Client Spotlight : Diana Parrish
Tell me about you!
I am an Interior Designer by trade, began my design career in retail store design. First taste of Photo studio design / styling in 1985, and became Design Manager of that studio at the age of 28. I then went on to work for 2 major furniture manufacturers in roles surrounding visual communications / advertising & marketing as Director of Advertising, Marketing Manager, and later Creative Director. This was beginning in 1995 and continued through 2006 before starting DPDP in January 2007.
I am single, and the mother of a son who is now the President of DPDP as of January 1 2022. I’m the grandmother of twin boys who look just like my son, and a lovely granddaughter who is a bright star in my life. My “baby” is a mini-poodle named BillyBo and he comes to work with me every day since he was born. You’ll see lots of photos of him on our facebook and instagram! He is with me 24/7. I am blessed with an amazing and close family, consisting of my mom, stepdad, 2 sisters and a brother. Additionally I have a big family of cousins, aunts and uncles who are such a huge support and source of friendship and fun.
How did you discover your love for design?
My love for design extends as far back as I have any memories at all.
I was interested in “decorating” as a young child. While other girls played with Barbies, I made homes for them! I always was interested in design and decorating. When I was only a young girl, my favorite past time every Sunday after church at my grandmother’s house, was to sit for hours on end designing, decorating, picking out furnishings from catalogs and magazines for every room in the house I was “doing.” My mother encouraged this and my grandmother was an interior designer. Even though she had no formal design degree, she made custom draperies, duvets, and slipcovered and reupholstered furniture for her home and for all her friends and acquaintances. She was a big influence in my life, and built her last home when she was 87. I remember her having me review her wood flooring, carpeting, and paint colors for it.
How did your career in interior design lead you to owning a successful design and photography studio in NC?
After I left a visual merchandising manager position with the Belk stores in early 1985, I landed a job as a set designer / stylist for a large and successful photo studio in Hickory NC. Back then, the furniture market was also held in Hickory at the Hickory Furniture Mart. I was in heaven….finally surrounded by furniture, accessories and endless rooms to plan, decorate, and style! In 3 years, I became design manager of that successful studio and worked directly with clients like Century Furniture, Leathercraft, Bassett, and countless others.
After that first 5 years working in studio design and studio management, I knew my “dream” was to one day have my very own studio. It was a dream I was however, afraid to set out for as I knew the overhead to do it right would be millions. My path from studio life took a turn when a client, VP of Broyhill Furniture, created a position for me as director of advertising. From here, I was hired right away by Thomasville Furniture. My concentration in marketing & visual communications was right where it should have been – on the imagery, the gorgeous set design, the beautiful photography. As the world grew more image focused and read less advertising jargon, I knew how important great imagery was to a company’s marketing efforts. This was especially highlighted over the thirteen years working for two major, well-known consumer brands in the 90’s – two of the biggest leaders in the furniture industry.
What difficulties, challenges, or even advantages have you faced being a female business owner in the Southern US?
The single largest challenge was starting a multi-million dollar business overhead with no financial partners and in January of 2007. Because what I myself, and the rest of the world could have never foreseen, was that by the fourth quarter of that year, our country would fall into a recession. This downturn only worsened and lasted the longest of any recession in our history making it the deepest recession only surpassed but the Great Depression! Here I was, serving furniture manufacturing and home building products when the two product segments hurt worse by the recession were housing and home building! Companies who had been in business for 15 to 25 years and more were going bankrupt left and right. There I sat, giant debt in one hand and a brand new business that hadn’t even a chance to get up and running before the country was hit with this. There are so many challenges…..every day and every year, to business ownership, but PARTICULARLY challenging is operating a business that is a service industry and a creative one. In a creative business, you’re only as good as your last act, only as talented as your last performance. It isn’t like running any other business.
I honestly can think of ZERO advantages to being a female. I think it’s about being the right person for the job, with the right background, the right history, and a true love of people and my craft, that I have spent my entire life honing.
Turning something you love into a successful business means you now have to wear many more hats than the ones of your original passion. How have been able to make this transition while maintaining your success?
I have been able to make this happen number one, because women are the greatest multi-taskers. Especially women who also are mothers. Number 2, because of my career with two huge furniture manufacturers, particularly my many years at Thomasville Furniture where I wore many “hats.” Even though I might be in 4 and 5 hour marketing meetings with the management of our company, – I still was running anywhere from 15 – 32 creative projects at one time. These included TV advertising, catalogs with too many product lines to mention, our own Thomasville Magazine releasing two times annually, circular programs, TV commercials, etc. etc. When you held one of those positions in middle management – you multi-tasked continually, and about 60 hours per week in order to get it all done. That was a great proving ground for me.
What unique challenges do you face leading a team of creatives in your industry, and how have you navigated those?
I think the most challenging thing is procuring the right talent to begin with. However, you then must “groom” the talent to elevate themselves and encourage and lead them to keep raising the bar on creative ability, and the end result for our clients. You’re not just grooming one talent in a business like ours. You are grooming TEAMS of talent. As any football coach would tell you, creating a TEAM that wins and is successful is not an easy task.
Lately, we have large clients coming to us wanting to essentially “rent” our amazing studio and bring in all their own individual talents. The problem with this is, I’m not in the real estate business. We are a team of talented individuals who have worked hard to perfect our procedures. By developing great procedures and work habits, we allow room for amazing creativity to take place. It takes a total TEAM to get to the finished product in our work. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. We’re very much like an ad agency in that we take a small idea and turn it in to something tangible and beautiful to help our clients sell their products. So it is very frustrating that this new breed of clientele wants to just rent the space and bring in their own talent – all of which are individuals…..not a TEAM who has consistently produced for them. With all I have put into this 58,000 sq. ft. facility…..I just always say, if you only want to rent this space, believe me, you can’t afford it. Forget about using our amazing equipment, duratrans, props, etc.
Given the taxing nature of running your own company, how do you balance yourself between your career, family and personal life?
This has been the most difficult thing to do for me. In all honesty, I have not balanced well over the years. I may have one or two good vacations every year. However, for the remainder of the time, I am averaging 50 – 60 hour work weeks consistently. It has been required, or maybe I just am fanatical. Often I feel the time I spend working is a necessity for my team to be “ready’ and on top of everything at all times. I have taken steps to find that balance as I’m not getting any younger! One of these steps included making my VP of operations president after he spent some fifteen years helping me run this machine. I am hoping that by hiring all the people I have, being that they’re great people who care, I can begin to find a better balance and take care of myself better.
Your accomplishments are an inspiration to all, especially young women looking to follow in your footsteps. Can you share some of the women who’ve motivated and inspired you in your life?
Nowadays, because of social media and programming, there are so many more women we have the opportunity to get to know, and who inspire us. So many of those that inspire me are designers. Maria Shriver has always been an inspiration to me, and Martha Stewart most definitely. We had the chance to launch Martha’s cabinetry line for Home Depot. A decade after I read her book Martha Rules, I got to meet her for this launch. My first female inspiration was my grandmother and mother. They are my oldest inspiration for being a tough woman who never gives up on her dream, and who can run a successful company through much adversity, especially in the beginning….but it began with her passion and her dreams, Coco Chanel.
What aspects do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
This has to be the fast gratification we get from the beginning of a project to the final product. It is incredibly fast compared to any other interior design or building project……it’s so gratifying. You get a few minutes to reflect, and then you’re running into the next challenging project! It’s an exhilarating chase, but exhausting all at the same time.
Why did you select Capture Integration as your equipment partner?
I was a client working with Thomasville Furniture when my suppliers of photography, TTW Photo and Viewpoint Studio, were transitioning over to digital photography. They called on Dave to set up a multi-million dollar, large scale operation. I was a guinea pig for the first Phase One H25 backs and Capture One software….and I worked with it in its “test” stages on location with TTW. I saw the difference, and loved the product. Knowing who to contact and what I wanted was my easiest decision; one I had made before I even got my loan. Dave and Capture Integration were one of my first partners in the business and one that I fully reccomend.