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Do What You Love: Robin Wilson

Do What You Love: Robin Wilson

Ever dream about finding a way to do what you love for a living? In my "Do What You Love" column, I ask people who've done it to tell me their secrets. Here's hoping they inspire you to do the same.

Robin Wilson is an eco-friendly interior designer whose company has also created "Robin Wilson Home," a lifestyle brand sold on Bed Bath & Beyond's website. She is the first woman to ever have a branded line of kitchen and bath cabinetry. She is an ambassador to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, on the board of the Sustainable Furnishings Council and author of “Kennedy Green House,” (Greenleaf, 2010). Wilson tells BusinessNewsDaily in an email interview how she found a way to do what she loves and how you can, too.

BusinessNewsDaily: How did you end up doing this for a living?

Robin Wilson: I started my love of real estate as a child when following my grandfather around as he collected rents at various properties. One day, he asked me what color a few small houses should be painted, and as a 7-year-old, I said “Easter egg colors,” and he did it! He painted the trim of the houses in vibrant colors. [Going] from the coloring book to 3D reality, made me want to be involved in real estate in some way.

After working in corporate jobs after college, I grew to loathe the corporate politics, clothing and travel. When the firm I worked for held an IPO, my stock options vested and I was able to immediately choose to do what I love — so I obtained a degree from NYU in Real Estate Finance and sought the advice of a professor. He suggested that I become a project manager to learn about construction and architecture from a different angle. We grew that business quite rapidly through word of mouth. About six years later, we rebranded the firm as clients started asking us to do both design and project management — with a mandate to manage contractors to do “clean construction” methods. After O magazine did a profile [on the company], it really propelled our business to the next level.

By 2008, we were approached to consider licensing our brand as we have strong credibility in the eco-friendly lifestyle space. I became the first woman to license our brand to Holiday Kitchens — a custom cabinetry manufacturer based in Wisconsin with 50 percent women managers, and a lifetime warranty on their products because they have such high quality standards. This frameless cabinetry line is sold at independent dealers nationwide, and many celebrities have had them installed in their homes.

Today, we have five licensed product lines (cabinetry, furniture, spa, bedding and bath) which are marketed to consumers and retail partners. We continue to educate consumers and have just launched a TV “webisode” series called “Home with Robin,” which follows me as I transition from CEO to new mommy while still running my business. We recognize that our client is someone who cares about their health and who wants aesthetic beauty for their home lifestyle.

BND: What was the crucial decision you made that led you to this place in life?

R.W.: The corporation that I worked for held an IPO and I received a windfall, allowing me to do whatever I wanted. Since my goal had always been to be an entrepreneur by 30, it was an easy choice. After getting my master’s degree at night and exploring the business, the exciting thing was having a startup and building it to a multimillion business quickly.

BND: What did you want to be when you grew up?

R.W.: I wanted to be an architect, but I don’t like math that much, and I did not have a role model who could explain what an architect did, so I chose the management consulting career, and it was lucrative, but it was not creative …

BND: Why do you love your job?

R.W.: Robin Wilson Home is a company that helps people — quality products, lifestyle information and beautiful design. We love the moment when a client comes home for the first time and they are able to see their vision realized and we have a motto that we create “wellness from the foundation to the furniture.” Clients discover that they have great taste, and we discover new ways to show a client vision within their budget.

I also love the fact that we have helped generate revenue for a lot of small businesses — from our licensing partners to the custom fabricator — who otherwise would not be able to maintain their revenue during this economic recession.

BND: What's the biggest misconception about your job?

R.W.: Some people assume that I am able to tell a client what their space should be … and the reality is that it is a collaborative effort. We listen to the client when they explain how they entertain, discuss their family and learn about the lifestyle patterns. And then we make suggestions. For example, someone who has small children, who likes a white palette, would be advised to consider darker colors. But if the client insists, then we will suggest that all furniture have slipcovers.

BND: If you didn't do your job, whose job would you like to have and why?

R.W.: I love my job … and if I were not doing what I am doing as an entrepreneur, I suppose that I might be working with an entrepreneur to build a firm. Or I would be on the private equity side of the business to identify firms that are potential growth opportunities so that investors could receive a return. My joy comes from watching a brand and revenue grow.

BND: Do you think having a job you love has made you a better person in other areas of your life?

R.W.: I absolutely think that being happy in a balanced way, both personal and professional, makes one a better person overall. Also, I think that I will be a better role model to my daughter as she grows up because my belief is that one should chase a dream.

BND: What's your best career advice to other people who are trying to pursue their career dreams?

R.W.: My advice is to create a bucket list of things you want to do before your last days … and live with the motto, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

BND: What's your idea of the perfect retirement?

R.W.: The perfect retirement would be having enough money to live on and yet be a philanthropist — identifying organizations that need advisers, funding and connections and making that happen.  And I would love to still be involved in the media by doing profile stories, speaking engagements and writing articles or books. Finally, it would be my hope to remain healthy into my retirement due to the eco-healthy lifestyle we have adopted, so that I can travel and remain active.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.