Name: Melissa Nunes Walker, Owner/ Principle
Business Name: MKB Design & Management
Describe your business:
My business provides full-circle guidance through the remodeling and home building process. We provide planning, design, CAD and 3D drawings and project management services.
Tell us about your self-employment journey.
I like to say I came into my career “through the back door.” My undergrad degree is in Medical Sociology with a minor in music. I had trouble getting interviews in my field and ended up receiving a job offer at a recruiting firm where I interviewed.
I stayed in that field until the dot com bubble burst. I never really liked corporate, but I was always interested in design. I was the only girl in the drafting class in high school, watched This Old House on Saturdays with my mom, instead of cartoons, and would map out my room with graph paper before rearranging it.
Starting over, I took a chance and walked my resume into design/build and remodeling companies. I was shocked when they all offered me a job!
What area of your business are you most passionate about?
Great design is more than the aesthetic. Great design plays a central role in how we live, work and learn. The way our homes and cities are planned reflects our values and culture and has a significant effect on the quality of our lives.
Great design does not have to be expensive to be useful and beautiful. If we degrade use for beauty or degrade beauty for use, meaningful and impactful design is lost. I find it fascinating to follow the design trends of homes and public spaces throughout the generations. They are a time capsule of our societal priorities and values at that time.
Significant changes in how we live have been unfolding in the past few years, especially in California. The current events of 2020 are accelerating those changes. Our homes are suddenly fulfilling very different needs than we ever thought they would, and great design will respond to those needs in both practical and beautiful ways.
I am passionate about learning as much about my clients as possible, so I can craft a space for them that is elegant in both it’s practical use and it’s aesthetic appeal.
Things like light, sound and social flow are often overlooked in residential design, and there’s no good reason why. I hope to give my clients a space that’s better than they imagined with details that make their home feel like a refuge.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned early in your career that has contributed to your success?
Do not take other people’s negative behavior in business personally. Most of the time it has nothing to do with you.
How are you pivoting your business during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve taken the time to collaborate with some colleagues and refine my system and processes. It has been exhausting on top of my normal workload, but it will be worth it!
Fortunately, I was already using Zoom for remote design services, so this change didn’t impact me.
What’s a recent project that you’ve worked on that you’re really excited about?
I was hired by repeat clients to help them make some minor changes in their kitchen. By the time we were a few weeks into the project, it had become obvious that we were headed towards a full remodel. The husband loved remodeling projects; the wife hated them.
But she slowly warmed up to the idea, and by the time we finished, it was the most contemporary kitchen I had ever designed. It ended up featured in Oakland Magazine!
Are you a part of any freelancer communities? Which ones and how do they support you?
The closest thing to a freelancer community I have is the two Facebook groups for the CAD software that I use. When one of us is stuck with the software, we help each other, offer general business support, and I’ve found a few trusted colleagues I have collaborated with.
What advice would you give other self-employed people?
Research the SBA organizations in your area and use every resource they offer! I had no idea all that existed and I’m pretty sure I’ve learned everything the hard way.
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