I am not sure how I met Leila of Douglah Designs, but it was years ago and certainly left an impression on me. I remember being inspired by the strong and capable way she communicates, her sense of self, and her clear, deep knowledge of the design and building industries. We have worked together on many projects, referred each other to others, had many laughs, and traded loads of war stories about our business and all it entails. When I learned that Leila is not only a very talented designer and a total boss babe, but also a general contractor, well, the girl crush was in full swing! I was recently able to slow her down long enough to ask her a few questions about her firm and work. Below is a bit of what we covered. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed talking with her.
HCD: Tell me a little about yourself and how you started your design-build firm Douglah Designs. At what point did you decide that you wanted to add in having the showroom, Luxe Home?
Leila: I received my degree in Architecture from the University of Baghdad (yes, Baghdad, Iraq). Shortly after graduation, I decided to immigrate to the United States – and after two weeks of moving from State to State, City to City, I settled in Lafayette, CA; how lucky am I! I started my career as a kitchen and bath designer at Simon Home Center, a small independent Home Center in Walnut Creek that has since gone out of business. After gaining the experience I needed, I took a leap of faith and decided to open my own business in the summer of 1997, and that was the start of Douglah Designs. My company has changed over the years, but the most significant change happened when I decided to move from a design business to a design-build business model. This meant that I needed to obtain my contractor's license, so I buckled down, studied hard for the exam, and became a licensed contractor in 2011. It has been one of the best business decisions I have made.
HCD: What is a typical day like for you?
Leila: Busy!! I wear a lot of hats. In addition to working directly with numerous clients, I also manage a staff of over 20 and oversee all our marketing and vendor relationships.
HCD: What is your favorite part of your job?
Leila: Hands down, the creative part! I love working directly with clients and assisting in bringing their vision to life. There is nothing more satisfying than walking into the client's home at the end of a project and seeing the smile on their face from ear to ear. I have even had clients cry with joy – it just makes my heart dance. With that said, I also understand the importance of being a savvy business person. I thrive on working on my business, evaluating current design trends, economic climate, competition, responding accordingly, and making any changes necessary. I believe that change is inevitable with any company and the key to success!
HCD: I think you mentioned that you have a General Contractor's license? How is that helpful in your work?
Leila: It is core to how we are operating. As I mentioned above, I gained my contractor's license in 2011. I was tired of most contractors being consistently inconsistent, so I decided to bring everything in-house. I am blessed with an amazing construction crew. They truly do excellent work. I like to refer to my construction workers as Craftsman, which truly represents what they do – fine craftsmanship!
HCD: Tell me a funny story about a client that made you pause
Leila: I can't think about a funny story, but I would like to point out that I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic clients over the years, some of which are still close friends to this date. I feel that I work in a field that feels privileged at times, and I don't take that for granted. I have had the opportunity to work on some outstanding homes and projects over the years, allowing me to showcase my skill set as a designer and turn my artistic talents into reality – not something I take lightly. I am truly grateful!
HCD: Tell me something about yourself that those who know you would be surprised to find out?
Leila: Most of those close to me in my professional world are surprised to learn that I didn't grow up in this country. I lived in Ife, Nigeria, for three years when I was a very young child, and then lived in Baghdad, Iraq, for 16 years from age 8 to 24. I speak, read and write Arabic fluently.
HCD: What is your vision for the future of your firm?
Leila: I have enjoyed growing my business for close to 24 years and hope to continue expanding, developing, and honing our business model. I am also thoroughly enjoying mentoring my younger staff. The millennial group is tech-savvy; couple that with technical, trade-specific training, and watch out! I can't wait for the next generation to take over and expand the business even further than I have taken it.
Thank you Leila!
Website : douglahdesigns.com
Instagram : @douglahdesings
Until next time,