We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark A Hermogeno and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have always stepped out of my comfort zone and have found those experiences seem to result into something happily unexpected and my business is not any different. When I found out I was HIV+ I decided I wanted to do what I felt was right for me which was quitting my full time retail management job and going back to school for interior design. That risk turned into me attending UC Berkeley Extension’s interior design program. Then while in school a teacher knew I had experience with design from my retail background and told me to work with clients directly. So I put an ad on Craigslist and I landed my first big project: a custom 3400+ SF home where I designed everything from the kitchen to dining chairs. From there I was able to get more clients and build my business. If I hadn’t taken the risk to go back to school I wouldn’t have the interior design career I have now. When my business did take off I took more risks and my work appeared in magazines and newspapers and even won a couple of design competitions. Today I would not have had it any other way. I learned without stepping out of my comfort zone nothing I have experienced or done would have happened. Life is about risks. Take them!!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I wasn’t planning to start my business when I decided to get out of retail and start design school. It all happened so fast and unexpectedly. I struggled of course with how to start my business because at the age of 28, I didn’t have any clue. Luckily my partner owned a restaurant in his previous life so he was able to help out a bit but the rest was a learning curve. I also started my business without any loans or investors, using only our own funds. At the height of business I was working on up to 10 projects at one time with a staff of 4. But all that changed when the recession hit and it hit pretty hard in the Bay Area. I had to let my staff go and it was just me with few projects, chasing clients down for payments. That was a really difficult time. Other than for my brother, we relocated back to LA because of the recession.
After moving back to Los Angeles, I realized the market was a bit different and I was going to take a job at a showroom at the Pacific Design Center until, as good timing would have it, friends from college asked if I would redesign their 3000+ square foot Craftsman home. Thankfully they hired me and since then business has been steady and great. I have a stead stream of client with all kinds and sizes of projects now.
I am most proud of how much I have accomplished over the last 17 years with little help from investors or others. I have built this business on my own with projects all over the country and with projects published in magazines, newspapers and online services. I am grateful for all the opportunities presented to me by amazing clients and I am thankful for the relationships I have built with vendors, contractors, artisans, fabricators and installers.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being an LA native I love take folks around. An itinerary for a week would be: -Sunday
Brunch/lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant SAAP Coffee Shop in Thai Town
Site seeing in Hollywood after like the Blvd and Hollywood & Highland
Farmer’s Market for shopping
Dinner at Providence
Malibu with breakfast at the Calamigos Beach Club
Shopping in Santa Monica
Dinner at Michael’s
Long Beach day trip: Queen Mary
Catalina day trip
Beverly Hills day
Brunch the “Pretty Woman hotel”
Dinner at Avra
Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for lunch
Norton Simon museum, visit Rose Bowl
Dinner at Perle in Old Town Pasadena
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not have taken the risk to go to design school and open my own business if it was not for my partner Jordan. He encouraged me to chase after my dream and he supported me throughout the years. My parents also helped me with providing funds for design school and helping me get projects and clients. My brother has also become an important part as he also helps me get projects and clients but he also professionally photographs all my projects.
Photo credits: Michael Anthony Hermogeno of 8×10 Proofs