Updated: Apr 23
Akilah Swan owner of AINA CURATED
In this crazy new world that we find ourselves in there is nothing more refreshing than finding a brave soul that is not afraid to take a chance on themselves and see it succeed. Please meet my guest Akilah Swan, who did just that, took a chance on herself, and recently launched AINA CURATED - Design Boutique. Now, don't get her confused with just being an interior designer because believe me she is much more than that. She is a fully qualified, highly educated architect, who has had a project featured in Dwell Magazine and was apart of the Trinity Church restoration, a famous landmark in Boston, which began construction in1872. She also works for Habitat for humanity and has an upcoming project with them on her home island of Bermuda.
So we sit down to talk, online of course because that is how the world is doing everything now, and she is as beautiful as ever, with a demeanor about her that just captivates a room. As I begin to ask her questions about her business and it's history, her face lights up and she begins to speak with a passion that is obvious and engaging. I found out from her, that she has had many jobs for many architecture firms both in Bermuda and in Boston, and her resume is extensive, but what I really wanted to know was what made her want to start her own business.
What made you want to start your own business? What was the inspiration?
"Well... I had seen a lot of things in the architectural business that made me feel uncomfortable, I felt like the clients weren't being treated fairly, either they felt as if their ideas were ignored, or they felt as if their budget was overly extended, I felt like clients were being disrespected. When thinking about my own business, I wondered about how I can instill worth into my clients because beauty adds worth to a home, I wanted to let my clients know that they can have beauty within their homes. I wanted a client-centered business that respects everyone involved and the environment, and I love bold statements, I'm bold, my God is bold, I wanted to make sure that my business makes a bold statement."
She told me that she was at the point of leaving the architectural industry altogether, after seeing these unfair practices, and getting sick from sub-par working conditions at a firm she was working for at the time, she realized even further through those experiences that people needed to be treated well.
"That experience sparked a God-birthed passion in me."
She wanted to see change and knew that her own business would be the change she wanted to see, thus AINA CURATED was born.
"I've always known that I was going to start my own business, even before the word "entrepreneur" became a buzz word, I always knew I would be one, even though I don't refer to myself that way. Also, I've always been very business minded. Way before AINA CURATED became a reality I would gobble up books about leadership, godly leadership, and learning how to put people over profit, so I was being prepared to run my own business without really knowing it."
I asked her how much has the support of her family helped in making the decision to start her own business? She paused for a long moment, took a deep, concentrated breath, and said firmly, "Alandra Swan, I want to big her up, shout her name from the rooftops with credit. I could not have done this without her by my side. She has this God-given ability to pull you out of the gutter, speak purpose to you, push you for greatness when you can't push yourself. Having a sister like her to support me has been such a blessing, I cannot tell you how much of a blessing she is. When the rest of my family didn't understand she understood and stood by and encouraged me. Also, my mother is my number one client, the truth is, I wouldn't have been able to take myself seriously if my parents didn't take me seriously."
My next question was a little broader I wanted readers who are thinking about starting their own business, in this climate, to hear from someone that did it and did it successfully.
How has the start-up process been for you personally?
"It's wasn't as challenging as I thought it was going to be, the hardest thing has to have been the COVID-19 pandemic, but it actually helped me as well. I was at home building this company at the same time when everyone else was at home too; so I was able to take it slow and not be in such a rush. Also, I had my sister with me, who was always encouraging me and lifting me up when I felt like I messed up. I think that the best advice I could give anyone getting ready to start a new business is to look around and see who your team is, trust your team, be yielded to their feedback because you cannot do this by yourself, no matter how much expertise, or knowledge you have, you cannot do this alone, you need a good team surrounding you. And, it's okay if you need to stop and take a nap, and if that nap extends to dinner time, it's okay. This hussel hard culture has us driving ourselves in an unrealistic way. Most importantly do something because you love it not just because you need to make money."
This energetic, intelligent woman is full of wisdom and experience and full of surprises, she tells me that in addition to all that she has done, and continues to do, she also took a derelict home and transformed it into her home called "Tehilah Ranch". On the left is a rendering of the design and further down you will see the actual kitchen and some of the process. Her house is absolutely beautiful and designed to the nines, with her elegant yet bold style. She says she calls the style of her home "ranch modern". She says that it has a ranch feel with a protected forest next door, and it's a walk away from the beach, on the beautiful island of Bermuda.
"I wanted it to feel very relaxed with a practical, peaceful style."
I do believe that she has achieved that. I will leave you with these final words from the owner of AINA CURATED.
"I'm grateful that I took the leap of faith and did what God told me to do, I don't think I'd be where I am today if I hadn't."
Trinity Church, Boston Massachusetts