityandCharm. To suggest a female entrepreneur, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.