Kia Weatherspoon, President of Determined by Design
Kia Weatherspoon’s path to interior design was unplanned. Shortly after 9-11, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, she was deployed to the Middle East. In a shared space with fifteen other women, Kia needed a sanctuary — but she lacked privacy and a sense of comfort. So when military supply issued troops sheets for their tent city living quarters, Kia didn’t put them on her cot. She took some string and attached it to the top of the tent to create three sheet walls around it. That was the first space Kia created — one not dictated by extravagant finishes and furniture. It evoked an emotional reaction and a lasting memory. When Kia left the military in 2004, she knew she wanted to create spaces. After 10 years of diverse design experience in hospitality, multi-family and high-end residential markets, Kia founded Determined by Design to create interior spaces that enable the progress of people and their neighborhoods. Driven by a commitment to establish exceptional interior design as a standard for all, rather than a luxury for few — Kia seeks out opportunities to empower those who do not have access to well-designed spaces. She believes in service-based leadership, demonstrated through active involvement with several professional organizations. Kia is known as a fixture in the district’s design community, a nationally recognized speaker and a trailblazer for design equality. (DCF: Love everything about your bio and journey!)
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KW: That’s an easy question! I love what I do because everyday I get to impact peoples environments. I get to create interior spaces that not only look good, but they show those who wouldn’t necessarily have access to interior design that they are deserving of a space that can change their lives. What’s funnier then that? (DCF: Great way to take your skill and calling and use it to make people’s lives better.)
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KW: My first mentor, that’s a tough one. I would have to say my first military superintendent in the U.S. Air Force. While his name escapes me 16 years later the lessons are still prevalent today. One, attitude reflects leadership. Two, attention detail matters on even the smallest task. Third, service before self. It has to be about other first. (DCF: You can definitely see how those lessons shaped your path. You may forget their names but the lessons are what you were meant to carry forward)
DCF: What’s your happy place?
KW: My happy place, hmmmm anywhere that has some of my closest friends and family. Oh wait, and Anacostia Park first thing in the morning. (DCF: Home is where the heart is every time)
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KW: You know…I am doing what I love everyday. It doesn’t feel like work, so I don’t need to recharge. I’m just motivated by constant growth and seeing progress so that gives me energy.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KW: When I figure it out I will let you know. LOL! (DCF: The struggle is real girl!! But yes keep working on it as we all are!)
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KW: I don’t feel like I have sacrificed anything meaningful. I think I know my journey is bigger than me, so everything feels like its a part of the plan or road to success.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
Man:”Have you ever thought about having a man represent you on initial business meetings?”
Man: “You’re so young and pretty people probably don’t take you as seriously.”
This is one of many examples. I just choose everyday to not let my femininity be diminished by anyone. My greatest strength is that I am a black woman in business for myself. (DCF: Wow I mean I know it happens, it’s happened to me, but it’s still shocking to me!)
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KW: I’m a pretty good listener, so there isn’t one thing that I wish I would’ve listened to. I think I know ultimately I need to make decisions for myself. I had a prominent magazine editor tell me I was starting my business too prematurely, and I should go back and work for a firm for five years. If I didn’t know myself I would have listen to her.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KW: I don’t know if I believe in great failures. I think failure stops your from making progress. Nothing, has ever stop me from progressing.
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KW: My proudest moment, was when a domestic violence survivor told me “When I walked into this room I realized change was possible for me,” in reaction to a space I designed.
DCF: So what’s next??
KW: On the design table we have a 131 room hotel, 2 affordable housing projects in Baltimore, MD, and 1 new hire! (DCF: That is AMAZING!! Get it girl!!)
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