Barbara Viteri, the CEO and founder of Viteri Style Management, a consulting firm that provides business management solutions for small interior design firms, comes from humble roots that you would not think would lead to her developing a successful business in the design industry. However, it did. I had the chance to sit with Viteri recently where she shared the story of her success and hustle along with essential tips for anyone on the entrepreneurial journey.
Fake It Until You Make It
Born in Brooklyn, Viteri grew up in the Marcy Housing Projects where the interior decor was the last thing on her family’s mind. “My poor departed mother, she had bad taste,” she explains, describing her childhood home as having plastic on the sofa and a picture of the Last Supper on the wall.
Viteri’s eyes were opened up to the world of fashion and design when she began working for a high-end antique retailer in New York that catered exclusively to the top interior designers. She shares, “It did not matter if you were Madonna, you were not getting into this store without a designer.”
Coming from humble roots and being around so much luxury is what put a drive inside her. She explains, “You kind of want to be part of the club, even if you know in some way it is going to take a lot of faking it until you can make it. However, faking it until you make it is not about telling a lie; it is about better positioning yourself to project the person you want people to see so that they see the value what you already have.”
When There’s No Door to Knock On, Make a Door
Viteri spent 20 years working as a business manager for design professionals before she finally made the decision to go out on her own, creating Viteri Style Management. It was her chance to take the knowledge and experience she developed over the years to develop a product that was needed in the industry. Additionally, it gave her the opportunity to finally get the respect she felt she deserved and wasn’t receiving from the designer she was working for.
After successfully growing her core business, Viteri launched Designerlebrity™ - an online show focused on interviewing celebrity interior designers. The show was picked up immediately by The Design Network. After one year on the air, Viteri wanted to bring Designerlebrity to the editorial world, but nobody seemed to understand her vision within the design industry. Despite rejection after rejection, Viteri stuck to her guns and stayed on brand.
So Viteri went in a different direction. She approached the publisher of a woman’s lifestyle magazine that had no connection to the interior design world, and it ended up being the perfect move. Viteri explains, “a lot of entrepreneurs want to stay on brand, but find that there are few opportunities to do so. At some point, you have to walk up to opportunities door, and you don’t knock - you just kick that bitch in, smile, and introduce yourself. ” says Viteri.
Trust Your Gut
Viteri explains that she owes much of her success to trusting her gut instincts and being her authentic self. “You may not be able to pinpoint why you do not like somebody or why you are drawn to a certain energy, and you can rack your brain trying to figure it out, but being in a place of just trusting your gut is essential.”
Viteri trusts her gut in a variety of different ways. She says that she likes to collect inspirational quotes from other entrepreneurs that can help her reconnect to that drive to be her authentic self. She is humbled by the fact that even superstars like Mark Cuban had to start somewhere and didn’t have all the answers when he was starting out. “Every entrepreneur has been in the same position that you have; they did not start with all the answers.”
The best place to apply your gut instincts, Viteri explains, is when it comes to people and relationships. Other aspects of the business have figures and statistics that can guide your decision-making, but when it comes to a healthy business partnership you can only trust your gut.