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Rising Stars: Meet Tonya Olsen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tonya Olsen.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Some of my earliest memories are of decorating my bedroom when I was seven. My parents moved every three to four years when I was growing up, and my mom encouraged me to make all of the design choices for my room. I was allowed to pick the carpet, paint and furniture. I remember thinking at a young age that I wanted to be an interior designer someday and own my own business.

Fast forward 25 years and I decided to go back to school to get my master’s degree in interior design. At the time, my kids were small and there were no local universities that offered interior design courses. This was also before online classes. The closest college, Utah State University, was two hours from our home. Two to three times a week for five years, I drove back and forth to get my degree.

With my degree in hand, I worked for a small interior design showroom in our hometown. While the business wasn’t a huge success, it also wasn’t a failure. I learned a lot about what to do and more importantly, what not to do when working for a small business.

In 2017 I decided to start my own design firm. While I made all of the design decisions and met with clients, I employed my cousin to help manage the back end of the business. In 2020 I expanded from working at home to leasing my first office space and showroom. My business has continued to grow slowly and steadily with a majority of my work coming from referrals and word-of-mouth.

By the fall of 2022, I plan to expand again. I recently purchased a 4000 sf building in Heber, Utah. I now have seven employees and will open a small furniture and accessories boutique in addition to my existing design firm.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I’d like to say that I had a business plan and road map for my journey, but I did not. I have been fueled and guided by that small, initial feeling I had as a child that I wanted to be an interior designer and business owner.

Over the years, my journey has taken me down many roads. Sometimes these roads have veered me, what felt like at the time, off course. It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I can see that every experience has only served to benefit my current situation.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I have always been the artistic one in my family. My parents encouraged me at a young age to explore my talent. As long as I can remember, I was always drawing, painting, designing and creating.

As an interior designer, I specialize in high-end, new home construction. I help my clients select the exterior and interior finishes to help create a truly remarkable and unique home. I think what sets me apart is that I enjoy involving my client and having them be part of the process. I’ve heard other designers say things like, “Why did they hire me if they’re not going to do what I say.” I don’t have that mentality. I feel like the best way to get a truly individualized and personal design is to let the project evolve as we get into it. Clients are smart. They are able to go online and find lots of things they like. I encourage my clients to bring those ideas to the table. I look at my role as the facilitator. I am here to guide, direct and help flush out all of the ideas so that we can make each project unique.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
The thing that makes me happy is growing, learning and evolving. I have never been content with sitting by the sidelines. I constantly crave how to do things differently and better. I am rarely ever idle. Interior design allows me to flex my creative muscle while being a business owner challenges me to improve on my product, delivery and outcome.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Lindsay Salazar
Rebekah Westover
Courtney Tipton

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