What Level is Your Design Business?

Susan Wintersteen: Interior design firm standards in a nonprofit passion project

Episode 717 of A Well-Designed Business®
717: Susan Wintersteen: Interior design firm standards in a nonprofit passion project

Today with Susan Wintersteen

Welcome to a Well-Designed Business. Susan Wintersteen, one of my first-year podcast guests, is back on A Well-Designed Business, to share tips on business growth and the importance of a mastermind community to get to the next step. As a business owner rock star, Susan has mastered the art of hiring people who create a positive workplace and support the functions of the business as a whole.

Listen in to learn how you can use elements of Susan’s hiring processes to level up your own business – using the predictive index, strong interviews, and detailed skill sets to get good, competent people in the right roles. Susan has applied these same hiring standards to her Savvy Giving by Design nonprofit, which is looking to raise $50,000 this year to support room makeovers for children in medical crises.

Pick it apart:

[8:46] Susan explains how some employees can divert energy from growing the business, and how important it is to find efficient people who are happy to work in that job.

[13:00] Are you hiring exceptional people, or are you settling?

[18:00] Susan shares her tips on how to take suggestions and make your own decisions for how you are going to grow your business. Gather information, weigh the trustfulness of the source, and DO it!

[19:30] Join a Mastermind or get a coach to get insight from people who are succeeding in their industries at the highest level.

[20:40] Savvy Giving, an all volunteer-based foundation, explained.

[23:47] With the goal of getting into as many rooms as possible, Susan set up a “pop up designer program” to get local interior designers to volunteer and aligned with Make A Wish to maximize the outreach effort.

[27:00] Susan explains – What is Savvy Giving by Design?

[35:55] Savvy Giving by Design brings in the light and the joy to families in crisis.

[39:28] The design and function of the space is essential, and we receive support through our “Fund a Need” page to gather inventory for the room.

[43:34] Beyond the aesthetics – what do the children need to heal?

[46:50] LuAnn’s podcast is about making sure interior designers have the skills, the opportunity, to better themselves, to be a better business, and be profitable.

[47:40] Adding a nonprofit “layer” to your business, and partnering with Make A Wish for the greatest impact.

[52:13] A roadmap for success – How Susan trains volunteer interior designers for Savvy Giving wellness design standards, logistics, and processes.

[57:55] Duplicating Savvy Giving at scale.

[58:48] The same hiring principles used to find the right employees apply to running a nonprofit.

[1:00:18] Designers have so much talent to give and can make an impact on a young person.

[1:02:01] Savvy Giving raises the majority of its funds on Giving Tuesday. Looking to raise $50,000 on November 30th this year.

LuAnn and Susan Wintersteen’s Ah-Ha moments:

“I didn’t come this far to let it slip through my fingers.” – Susan Wintersteen

“I don’t need my team to know all the answers, I just need to know that they know where to look for them.” – Susan Wintersteen

“Marketing is not your problem. You need to get your team squared away so you can work in harmony.” – LuAnn Nigara

“You don’t always have to know the answer, but you have to be willing to go find the answers. And you have to be willing to search for it and ask for it. You have to use your voice and ask for it.” – LuAnn Nigara

“You have to be willing to invest in yourself.” – LuAnn Nigara

“A well-designed space can contribute to up to 30% of our healing.” – Susan Wintersteen

“Make an impact that will make them happy and healthy.” – LuAnn Nigara

“Focus on the basic needs first, then put the pretty in.” Susan Wintersteen

“When you grow and scale your business, there are going to be pivots, and it’s important to roll with reality.” – LuAnn

“Build something beyond you. Something that will have a life of its own and continue to grow and flourish and have longevity.” – Susan Wintersteen

“Go big or go home.” – Susan Wintersteen

More about Susan Wintersteen:

about susan

Susan believes in the transformative power of good design, and also, good chocolate—each day her vice is a good piece of Sees. Appreciating these special moments, whether savoring chocolate or spending time near the water with her husband of 30-plus years, her five daughters and dogs (the dogs are male—had to even the score a bit!), makes Susan a more empathic designer who is in tune with the needs of her clients and community.

In all areas of life, Susan likes to have fun and isn’t afraid to push boundaries, and that translates into her exuberant designs. She has carefully curated a team of designers for their expertise and commitment to creativity. Savvy’s work embodies the laid-back California vibe while incorporating unique, personal touches. Susan prides herself on being a straight shooter with a sharp wit, and she is fluent in the language of sarcasm. Her clients know what to expect, as she engages them closely throughout the entire creative and construction process.

about sAVVY

In 2002 Susan founded Savvy Interiors, a full-service interior design firm in San Diego specializing in luxury full service kitchens and baths, where she serves as Principal and CEO. Savvy is the only design firm in North County San Diego that holds a General Contractors license for remodeling, making the entire process a much easier, more seamless experience for her clients. From the spaces where you hide from your kids (bathroom), binge Netflix (living room), or lose your socks (laundry room), Savvy has solutions that improve the look and function of its clients’ homes.

giving back

Not only is Susan in tune with her clients’ needs, but she also uses her expertise to help her community. In 2014, Susan learned about a local teen who had been diagnosed with cancer. Moved by the story, she volunteered to make over the teen’s room into a unique, comfortable space that promotes healing. The joy this transformation brought to the teen moved Susan to found the nonprofit Savvy Giving by Design, which has expanded to a national network of interior designers helping children and their families through a medical crisis by utilizing the power of design and creating rooms to heal.

Connect with Susan Wintersteen:





In honor of children in medical crisis, and as a way to give thanks for our own health, our families, and our successful businesses, please think about contributing to Savvy Giving by Design this Giving Tuesday. If you are listening in real time, that date is Tuesday Nov 30. If you are listening in the future any day can be “giving Tuesday”. If you are moved by Susan and her work, reach out, donate and possibly consider running a pop-up Savvy Giving room for a deserving child in your community.  To fill out an inquiry form go to SavvyGivingbyDesign.org or message Susan Wintersteen on Instagram.

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What Level is Your Design Business?