What Level is Your Design Business?

Overheard: What I Wish I Knew Then: With Kate O’Hara, Erika Ward, Jennifer Stoner, and Alex Alonso

Episode 958 of A Well-Designed Business®

Today With Kate O’Hara, Erika Ward, Jennifer Stoner, and Alex Alonso:

Today on the podcast I’m joined by Kate O’Hara, Erika Ward, Jennifer Stoner, and Alex Alonso, for the second in our new series, Overheard. We’re taking a trip down memory lane and talking about what we wish we knew then—spilling the tea on times we’ve tripped up, and sharing the qualified advice and business-savvy gleaned from those tough times. Because whether you’re a beginning, rising or seasoned designer, there are always mistakes made along the way, but, more importantly, lessons learned.

Pick It Apart:

[9:02] Alex talks about the power of saying no.

[16:56] Kate talks about why setting baseline standards is important, as opposed to creating the client expectation of going above and beyond.

[29:57] Kate shares a cautionary tale about scaling.

[40:38] Erika tells about how she learned not to spend her client’s money as if it were her own money as a luxury designer.

[44:03] Jennifer shares her origin story and how it tested not only her business, but her marriage.

[56:35] Alex explains the hard-earned lesson of assumptions—when it comes to your team and your clients.

LuAnn Nigara, Kate O’Hara, Erika Ward, Jennifer Stoner, and Alex Alonso’s Ah-Ha Moments

“If you find yourself in a position of not being able to define—if not your niche, at least your ideal client—then you might be in that pattern of the of the yes mode. And life gets a lot better, and the job gets a lot more fun, when you’re able to identify your ideal clients.” – Kate O’Hara

“When you’re giving somebody something for free, they need to know about it.” – LuAnn Nigara

“Document. Document. Document. Write everything down. And then don’t just hold on to it, but make sure you share it, or it’s in a place where it can be accessed [by your co-workers] if you’re not available.” – Alex Alonso

“If you want a business to scale, neither you nor anyone else can be irreplaceable.” – Kate O’Hara

“You will arrive, but it may be via a different mode of transportation…I think keeping that in mind, prevents you from trying to model someone else’s process and really staying true and authentic to making this business part of your lifestyle.” – Erika Ward

“What is meant to be is meant to be, and that was always meant to be part of my journey. So I can’t hide my head in the sand about it. I just have to take my lumps and move on.” – Jennifer Stoner

“The larger you let your business grow into that, the more challenging it can be, I think, to steer a change, you know, the ship keeps getting bigger, it’s a little less nimble now to turn and shift.” – Kate O’Hara

“There really is no perfect business. There are stagnant businesses. There are struggling businesses. But I think that if you have an abundance mindset—if you’re open, if you’re self reflective, if you’re proactive—then you’ll always find yourself on a path that’s going to serve you.” – Kate O’Hara

More About Kate O’Hara, Erika Ward, Jennifer Stoner, and Alex Alonso


Erika Ward

Erika Hollinshead Ward is an acclaimed and published interior and furniture designer, distinguished as the visionary behind Erika Ward Interiors—a design firm and showroom celebrated for seamlessly blending contemporary and classic aesthetics. With a passion for crafting timeless interiors and fostering lifestyle and wellness, Erika has become a sought-after figure among both discerning consumers and reputable brands. Equipped with a robust background in business and finance, coupled with over a decade of experience in the interior design realm, Erika has emerged as a trailblazer in East Coast design, extending her influence to clients nationwide. Since the establishment of Erika Ward Interiors in 2006, the firm has experienced remarkable growth, leaving a trail of satisfied clients who attest to the team’s meticulous attention to detail and client-centric approach. Impressively, more than eighty percent of Erika’s business stems from repeat clients and referrals, a testament to the enduring quality of her work. Beyond her successful design ventures, Erika collaborates closely with renowned brands such as Home Depot, High Point Market, ADAC Atlanta, S.C. Johnson and Company, and Rowe Furniture, lending her voice as a spokesperson and brand ambassador in targeted marketing campaigns. Yet, amidst her professional accomplishments, Erika finds her most fulfilling roles in her personal life—as a devoted wife to her husband, Chris, and a nurturing mother to their five children.

Kate O’Hara

CEO + Creative Director, O’Hara Interiors Kate O’Hara is the CEO + creative director for O’Hara Interiors where she pioneered the interior design firm’s expansion to national markets and international clientele. Today, O’Hara Interiors is one of the most well-known interior design studios in the country whose award-winning work has been featured on the Architectural Digest, Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens and beyond. Named one of Austin’s Social Influencers and Minnesota’s Top 32 Under 32 Marketing Professionals, Kate is a sought-after speaker on topics ranging from social media, to women in business, to online branding.

Jennifer Stoner

Jennifer Stoner is the acclaimed design leader behind her eponymous full-service firm, Jennifer Stoner Interiors, headquartered in Richmond, VA and Charleston, SC. For close to two decades, she has been applauded as the “go to” luxury designer for prominent c-suite executives, entrepreneurs, and entertainers.  From family estates to secluded weekend properties, her custom designed homes are always elegant yet approachable and personality driven. Today, her properties have captured the attention of Traditional Home, Aspire Design & Home, Forbes, and Home & Design.  A noted tastemaker, Jennifer has been celebrated for her sophisticated, personality-driven style in both fashion and home.  Today, she is often requested to speak at industry events educating fellow designers on creating signature business systems and VIP client experiences.  Jennifer has been hand-picked to be a “Best of KBIS” judge at the upcoming 2023 KBIS in Las Vegas, NV, the industry’s leading Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. Jennifer started her career path with a business degree and law degree from the University of Florida. She went on to work as a litigator in one of the country’s largest firms and became in-house legal counsel for Mayo Clinic. While she loved the analytical side of practicing law and the project management aspects, her creative side of her soul was beckoning. She now puts her business and project management background to good use by developing signature business systems which allow her team to create VIP client experiences.  Jennifer’s passion is evident in the new construction or renovation process.  She enjoys being an integral member of the client’s design-build team from the very beginning, believing that the collaborative efforts of the architect, builder and interior designer will ultimately lead to the smoothest process for her clients and the best possible finished product. Jennifer’s favorite pastime is travel and she loves to explore the globe while adding to her enviable rolodex of resources and artisans for her clients.  Most recently she was selected as one of a small group of distinguished designers from the US to attend two global design events. She traveled to Valencia, Spain on a sponsored trip by Tile of Spain, to Cevisama, the leading luxury tile and stone exhibit.  She was also included in a select group of kitchen designers to travel with the NKBA to the German Haus Fair, an international kitchen and bath showcase.  These incredible experiences are valued by Jennifer because they allow her to bring more informed and advanced offerings to her select group of clientele.

Alex Alonso

The studio team collective is led by design principal Alex alonso. a maximalist at heart, after years in media and entertainment on both coasts and travels abroad he launched a studio that embraces a global perspective and celebrates the power of storytelling through spaces. reflecting a distinct design approach that is all about the mix, the result is a bold sensibility he calls “modern Victorian.” Cuban-born Alex grew up under insanely humid Miami days.  After attending Northwestern University and working in advertising in Chicago, Alex moved to Los Angeles where he worked in entertainment for many years.  All along he perfected his craft in his true passion, design.  His travels have taken him across five continents and function as a constant source of inspiration for his designs. A voracious collector, Alex is drawn to anything with a story. Alex was recently on Bravo Tv’s hit design competition series, “Best Room Wins” where his “transitional” room design earned him a coveted spread in ElleDecor.com.  His room was judged by design maven and host, Genevieve Gorder, Elle Decor Editor-in-Chief, Whitney Robinson and design icon, Jonathan Adler.

Connect with Kate O’Hara, Erika Ward, Jennifer Stoner, and Alex Alonso

 Jennifer Stoner’s Website

Kate O’Hara’s Website

Erika Ward’s Website

Alex’s Website

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Other Shows Mentioned:

AWDB #6: Identifying Your Transferrable Skills with Erika Ward


AWDB #130: Kate O’Hara -Director of Marketing & Business Development for Martha O’Hara Interiors


AWDB #184: Amber Lewis – Important Business Tips to Run Your Interior Design Firm


AWDB #215: FaceBook Coaching Sessions- Show #1 with Kate O’Hara of Martha O’Hara Interiors


AWDB #278: Erika Ward – Master Business Skills 1st, Interior Design Skills 2nd.


AWDB #612: Jennifer Stoner: The Power of the Logic-Based Conversation in Interior Design


AWDB #820: Alex Alonso: Always Say Yes to a Client, Except When You Should Say No


AWDB #840: Jean Stoffer: Work in Harmony Through Every Season of Life


AWDB #881: Power Talk Friday: Katie McDonald: Self-Care is Key to a Thriving, Well-Designed Business


AWDB #950: Overheard: Insights on Hiring Exceptional People

What Level is Your Design Business?