International Women's Day: Designers Celebrate the #GrittyGracefulWomen Who Inspired Them

Mar 8, 2021by Kimberly Foerst
This year the theme for International Women's Day is "Choose to Challenge". Challenges push creation and innovation. So we’re spotlighting the women who inspired successful designers. Our featured designers and their personal inspirations have shown they have the grace and the grit to face any challenge head on. 
Share your own story of the #GrittyGracefulWomen who inspire you in the comments or on your own social media pages, and let us know how will you #ChoosetoChallenge in 2021.

9 Designers Share Their Stories of Women Who Inspired Them

Interior Designer Mary Ann BenoitJenna Gaidusek, a young entrepreneur and founder of the Edesign Tribe in August of 2018 inspired me when I started a second career in Interior Design after being away from it for 35 years. I wondered how I could possibly catch up as times had obviously changed. She showed me that instead of going backwards to catch up, I could be a trail blazer with her, breaking new ground into the future of Edesign, working with clients online anywhere in the world, using the latest technology to create stunning designs, renders and an easy shopping experiences for our clients. The experience is above and beyond any you can get from a big box store, thanks to Jenna’s training, innovative software and the supportive unique community she has built of designers worldwide.
Mary Ann Benoit – www.northernlightsstaging.comFacebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter
Interior Designer Kate DawsonThere are so many women in the world who have inspired me over the years, SO MANY!! But then there are those who not only inspire, but they mentor, they cheer you on, they support you, they challenge you, and they continue to check in on you to make sure you're being the person you were meant to be. For me, that woman is Tammi Leader Fuller. Tammi is a successful Emmy-Award winning producer who made a major career shift mid-life, because she felt called to build communities for women - which she did by creating a grown up sleep away camp called Campowerment.
The seeds of my design business started at that camp... I saw - through Tammi's story and others - that it was not too late to start a new career... and that with the love and support of other women, anything was - and is - possible!
Tammi, you continue to amaze me with your adventurous, courageous, and passionate spirit! You bring people together to live their best lives, and I will never be able to thank you enough for all you've done to push me and help me realize this dream of mine! You inspire me, and so many others every single day. And so on this International Women's Day I celebrate YOU! And I thank YOU for creating a space for women to love and celebrate women! Happy International Women's Day to one of the best there is!!! I love you, Tammi!!
Kate Dawson – | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest
Interior Designer Karen MillsSoon after launching my design career, I was recruited to host a broadcast design program called Living Large where I interviewed celebrity guests every week including Kathy Ireland, former Sports Illustrated model turned entrepreneur. As we spoke, I was immediately struck by her down to earth personality as she shared her humble beginnings of “selling a pair of socks door to door” and then home products after mentor Warren Buffet suggested she enter the home furnishings industry making her one of the 50 most successful self-made women in the U.S. according to Forbes magazine.
As our conversation continued that day and others, I also learned about Kathy’s philanthropic work - Toys for Tots, Feed the Children, National Women’s History Museum and many more charities along with her willingness to mentor youth and younger women – including tips for my own daughter, that so closely aligned with my own philosophy of giving back and spurred me on to do even more.
Karen Mills – www.karenmills.netFacebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter
Interior Designer Carla AstonI've had many women who inspired me in design and business. I had three different women bosses early in my career who helped shaped my mindset and from early on, influenced how I deal with lots of different aspects of my business.
However, probably the most influential was actually my mother-in-law, Shirley McCord. She was an art teacher by trade and did that work for many years. When she grew older, she wanted to open her own business as a decorator in her smaller Texas country town, where lots of Houston elite had second homes, out in the country. She did that for awhile and then moved back to the Houston area, in The Woodlands. We moved here too, a bit after she did, 20 years ago.
I had taken a break in my career at the time (I had worked in commercial design at high end architectural and design firms in Dallas previously) but wanted to get back to design and work in the residential sector. It had been some years since I worked and I was really intimidated by that gap. I knew a lot about design, but I didn't know how to navigate the relationships and close, personal contact of residential work. She proposed that we partner up, start small with local people we knew, and our business went from there.
At over 70 years old then, she would help me rearrange furniture in rooms, go shopping, and do cold calls. She was unflappable. :-)
She retired completely after a couple of years, but having her as a wing-woman at the beginning of that journey gave me confidence and pushed me forward to do what I wanted to do all along.
Happy International Women's Day to my MIL, the unflappable, Shirley McCord!
Carla Aston, ASID – www.CarlaAston.comFacebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter
Interior Designer Cheri ChuA lot of my inspiration comes from my Mom. She always encouraged my artistic endeavors. She taught me to be fearless, to accept challenges and believe in myself always.
Cheri Chu –
Jenny Zhu CohenWhen I was younger, I dreamed of being a fashion designer. I looked up to Vera Wang - how she built her business of course, but I really loved her wedding dresses. I think that's why our first bedding design for Lush Decor looks a lot like a wedding dress. It's my homage to Vera Wang.
Jenny Zhu Cohen – |
Designer Shinby Lee ParkI’ve always been drawn to pattern elements in textiles and am inspired by textile designers like Paule Marrot who, in the early 20th century, was a woman who not only knew how to express a spontaneous, joyful style but had an amazing range and wildly successful career.
Shinby Lee Park –
Designer Melanie KayamDonna Karan is a big design icon for me but one of my earliest inspirations was Diane Keaton’s character in Baby Boom movie. Her entrepreneurial savvy in the face of some monumental (and hysterical) challenges is what propelled me to eventually launch Hello Spud.
Melanie Kayam – www.HelloSpud.comFacebook | Instagram | Pinterest 
Rosanna AriasThere are so many great female inspirations but I’d put photographer Diane Arbus at the top of the list. Her imagery is alluring and captivating. I love how she saw beauty in the extraordinary – finding a way to normalize marginalized groups and challenging notions of acceptable subject matter.
Rosanna Arias –

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