4 Tips from Urbanology Founder, Ginger Curtis
How do you prepare to meet a celebrity? Even an ‘industry-specific celebrity’?
[That’s a term I learned from David, the husband of the inimitable Lauren Liess. They arrived here at Chartreuse with their beautiful family to do a book signing a few years ago, and the entire barn erupted. I asked David if this happened everywhere they went. “No,” he demurred, “Lauren’s an industry-specific celebrity. At places like this, absolutely. At the grocery store, nobody knows who she is.” ]
Industry-specific or not, I was WAY more excited to meet Ginger Curtis, of Urbanology Designs fame, than I would ever be to meet any Kardashian. But that’s just me.
Until last week, I’d never met Ginger Curtis, founder and driving force behind Urbanology Designs, the refreshingly original and inspiring Texas-based design phenom. And, while I’d heard of her business, I wasn’t sure what we were going to hear from her…
The whole event was fun and loaded with goodies for the design-nerd in me:
to-the-trade vendors of carpeting, fabrics, window treatments, custom floors, lighting, and furniture. I just couldn’t thank Shoshanna enough for bringing all this wonderfulness literally into my back yard. The possibilities become endless – a handwoven, floral-print, wool rug sample took me directly to visions of a glass-encased room, with it on the vintage-wood floors, and filled with white-upholstered, yummy sofas, raw-wood tables, and a spectacular, oversized pendant light topping it all. Yes, my mind works like that – in just a split second I see if fully realized. (I think I do have ADHD.)
Those of you who are design professionals see this and work this way every day. But for someone like me who does occasional decorating and staging work (and would not call myself a designer) it was a real treat.
So immediately the day was off to an inspiring start.
Ginger arrived, gamely navigating our gravel courtyard in spike heels. (I later realized, she’s even shorter than I am – those heels were a necessity if she was to be seen in the crowd!) Her energy, focus, and charm came across immediately. And I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to say – would it be about decorating trends, a discussion of the most important spaces in a home, the best way to get from the nebulous vision to the concrete finished space?
It was none of these things.
In fact, she spoke very little about actual decorating, but rather focused on a philosophy and attitude which inform vision, taste, and decision making. And she spoke about business.
These are just a few of her inspiring words – the business-specific insights must wait til another post.
1. No Good Comes from Your Comfort Zone
Specifically, Ginger learned as a small child, what hunger and need were. She also learned first-hand from her dad that being in such a situation, doesn’t mean that you have to stay there. He worked non-stop, trying and failing, and trying again, until he hit upon genuine success for himself and his family.
While you may not be living in a situation of deprivation and desperation, many of us live in a situation of pain and unhappiness. These can become our comfort zones. It’s where we are. And it wears on you; the weight making it tough to gather the energy, much less the inspiration, to change. Fear of failure. Fear of something different from where we are and what we know. These are the things that hold us back. And while comfort zone sounds very, well, comforting. It is NOT healthy. And ultimately not comfortable.
2. Making a Difference
Ginger’s own professional journey came from a powerful inspiration. While spending time in the children’s hospital, where her daughter was undergoing treatment for leukemia, Ginger was struck by how uplifting and happy the hospital surroundings were. We’ve all been to hospitals, and know that, for the most part, they are anything but that. So it hit her with a bang when she realized that someone had thoughtfully considered the spaces, and designed them with the pediatric cancer patients in mind, and their families. Designing the space to make it a pleasure for those who would use it. It was one of those light-bulb moments for Ginger: Seeing a need and realizing, “I could make a difference.”
3. Battle Against Fear
Inspiration aside, Ginger relates, “I was the last person to believe in myself.”
How often have you been inspired, thought about something you could do, a need you could fill? But then that little voice in the back of your head says things like, “If it were that simple, it would be done already,” or “Be practical; how would you ever accomplish that?” That little voice is Fear. And, according to Ginger, “Fear usually means there’s something great on the other side.”
Conquering Fear is tough. Most people listen to that hesitant voice in their heads. But, says Ginger, “the difference between being successful and not is people willing to do what others aren’t willing to do.”
Whether you’re learning to ride a bike, or start a business, “the first step is the highest.” After that, each one gets a little less steep, until it becomes a routine and part of who you are. Fear, itself, is dissolved by each successive step. And your courage becomes your dominant voice.
4. Be Open to Inspiration
When asked what first inspired her design sense, Ginger didn’t hesitate:
“California’s natural beauty. What is more authentic than nature?” Just think of what it must have been like for young Ginger to leave the concrete streets and buildings of her impoverished early childhood, only to arrive in the verdant beauty of Northern California. I can only imagine her sense of awe and new beginnings. Moving to California with her family, seeing and feeling the beauty that is nature, blew her away, instilling in young Ginger an understanding of the importance of authentic beauty in one’s life.
Ginger continued with insights into building a business and keys to being successful as a designer. While those topics are fascinating, too, I’ll leave you with these tidbits of broader inspiration, and ask you to ponder:
- What awed you as a child?
- What is your ‘Fear’ voice telling you not to do?
- How comfortable are you really in ‘your comfort zone’?
Thanks for reading,