Interview with Catherine Cornelissen

Catherine is a Canadian interior designer and entrepreneur living in London. She has built a beautifully curated online boutique - The Decoralist. When I discovered her shop, I was compelled to learn more about her. Read my interview with Catherine below to learn how she got to where she is, what she uses to plan and manage her time, and what inspires her - the answer may surprise you!

What were you doing in your previous life?

Apart from doing some part time work alongside my Undergraduate and Master’s degree in a St James’s Gallery and assisting an interior designer, I have always been an entrepreneur. I launched Decoralist, my online shop when I was 21 and started working with my first residential client as an interior designer when I was 23, that’s when I completed my first renovation. What gave you the idea to start Decorlist?

Decoralist is the first business I started and I wanted to curate beautiful, unique accessories, furniture and art from craftsmen and artists around the world in one spot. Similar to fast-fashion, there is a huge market for mass produced furniture which isn’t always well made and isn’t unique. Since we’re all such unique individuals as humans, with our own stories and identities, I wanted Decoralist to be a place where customers could source the most unique items to help make their homes as unique as they are.

What spurred you to make the change?

Becoming an entrepreneur and launching Decoralist was simply something I realised I had to do at a young age, if I ever wanted to have freedom and control over my life. During my part time work in the Gallery, I actually invited my friend in to visit one day so I could show her around. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), I discovered her Dad purchased one of the mirrors — a considerable price tag — and I didn’t see any of that commission from the sale. I suppose I was upset since I was responsible for the sale, but it also gave me the confirmation I needed that I could do this for myself. I’d also started dating my current boyfriend at that time, who was already an entrepreneur, and I just loved how he could pick-up and travel when he wanted… not necessarily to take a “holiday” but simply to work remotely and experience life on his own terms. It intrigued me! Was there anything holding you back?

Absolutely nothing held me back! Tell us about some challenges you faced?

One of the major challenges was making money! Starting any business is difficult and I don’t think I was prepared for the months, and arguably years, of not seeing any significant returns. Since it was only me running the business, it required a strong mindset to say ’no’ to drinks on a Friday night to instead stay at home and work. That was probably my biggest challenge… learning to work harder and longer in my early 20s so that I could live a life of freedom in my late 20s, which I now have. It was so hard because no one understood me at the time! I felt like I had to convince others of my vision when all I needed to do was convince myself that I was on the right path and everything else would follow. Totally worth it! Advice for women who want to follow in your footsteps?

Just go for it! Understand what you’re passionate about, find a niche, learn the skills (there are so many free resources online and mentors who will guide you) and just be all in. I mentor around 60 women currently and help them become entrepreneurs, and it’s so sad when women start a business and quit after 5/6 months because they aren’t a millionaire. It takes time! It took me 3 years to see a real significant, profitable difference with Decoralist. As with anything, you must be patience but you must marry that with putting the sweat equity in. Patience is a great virtue but you must work every day consistently, even if it’s only for 30 minutes, otherwise you’ll never build the momentum required for success. Momentum is everything! Would you do anything differently?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Truthfully, there are LOADS of things I’d have done differently but everything I did to has led me to where I am today - and I wouldn’t change that for the world!

How do you set your goals?

I set my goals on a monthly basis and review them every 2-3 weeks. I always ask myself “if time and money weren’t a concern, how would I be running Decoralist, how many projects would I take on a year, what would my clients be like, who do I want to be working with” - and I visualise what I really want if there were zero limitations. Then I map out manageable steps on how to achieve those things. How do you reflect on your success? I don’t actually spend too much time thinking about the success that I have had to be honest. Not because I’m not proud of myself, but mainly because I am no where near where I want to be, and there will always be someone more successful than me. Being complacent and comfortable are two of the most dangerous states to be in, which is why I personally believe it’s dangerous to sit on success for long. What are your daily rituals that make you successful? Moving / exercising every day is critical for me! I workout 4-5 times a week for an hour and a quarter and make sure I get around 10k steps a day. Good nutrition, such as celery juice, protein shakes and my “Glow Up Shot” is key so I am fuelled properly to take on the day. I try to get the bulk of my tasks done in the morning so I can work on business development in the afternoon / evenings, plus I listen to a podcast for an hour (while walking, exercising) and/or read for 30 minutes. Some of my favourite books I’ve read a few times are Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, The 5AM Club and Relentless.

How do you manage your time? I don’t really! I know that’s probably contrary to popular belief but I avoid in-person meetings if they can be done on Zoom or a phone call, since that frees up a lot of time, and money! I suppose I am just very careful with where I invest my time because it means I have the liberty to plan my days how I want. Number one productivity hack? Don’t waste money on fancy planners or diaries — there is SO much marketing around productivity planners, templates. I simply jot down three priorities on a sticky note and work with that. Simple, efficient and cheap! Who or what has influenced you in your career? I wish I could give you some kickass women who have inspired and influenced me, but to be honest, the one thing that inspires me is my own life and what my future looks like if I work hard. There are particular designers that I admire and I’m sure subconsciously, I am inspired by them. But when it comes down to business, my dreams are the ones that truly inspire me!