We had the good fortune of connecting with Clancy Simon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clancy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My degree was in Construction Management and back in 2002 our department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was only 10% female. It was a big change going from an all-female high school to an almost all-male college environment, but it was very supportive and fun! Both of my parents were entrepreneurs so I thought I might be one day too, but I wanted experience in the industry first and my plan was to wait at least ten years before venturing out on my own. I learned a great deal about project management working for a construction company for nine years and during that time I also got to collaborate with Architects and Interior Designers. Long hours and high pressure ultimately pushed me to seek better work-life balance and so, one year short of my ten-year plan, I founded Simon Projects. Interior design is a referral-oriented business, and thankfully the referrals have been steady since the inception of my business starting with my first Client, my former boss. My advice for starting a business doing something that you think you are talented at, but don’t have a lot of experience with, is to just start spreading the word. When anyone asked me what I had been up to lately, my response was “I’m doing interior design for homes now!”. I had one Client and no portfolio but saying that over and over gave me and my potential Clients confidence that I was ready and eager to do the job. The reactions of people I told was “That’s great because we need help with XYZ on our house!” The timing was perfect because most of my friends were in their early thirties buying their first homes, and those friends were some of my initial (and repeat) Clients. There is a huge demand for Interior Designers, even during a pandemic. Covid-19 has done nothing but boost the demand, since people are spending all of their time at home and can spend money renovating that they would previously have spent on dining, entertainment, and travel. If you have ever been intrigued about being a designer and you are out of work or work is slow, now might be a good time to try it!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
With the motto “Breathing new life into old homes”, I get so excited to work with new Clients (or on new projects for existing Clients) because I have a vision for every home and want to help each one reach its potential! My “New Traditional” style seems to resonate with people looking for a classically current and inviting home. I named my firm Simon Projects because I focus on the project as a whole, not just the design. I have heard endless stories about home renovations gone awry, that the budgets and schedules get thrown out the window and all parties involved are left with bitter memories. I wanted to provide a service that would bridge the gap between Homeowners and Contractors, so that they were both happy with the process and the end result. My experience with construction management allows me to understand what a Contractor needs to work through details and stay on schedule, and to help Homeowners make educated decisions to maximize value. Since I already had nine years of experience with large commercial construction projects, it wasn’t intimidating to start working on home renovations right out of the gate. Over the past four years though, the renovations have grown from small kitchens and bathrooms to entire houses and major additions. The fundamentals are the same for small and large projects, but the difference as you work your way up in project size and scale is complexity of the details, which are very difficult to get right without the help of a professional. The foundation for a successful project is for the Homeowner and Interior Designer to be on the same page about a realistic budget and schedule, and an aligned vision for the style of the home. The most difficult challenge I’ve had has been keeping up with demand and the growing pains that come with an influx of amazing Clients and projects. You can get maxed out faster than you anticipate when you are a one woman show. I have hired an architectural drafter who does my construction drawings in-house and I am planning to do more hiring, so big things are on the horizon for Simon Projects!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The West side of Los Angeles gets a lot of love, but I’m especially fond of the East side. I’d suggest a day in Los Feliz, starting with morning coffee and a bite at the outdoorsy Trails Café. From there you can hike up to The Observatory and take in sweeping views of LA. Hike down the opposite side of the mountain and you will end up at Messhall Kitchen, where I recommend the Tuna Tartare, Crispy Chicken Sando, and Brown Derby cocktail. Then in the evening, you’d definitely want to catch a show under the stars at the intimate Greek Theatre. For a nightcap, try the infamous Dresden lounge or Covell Wine Bar. Head over to Pasadena to visit my happy place, the Huntington Gardens. I could spend all day walking through the gardens and the beautiful surrounding neighborhoods looking at houses (don’t forget to sneak a peek of the Father of the Bride house on El Molino Avenue). For tacos and margaritas I love Mercado, for cocktails The Raymond, and for beers and shuffleboard Blind Donkey. I’d spend a few days in Malibu, using the Surfrider, Malibu Beach Inn, or Calamigos Ranch as a home base. Eat at Malibu Farm on the pier for brunch and walk or relax on the beach. Later take a drive down PCH and up through the hills and listen to music while wine tasting at Malibu Wines. Since bars and live music are sadly not options during Covid, you can stay at an Airbnb so you have it all to yourself, and take advantage of the warm LA weather, swimming, walking, hiking, drives, and views! We all have to make the best of it until we get through this, and we will get through it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I inherited my taste, creativity, and ambition from my mom who was a sales rep for giftware products like candles and picture frames and has a great eye for design. We talk on the phone several times a day and I value her advice and approval more than anything else. My dad is a real estate broker and my parents built or remodeled all of the houses I lived in growing up (four different houses). They have also started successful second careers as house flippers. My dad taught me how to problem-solve, use tools (it’s very important to him to always use the right tool for the job!), and consider all of the implications of a decision. I also truly appreciate my sister’s wit and determination and my boyfriend’s playful spirit and devotion. My support network runs deeps, from my wonderful girlfriends and Clients, to the Interior Designers I have come to know and rely on through the Pasadena Showcase House and Design Camp. I attribute much of my success to the experience I gained at Pankow Builders, where I established deep-rooted relationships with many of my coworkers. Last but not least, my favorite source of inspiration is Nancy Meyers’ cozy and timeless movie set interiors.
Allison Maginn Studio, Madeline Harper Interior Photography, and Amy Bartlam