Today we’d like to introduce you to Una Malan.
Hi Una, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
When it comes to learning, am such a believer in all things being good experience (even, possibly especially, the tough times) and the benefit of hindsight when connecting the dots of how you came to be in the place you were meant to be. I always say that my “three careers” brought me to where I am now. With hindsight, I can fully understand and appreciate the reason behind the paths and experiences it took to get here. When I was much younger, I wanted to be in music management, so at age 21 I got a job at ICM in London (where I am from), thinking that it would be a good place to start and could eventually open doors to the music industry. I worked my butt off for next to no money (the starting salary was £12,000), but I was young, had a ton of energy, learnt so much and had a lot of fun too!
After five years there, I realized that I didn’t want to be in the entertainment industry and started thinking about what my true passions were. I had always loved design and, having grown up with a father who was an artist and would constantly be changing things (if my mum and I were away for a weekend, we would often arrive home to an entirely new layout), it felt natural to me to reinvent my own environments when I moved out on my own. So a friend suggested interior design. I took an evening course to see if I enjoyed it – I did. So I applied to KLC School of Design in London to study more seriously. After design school, I started taking on small projects to get experience and start building my portfolio. Personally, I would not do this over in the same way again… I think there is so much to be gained from learning from an established professional, especially how not to loose money! I’m pretty sure almost every young designer has had their “oops, I forgot to make sure the sofa would fit in the elevator and now I have to pay out of my own pocket to crane it in through the window” moment… Nonetheless, I had some wonderful and fun clients and had every intention of continuing my interior design career when I moved to Los Angeles at the end of 2007. I thought that I would develop my network and eventually build on the work I had been doing in the UK. Of course, when the crash happened in 2008, that went flying out the window, along with many other designer’s jobs and companies.
So I started looking at other possibilities and was introduced to someone at The Rug Company. That curveball opened up so many amazing opportunities and relationships within the LA design community, something I could never have anticipated when forced into switching gears like so many had to at that time. Together with my previous experiences – representing talent at ICM and then interior design – I was now drawn into the showroom space and had the chance to gain invaluable knowledge that would help to round out my “three careers” that led me to open my own showroom with the confidence to quit a very happy job, refinance my car for starting capital and open a 300 sqft office/showroom space on Melrose Avenue, back in early 2016. Five years later, we have expanded twice and are in the process of opening our first San Francisco showroom. I have the most amazing team of incredible women and am grateful every day for the varied experiences and unexpected paths that navigated my journey to where I am supposed to be.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
5+ years later, in some ways, it feels like we have grown in the most effortless way, but all of the 18 hour days in the beginning, where I could hardly see straight and getting a good night’s sleep was a lofty aspiration, would beg to differ (by the way, a good night’s sleep is still something that often eludes me!). In our third year, I invested a lot in additional space and expanding our team and didn’t experience the ROI growth in return. I was sick with anxiety the whole end of year holiday as I honestly didn’t know if we were going to make it financially. It was really close. Thankfully the following year kicked off to a great start and I could finally breathe again. I have an inability to stand still for long (my husband says that patience is not my forte) and often even get bored with the words coming out of my own mouth as I’m already thinking about something else. But I think that’s part of the drive that keeps me excited and thinking about to what we can do better, how we can be better for our clients, how we can streamline more efficiently, how and where we can grow.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I would say I’m a professional and a creative. I enjoy both sides of the business – to create and build. Our showroom specializes in beautifully made, high-end home furnishings, fabrics, lighting and accessories (for now!). I am most proud of where we are, where we are headed and my wonderful team.
What matters most to you?
There are varying answers to that question depending on what and whom it relates to! But I guess I would say honesty is an all around must have. Obviously in one’s home life, it’s imperative, but if you work for me and you screw up, own it. Fess up right away and if I know that you understand what the problem is and that you’ve learned from it, I can’t be upset for long. The worst thing is someone making excuses for a mistake they’ve made because if they won’t take responsibility, it will happen again and again.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: unamalan.com
- Instagram: unamalan
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unamalaninc