June 25, 2024 | Spotlights

Victoria Sanchez, Victoria at Home

by

Building a Sustainable Business One Design at a Time

Victoria Sanchez has been in the home and furnishings industry for 42 years, and she’s been an entrepreneur for a good number of that time. She opened her first business at 27, and now owns Victoria At Home where she offers full design services with a showroom in Santa Fe while still traveling back to the East Coast where she still works with many of her clients. 

We sat down with Victoria to ask her about entrepreneurship, her passion for her work and how she became involved with WithIt. Read the full interview below!

Q&A

How long have you been in the home and furnishings industry and what got you started in it? 

I’ve been in the industry for 42 years. I knew I always wanted to be in this industry but I have done other things outside of owning a business. I started my first business when I was 27 and had a room in a showhouse in Alexandria, Virginia that was published by Better Home and Gardens. At that time we had a decline in the economy and having bought my first house a few years earlier, I was nervous about the financial responsibility, so I started working with a retail interior design shop a few years after that. I’ve always been associated with interior design in one way or another.

You highlighted a difference between interior decorators and designers there – can you explain more about that? 

We’ve, historically, differentiated one to the other because an interior designer has been educated, degreed and licensed. There’s title acts in many states that you cannot call yourself an interior designer without a license, and in order to get a license you have to meet certain criteria. In short, interior designers may decorate, but by definition decorators do not design. What I do as an interior designer is I go into your house and say, ‘Okay, this is a great house, but we need to take out part of this wall and redo your bathroom and expand it.’ I understand structure, electrical codes and more. This is not to say that we don’t have amazingly talented people in our industry that have perhaps found interior design as a second, or first career, and are wildly successful!

What led you to starting your own business? 

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father has had more businesses than I can count. My parents transferred in 1957 to Peru, and the weekend before they went my father bought 2-3 little townhouses to rent out before they were out of the country. I think he was 27 years old. My father’s always bought real estate, residential and later commercial as a hobby. I used to go to properties with him and I remember being so little that I was standing in the back seat of the station wagon behind my dad with my arms hanging over the front seat, and my father said, ‘Victoria, what do you want to be when you grow up, a landlord or a tenant?’ And I said I wanted to be a landlord. That really stuck with me. I knew I needed to be independent. If you work for someone else, you’re making someone else rich; if you rent a house, you’re making someone else rich. There was an opportunity for me when I submitted a proposal to a showhouse and was accepted at 27, and I knew that project would be a move toward having my own business.

Earlier you said college graduates shouldn’t think they can immediately start their own business upon graduation. Can you share more about that advice? 

I started working in the field when I was a junior in college. I worked for a company called The Second Yard. They had bolts of fabric and we would sell yardage. In our industry we have first quality fabrics and there might be seconds. When you rollerprint and it’s computerized it’s pretty perfect, but it’s sometimes slightly off. When that happens that becomes seconds, so that’s what we did, we would sell seconds. We did upholstery, draperies, all of that. So that job taught me how to do work orders, how to measure, and how to do yardage quotes. Then I worked for a commercial company for two years and learned the commercial end, which I realized wasn’t for me. I then worked for a designer for a couple of years and we did high-end custom luxury interiors. So I learned about the custom end and how you sell custom. From there I worked in the Washington Design Center and learned the wholesale side of the business. Each job I took, even though I was only there for a few years, was totally different and taught me the skills to run my own business. As a professor, that’s what I would tell students all the time. When you work at a design center, you understand your sources like the back of your hand. If I don’t understand my sources, how am I going to be able to pick a fabric for you in 10 minutes or less? It makes you very efficient, very productive. And I learned from the designer I worked for how I did not want to run my business by working with her. I think it’s imperative to have experience in different areas before you start your own company.

Each job I took, even though I was only there for a few years, was totally different and taught me the skills to run my own business.

Victoria Sanchez, Victoria at home

What is it about interior design that makes you passionate? 

I think every day is different because you have different clients. I did a project in DC in the Washington Harbor penthouse for a billionaire who collected art deco. He gutted this penthouse and every detail we did in that penthouse reflected art deco. I learned a lot, it was a totally different project for me. I also worked on a home for a woman, she was very beautiful and we decided her whole apartment should be a blush rose and ivory because she would look beautiful in that rose. We had custom furniture made, we designed everything for her and did a French look. That’s what keeps you always moving forward. These clients are challenges – how do I do a whole pink apartment without making it look tacky? One of the reasons I like residential better than commercial is because I like people, and in residential you have that one-on-one experience as opposed to commercial. That’s my personality – I like people and I’m outgoing. I think you need to be outgoing and comfortable with yourself to sell interior design. We are all salespeople, and what I sell is interior design. That’s another thing that keeps me going, the challenge. It’s not the challenge of getting the money, but the challenge is to design, present, close the sale and when they love what you’ve put together, that’s great.

How did you first learn about WithIt? 

I can’t remember exactly, but I feel like it was someone who used to come into my Alexandria, Virginia store who told me about WithIt and a meetup WithIt was having at High Point. I went to the event and recognized a number of people I already knew. It’s an organization with good people and it’s great networking. 

Why would you say WithIt is important? 

First off, I think our younger generations are not joiners, and I think it’s very important no matter what industry you’re in to be joining something. It broadens our horizons and in person networking is great. Wherever you are in life, joining something is important. I think because I’m committed to my industry as a whole and believe in the power of our industry, WithIt makes sense for me. Women can be awesome supporters of each other. Particularly younger women in the industry can get a lot from seasoned members who have been there, who can mentor you, they can connect you with the people you need to know. The connections, networking, learning and supporting – that’s what you get out of joining. And they do great things in the community, it’s not just networking. As a hispanic woman, I am aware we don’t have a very diverse industry. I work with the Diversity Advocacy Alliance in partnership with High Point Market Authority, and our mission is dedicated to making our industry more diverse. That’s something I love about WithIt: it’s a diverse organization and you can see it when you’re in the room!

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If you’re considering WithIt membership for your professional journey, find out more about WithIt’s mission here or join today.

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