Building a Sustainable Business One Design at a Time
Abigail “Abby” Lane is the Owner of Redhead Furniture Design, a residential case goods, furniture design firm. As a lifelong entrepreneur, it was natural for Abby to start her own firm after working at a larger firm straight out of college. As early as her first job out of school, Abby knew she wanted to own her own business one day.
Throughout her career, Abby has navigated bringing confidence and commitment while also learning when to say no. She models the importance of being a well-rounded professional and person.
WithIt: What would you say the difference is between Abby, who started Redhead in 2011, and the Abby you are now? How have you grown?
Abby Lane: Experience and confidence. I now know much more about how everything works and how to roll with the punches.
I’ve always been super self-motivated, so that aspect of who I am hasn’t changed. I’ve also always been super creative and driven. All that has been unwavering.
I think because I’m a doer with an accelerated drive, maybe more than most. There was a time when I would have said yes to too many things or done too much and accepted too many opportunities. I’m always going to follow through if I’ve said I would do something, but I don’t necessarily have to do it again, you know?
But now, I’m a mom and my husband and I have other things going on in life outside of work. And I feel like I have to be a lot more selective because of that.
WithIt: What does your schedule look like while you’re working from home but also working with big brands in the furniture industry?
Abby: I’d say I run a normal workweek for the most part. The nice thing is that I have flexibility when I want to. With my son in school, I start my workday as soon as I get back from dropping him off.
I have actually, in my later years, noticed that flexibility and the ability to recharge, lay down, take a break, go for a walk, or do whatever — and not have any pressure of having someone saying, “You’re not at your desk” — is helpful. I am a driven person, and you don’t ever have to worry about me.
And guess what? I’m doing a pretty good job of it because I’m working with some really top customers and coming up with great products!
WithIt: What’s something that you wish people knew about being a woman and an entrepreneur?
Abby: Being able to make my own schedule may be the best part as a working mom.
There might be times when I have deadlines I need to hit, but I run my own schedule for the most part. If I want to be flexible over the summer and take my son to different places with me or want to take a vacation, I can.
It’s easy to get lost in what has to happen or urgently respond to the current “fires” and not think about the big picture, but somehow my brain works well that way. Being able to recognize where my attention needs to be focused and how each task needs to be executed.
For me, I’m always motivated for myself because I receive compensation for my good work. I receive those rewards a hundred percent. It’s very rewarding to work that way versus merely knowing that no matter how amazing I am or how amazing a design is that I only get a salary. That doesn’t motivate me as much.
WithIt: How do you create bridges and ladders for other women in the industry or for other young professionals in the industry when you’re working for yourself?
Abby: I actually have had a number of interns that I hired straight through WithIt. I love getting fresh ideas from young people and talking to them and seeing what they have to say because their opinions are worthwhile.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be an entrepreneur who hires full-time employees to work with me, but working with interns and giving them solid work to do at the beginning of their careers is something I do occasionally. I think it benefits both of us.
WithIt: What are the unique skills you bring to the industry?
Abby: One of my best skills is research and being able to see trends… that’s not work. I could literally be doing that for hours. I don’t get tired of that.
I have a unique ability to recall what I’ve seen visually. I’ve got quite a visual brain. When I’m in a meeting with a customer and they’re telling me about how they want [their product line] to go or what they’re envisioning, pretty quickly I can pull up images I’ve seen that might fall in line with what they were thinking. That allows me to be a dynamic designer and allows me to work as a team with my customers.
That’s the part I love — being partners with my customers and really working together.
WithIt: What would you say is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Abby: Stay diversified.
One of my mentors does exactly what I do, and I was talking about getting excited about one particular company. She said, “I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, and as best as you can work for them, but stay diversified.” It was great advice because that company went bankrupt.
Even if you get out of a company’s regular cycle, it can be hard to get back into it. So, that’s a lesson I’ll remember forever. I want to give each project my best effort, but I don’t want to put all of my time and attention into one company or project.
Abby’s career in the furniture industry is marked by never being afraid to pursue her dreams and goals. She reminds us that drive and confidence are the tools you need to achieve them and create the career you always hoped for.
We can’t wait to see how Abby’s story inspires future entrepreneurs to take lessons from early jobs and apply them to starting their own firms or businesses.