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Apr 03, 2023 By Vasia Rigou
Collective D(esign) | Future Female: Small and Mighty
Three female founders gather in conversation in the webinar’s 2023 season premiere
By Vasia Rigou Apr 03, 2023
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To kick off the 2023 season of Collective (D)esign, a much-anticipated webinar series now in its fourth year, IIDA brings small, women-led firms front and center and showcases the ways they inform, shape, and ultimately change the design world as we know it. This first episode, “The Future: Small and Mighty,” sets the tone for what the future holds—at micro, meso, and macro levels. To make this happen, founder and interior design director at Ishka Designs | IDI, Anishka Clarke, owner and creative director of Kuchar, Sarah Kuchar-Parkinson, IIDA, and founder and CEO at Studio BV, Betsy Vohs gather for a lively conversation moderated by Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, Executive Vice President and CEO at IIDA. They revisit their origin stories, discuss diversity in the design industry, and stress the importance of courage and bravery when it comes to going into business on your own.

“I would say starting my own firm was always in my brain,” says Vohs. “To me, it was about all-access instead of partial access. Design is my true passion—I love it. So I want all the doors as open as I can get them,” she adds. Primarily in pursuit of happiness, Vohs explains she was looking for a creative challenge—something that would feed her soul. And that’s exactly what her practice is all about. For Kuchar-Parkinson, the decision of starting out on her own found her at the crossroads of personal and professional. “It felt like I was swimming upstream,” she said. In need of a life change, she took a friend’s words to heart: “Start your environment—and do it your way.” That deeply resonated with her. She started planning on the side while working full-time at a large firm. About a year and a half later she made the jump. Clarke’s path is a bit different. “I come from the world of finance, and I just wasn't feeling fulfilled for a very long time,” she says, adding: “I've always been a modern dancer so I always had my foot in the creative door. It wasn’t before I started working on small decorating projects with friends and family that I realized that this was actually very exciting to me!” Off to design school, Clarke built the experience and confidence that allowed her to make a big life change. To this day, she tends to take on projects that push her forward and challenge her mentally, creatively, and physically.

Since those early days, a lot has changed for the three founders: they run impactful firms with diverse clientele, break down barriers and gender stereotypes, give back to their communities, offer practical advice, and keep inspiring others as they go. “Just make sure you're defining what your strength is. Don’t let others think what you can or cannot do,” says Vohs. Kuchar-Parkinson agrees: “Trust your gut,” she says. “Trust your vision and focus on it.” Clarke adds on: “We have been doing the work behind the scenes forever,” she says ready to take the limelight. “The spotlight is on us now!”

Listen to Collective (D)esign’s first episode of the year, Future Female: Small and Mighty below.

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