How Relationships Launched My Business

Today’s post is a topic that is very personal, yet so important to me, not only as a person, but also as someone with a small business. Curating those close business relationships, are crucial to the longevity and success to any business. I wanted to share with you the beginning of my journey.

What feels like a life time ago, almost seven years anyway, I started my business. At the time Instagram wasn’t what it is today, and I was absolutely clueless about using Facebook for marketing. I’m from that middle generation that grew up before social media, but also played Oregon Train at school.

When I launched my business, originally SAS studio, I had two local Seattle designers that I contracted for. After a move to Dallas, and realizing that I could still provide services remotely, that little light bulb went on. I could do this for any designer located anywhere. Technology is amazing, and I would have never dreamed as a kid that I would be making a living from home using my degree.

With my new idea, I did the only thing that was familiar at the time, I cold emailed every contact for a designer I could find offering my services. Within a couple of months I had five designers who were interested in services.


Through the first few months of working with these designers, what I like to call the courting period, is when all the kinks of working with someone remotely get worked out. It’s a huge change in process for many designers to start delegating work, let alone to someone they’ve never met.

A year in, and I had enough work to actually make a salary. This is where working with a VDA for an extended period of time becomes almost second nature. Over those first few months, I was able to really get to know each designer and their style. This is truly the sweet spot for this kind of working relationship. I developed a short hand unique to each designer, and was able to work on their project with less direction, because I already had the ability, though that courting period, to anticipate how they liked their designs laid out. When your VDA knows you that well, it’s about as close as you can get to having a duplicate of yourself.

I’m thankful every day for those designers who, went out on a limb, and started trusting some girl states away to work on their projects. At this time I hadn’t spoken on the phone or had even met any of them. Needless to say, I do have, at a minimum, an initial call with all my designers now.

So lets take a look at those first five designers…


Heidi Caillier

of Heidi Callier Design in the Seattle area, was truly instrumental at keeping me busy. I’m still not entirely sure how she does it all, but her projects all tell a story for each of her clients. Heidi has personalization down to a T, from sourcing unique vintage pieces to working out specific details in a Kitchen. I can see her work becoming an iconic look for Seattle similar to what Morris Lapidus did for Miami. Sometimes I’ll see some of her work shared on Instagram and I know it’s hers even before I see the tag. She’s inspiring designers all over.

Instagram: @heidicaillierdesign


Michelle Yorke

of Michelle Yorke Interior Design, is my Barbara Barry designer of Seattle. We recently worked on her submission to the 2019 Design House Northwest for Fred Hutch. Her space was selected for participation, and I can’t say what space it is yet, but I will tell you it’s true to her aesthetic and principals as a designer. I’m truly blessed to have been a part of her process for such an amazing charity. Michelle also has a service offering design in 90 days. I’ve done some renderings for one of those projects, and it’s nothing short of magic completing a stunningly well designed space so quickly.

Instagram: @michelleyorkedesign


Holly Karkouti

of Houseometry, a SoCal designer, was the first designer to consistently send me work. It seems like a whole other lifetime when we began our working relationship. I’ve been working with her for so long that we are now starting on second homes for some of the first clients I’ve helped her with. She has an amazing knack for detail, and almost always has a quick mock up done for any art installation to make sure it’s just right.


Andrea Wachs

of Andrea Wachs Interior design, located in Tucson, originally brought me on to help with drawings for an estate that is nothing short of a resort. That evolved into many other projects over the years ranging in size, but each one still had resort like details woven throughout. I’m convinced with every project she sends me that there isn’t a house in Tucson built with a 90 degree angle in it. Oh and that first project, she won two ASID awards for it.

Instagram: @andreawachs_interiordesign


Tiffany McKinzie

Tiffany McKinzie Interiors, was the first of many Texas designers to follow. She is the only designer to date that I’ve ever met in person, and if I had the time I’d be on my way to Dallas in March to see her again, and celebrate with her on the debut of her first private label textile and wallcovering line with Effe. I’ve probably done a million tile drawings for her, among many layouts and renderings, but her tile game is on point. I wouldn’t be surprised if tile ends up being her next endeavor.

Instagram: @tiffanymckinzie

So it’s seven years later, my business has grown. I’m still in touch with all of these designers, and still help some with projects. We cheer each other on in our success, and at times it even becomes therapeutic. They have been a wealth of knowledge, and have all been so wonderful to refer other designers to me. I couldn’t have picked a better group to launch my business with. All my loves….

Sarah Durnez2 Comments