Real Designer: Stephanie Kraus

All this month I'm interviewing real-life designers about what it is like to run a design business.  As you'll see these ladies have all different backgrounds and experiences, but one thing they all have in common is that they have taken my course, The Golden Blueprint.  

"All we see are these beautiful pictures, but what we don’t understand is all the time and hard work it takes to get that single beautiful picture."

About Stephanie Kraus Prior to starting Stephanie Kraus Designs almost 4 years ago in Pennsylvania, Stephanie Kraus worked in advertising and publishing sales.  A self-taught designer, Stephanie works on renovations and whole house designs infusing her modern take on traditional with bold colors and patterns.

What traits or talents have made you successful? Resiliency, my work ethic, willing to learn new material and teach myself, being a risk taker.

How do you charge? By the hour on renovation projects.  On purely decorating projects I’m trying to charge a flat fee.

What has been your biggest sacrifice in running your business?Learning to run a business effectively as a solo entrepreneur while balancing family.My kids come home from school at 3, my goal is to sit with them for a few hours and then do some more work.When they’re home I should really be able to shut my business down.Hopefully having an assistant will help me balance that.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned running your business? That the interior design business in 90 percent business 10 percent design.I didn’t realize the minutia involved in the design process, every single item that needs to be sourced has 50 different things associated with it: freight, install, measuring, expediting, all the paperwork!All we see are these beautiful pictures, but what we don’t understand is all the time and hard work it takes to get that single beautiful picture.I couldn’t even list all the items it took to get there.I didn’t realize that when I started.Now when I look at interiors photos, I can see all the hard work and the blood, sweat and tears behind it. 

What does success mean to you? Creating beautiful, functional and lively spaces where families can create wonderful memories for years to come. I truly believe your home environment affects your mood, the way you feel and your outlook on life!

When you stumble how do you pick yourself up? Well, I do allow myself to feel and accept the screw up and learn from it but I also try to put it in perspective quickly to avoid sleepless nights.In every project something tends to go wrong, I take note and move on.I once did a white subway herringbone tile with a bright white grout, but the grout lost the herringbone pattern, I should have done a grey grout so the pattern would show.  

What drew you to interior design? I wanted to run my own business and I loved interiors so I took a chance and taught myself enough to get started and was willing to start at the bottom and work my way up.What drew me to it, I wanted to open my own business. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, it was something that I could jump into and I could start from scratch and build on and not have a big investment up front.I thought it was going to grow much slower than it did.I had to find mentors and have people educate me along the way to help me because it is not an easy business.My passion was interior design so I chose that area.Wanting to have a business actually came first.I didn’t realize how difficult it was to run your own business.And interior design is not an easy business to run.  When you are in the corporate world, you are business to business, in interior design you are working business to consumer.There is a lot emotions and psychology involved.It is lifestyle and environment. 

How do you wish the design industry was different? I wish there was a standard of practice for charging for our services that was more objective like by the square foot.I wish there was one database for me to source everything.It’s impossible.That would be the greatest wish list ever. 

Looking back, is there anything that you wish you could've done differently running your business? I wish I would have worked with somebody before I jumped in.I have had to put a lot of time and energy into the business side of it.I wouldn't have had such a learning curve if I had worked for somebody or alongside somebody for 6 months for free.I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t know if they would have been as open to it, if they would have known I wanted to open my own firm.

What are you most proud of? The end result of my designs which I have photographed and published on my website.A national magazine just visited a beach project I did and it should be out sometime next summer.  

What is your biggest struggle in running your business? Finding the right client who allows me to spend what I need to achieve the look that they want.  Another boring answer would accounting and taking time to analyze my business. 

Any sage advice or words of wisdom to fellow designers? Definitely to get all of your processes and procedures in place so it makes it easier on you.There are a lot of unknowns and things you can't control, so at least you’ll have control over your processes and procedures.  A framework to follow that makes running a business easier.  Secondly, as soon as you can, especially if you are newer or younger in the business, try to work with people you want to work with, meaning that you work with your ideal client, every time you don’t your stress level increases.  For example, my ideal client both people work, every time I take a stay-at-home mom I’m pulling my hair out by week 3.  Also, look for red flags, one of my red flags is someone who wants things done yesterday, even if you tell them 6-8 weeks they think don't really hear or think 'it’ll be different for me'.They may be happy with the design but they won’t be happy with the process. 

What are your goals for the next year? My goals are to 1) increase profit into my pocket 2) I have an assistant that I need to make better use of her time.

How has your business changed since The Golden Blueprint? I've learned to work on my business and not just in my business.My thought is that I will never be done with that, I will always have to work on my business. I wanted there to be an end game, but it's dynamic and constantly changing.It's about day-to-day in the trenches, trying to make your work-life balance and have a successful design at the end. 

The best way to contact Stephanie is via email at or instagram.  All photos courtesy of Stephanie Kraus.

The Golden Blueprint will launch again soon, be on the list to start your business off right.