As an interior designer and small business owner, it was incredibly inspiring to speak with Jeanine Hays of the popular home decor blog, AphroChic. Formerly an attorney, Jeanine initially started blogging about her interest in interior design and eventually expanded AphroChic into a well-respected product line and brand that includes fabulous wallpaper designs, as well as modern pillows and other accessories.
*The following content originally appeared on Williams-Sonoma Designer Marketplace.*
When Jeanine Hays started her blog, AphroChic, she never imagined it would turn into a full-fledged business, let alone lead to product lines and a home decorating book.
When you began blogging, you were an attorney. Do you still practice law at all?
No, I don’t anymore. I was working in San Francisco as a policy attorney and in 2010, I moved back to Philadelphia and I’ve worked on AphroChic full-time since then. It’s been an adventure!
Considering the success of AphroChic, are you surprised you didn’t go the design route originally?
Before I went to law school, I was trying to decide between that and going into interior design. I knew I really had this passion for interiors and design in general. I applied to two different schools and ended up getting into the law school of my choice, so it seemed like a practical route to take. I don’t regret it at all, because having a legal background has helped me with my business. The two converge all the time. Plus, I think having a nontraditional background has helped me as well. I like to break through the barriers or walls or things you “should” do as a designer and really go with my gut. I’m really grateful to be able to do that.
After juggling both your law career and the blog for a few years, at what point did you decide to ditch your day job and commit to AphroChic full-time?
There was a balancing act in the beginning. If you talk to lawyers, you probably know that a lot of them are creative but practicing law turns off that side of your brain and you find yourself hunkered down in facts. Design was my hobby and I never had thoughts of going into blogging full-time, but AphroChic took on a life of her own. It became bigger and bigger and I started to get freelance work with networks like HGTV and it became a part-time career for me. I would go to my job during the day and then stay up until 2 or 3 am working on the blog and freelance jobs. In 2008, I started thinking about a pillow line and my husband and I expanded AphroChic to include the lifestyle line. That’s what’s allowed us to work on AphroChic full-time. The blog is now just one component and the larger brand, focusing on modern design and culture, includes products and a book that will come out later this year.
You touched on the fact that you work with your husband, and I know that you work with your sister and brother-in-law, too. What roles does everyone play within the company?
My husband started AphroChic with me. In a lot of ways, he’s always been the silent partner because he doesn’t like the public aspect of it. But everything that is AphroChic, we began together. We both work on everything we have to do to continue building the brand. My sister was our stylist on the book my husband and I are working on. My brother-in-law is a videographer and we’ve brought him in to do the e-book portion of our book and he’s also done some freelance projects with us, like a shoot we did for HGTV. I’m very lucky to have a multi-talented family when these projects come up!
Is it hard to keep family get-togethers, like Thanksgiving, from turning into a business meeting?
My sister and I have always been interiors-minded. We were the kids who begged our parents to go to IKEA when their new catalogs came out—even when we were little! We’ve always enjoyed looking at new designs or new products, so it’s never been like a business meeting. We’re able to separate our regular lives and turn off our business when it’s time for family, but we’re all so passionate about interiors that it doesn’t feel like a takeover of our lives. It feels like a natural component of the life we’ve always had.