In Conversation with Melissa Leclair from Leclair Decor

You began Leclair Decor in 2011. Can you tell us about the trials and tribulations at the very beginning?

In the beginning you have no idea what you’re doing. I can’t tell you how many times I felt completely lost, like I was stumbling along in the dark.

There’s no guidebook on how to start your exact business. I just knew I had finally found something that felt right. I was so determined to make it work.

In the very beginning, I am not even sure I fully believed we could turn [Leclair Décor] into a business. But, after our first few paid projects, I was hooked. We just held onto the thought that, it’s going to work. It has to!

There was so much to learn. And, there still is! It never ends! In the beginning, I hadn’t considered that I was going to wear all hats. I had to figure out how to track budgets and purchases. I had to place them in spreadsheets- because a shoebox of receipts and my own memory weren’t adequate bookkeeping policies.

I needed to organize orders and receivables, produce mood boards and presentations. I had to create layout drawings, adhere to timelines and keep pushing the business forward. I was figuring all of this stuff out along the way.

Thankfully, in the beginning you’re in a honeymoon phase with your business; totally fuelled by adrenaline and passion. You really have to sacrifice a lot of your time and money. You are banking on a dream that your hard work will pay off.

Did you two always know you’d go into business together?

No. It just sort of happened. We moved into our new home the day after our wedding with a paintbrush in-hand with a lot of ideas of how to make it into our own. Fortunately, our vision came together better than we could have hoped.

We had our differences, of course. But, ultimately discovered a shared joy in creating beautiful spaces together.

At that point, we actually decided to put off our honeymoon for two years and just focus on our home. Looking back, that’s one of the best decisions we ever made because the work we did in our own home became the foundation of our business.

What are your Son’s and Daughter’s names? How old are they?

Our son, Hugo, is four and our daughter, Evelyn, is two and a half. They are my everything. They are very similar in some ways, yet so different. They amaze me each and every day. I am in awe of their endless curiosity and energy.

 

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Were you able to take time off work during your postpartum time with either child?

Not really. With Hugo, the business was still fairly new and I had my first client consult two weeks postpartum. That might not seem like the best idea, but when you’re running a budding business it’s so hard to say no and to slow the momentum you’ve worked so hard to build.

The business was just my husband and I at that point. I handled most of the client consultations. So, we really couldn’t afford for me to stop working. The business also kind of felt like our first child in a way; we really loved what we were doing so it didn’t feel like “work”.

It did, however, feel like a constant juggling act in the beginning. Cue: Mom Guilt, Wife Guilt, Messy House Guilt and Work Guilt. I went through every emotion possible during those early days of being a mom and business owner.

In a single day, I would feel overjoyed, overwhelmed, exhausted and thankful.

By the time we had Evelyn, we had brought on a couple team members, which allowed me a little more freedom to step back and take more time with her. Although I was still answering e-mails from the delivery room on the day she was born…

I also felt more confident as a mom by that point. So, it didn’t feel so overwhelming to have a new baby around. The new challenge was managing two little ones, a business, a marriage, and growing team. All of which required my support and attention.

By this time, I had gained more confidence. I had been around the “business block” and the “mom block” before. I had sort of made a conscious decision to drop the guilt. I was doing the best I could and had fully accepted that there was only so much of me. I could only do so much in one day. I would remind myself that: Guilt is not helpful. Enjoy each new day and the challenges they bring.

Tell us about your postpartum experience. Were there any surprises that were unexpected?

I definitely underestimated how overwhelming the first few weeks were going to be. Between labour recovery (I physically felt like I’d been hit by a bus), sleepless nights and a distinct feeling of having no idea what I was doing, that first week was definitely tough.

I remember walking through the door of our home with our new baby and just breaking down. On one hand, there was an immense sense of relief that we had made it through the birthing experience and everyone was happy and healthy. On the other hand, I thought: holy crap, this is real now. My baby is here in front of me. Completely reliant on…me.

I had read all the books and done all baby proofing. But, suddenly I felt completely unprepared.

Breastfeeding, car seat safety, the baby’s bathroom schedule, weight gain…you’re trying to follow the rules and “helpful advice” that is coming at you from every angle. What it really felt like was an impossible feat to get everything right 100% of the time.

Thankfully, as time went on things seemed to fall into place. It got easier. I learned to trust myself.

With Evelyn, it was so much easier. Maybe because I wasn’t so fussy about getting it all “right”. Or, maybe because I had two babies now and not nearly enough energy or time to fret about it being perfect.

My kids don’t eat a 100% organic diet. Sometimes, we let them watch TV in order to have a few minutes of peace. It’s all about balance and just doing the best you can.

I also never knew how much I would appreciate a good shower. You definitely take that for granted pre-kids. Having a shower and washing my hair is a luxury, now.

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How do you find managing a business and raising your children?

Like any major lifestyle decision there are pros and cons. Although both our sets of parents were amazingly helpful while I worked from home, I did have to sacrifice some valuable time with my babies while they were young.

Now, one of the biggest benefits of running a business is that I can make my schedule work for me. I can take a little extra time with them each morning and don’t have to worry about staying home with them when they’re sick or taking some time off to do things as a family.

When you’re running a business, you definitely don’t ever “clock out” because you always need to be available for your clients and staff. With that said, I try to make sure that when I am spending time with my kids, it’s good quality time; that I am as present as possible.

All in all, we really enjoy both parenting and running a business. We’re happy to juggle along through each completely chaotic day. We feel very lucky to be able to take on these amazing roles.

Working along-side your husband, Sacha, are there any tips to working well with your partner on a professional level?

Honestly, we didn’t even think about it when we jumped in headfirst. It wasn’t until people seemed incredulous about our set-up that we realized it would be a danger zone for some couples. I’d be lying if I said it was complete bliss all of the time, or that we never have our different opinions. But in general, we really love that we get to share this journey together. When you are both relying on a new business venture to support the household, it is a bit tricky; though I feel like it all balances out well.

In terms of advice I’d give to other couples looking to start a business together, I think it’s really important that each person finds their strengths and develops a defined role. We are both fairly creative and savvy individuals- in different ways.

Sacha is amazing with marketing, photography, the website and our social media. He did not study in those fields but just went to town and figured it all out. We now have a larger team to help out with all that stuff, but those are still the areas in which he takes leadership with.

I am great with consultations, business decisions and accounting (not initially my strong suit, but I figured it out). I continue to keep that side of things running.

We share a vision for the business and make big decisions together. But, we allow each other to take charge in our areas of expertise.

You also really can’t carry any emotional baggage around. When we disagree on something, we either try to quickly sort it out ourselves or sometimes bring in our team for a vote. Then, we let it go.

When it comes to business matters, especially when we’re actually in-store or studio, we try to treat each other like colleagues and leave personal issues at the door. I still have to remind myself not to bring up the fact he didn’t make the bed while re-designing our website.

Also, never forget that you are husband and wife and mom and dad. It’s hard and unrealistic to leave work conversations at work; however, it’s important to make an effort to talk about books, dates and travel plans. It’s important to also spend quality time together, too.

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As you two are currently working on updating your home, how do you find the process while there are two young children living within its walls?

It’s impossible. We were trying to do all the planning and design ourselves. But, we just don’t have the time required to devote ourselves completely to that task. Luckily, we have a great team and we are now leaning on them for help with the project management side.

The kids love it! Hugo is just over the moon about all the tools that have been kicking around the house lately. That being said, kids and renovations do not mix. It creates a lot of dust and disorganization. The house is always a mess for longer than you expect and hope. If you’re taking on something similar, brace yourself. Patience is key.

You have recently updated your son’s room. Do you consider their taste (IE his wallpaper) when re-decorating their spaces?

Yes! We definitely guide the process, but make sure to consider their interests and tastes when picking things.

We gave Huggo three options for wallpaper and went with his favourite.

How do you teach the little ones to respect “nice” furniture and/or décor pieces within the home?

Good question! Don’t let them take full bowls of tomato soup near the sofa. Yes, that happened. And, learn early that spot cleaning goes a long way!

We teach our children to respect their toys, their clothing, our furniture and much more. But, we know that accidents and spills are going to happen. It’s their home, too. We aren’t too fussy about our things. It’s just stuff.

Do you notice your children naturally have the knack of home styling, as well?

Yes! Hugo already loves to move things around. Evelyn loves to colour and paint.

It’s actually so fun to watch their creativity come out in this way.

Where do you see Leclair Decor in 5 years?

Good question! We have always wanted to build a multifaceted business. We are looking to get into real estate; perhaps a flip or rental property. We plan to expand the store, to get creative in new and challenging ways. Hint: product development.

Stay tuned!

Mother Muse, Melissa Leclair

Interviewed by Julian Jamie

Photographed by Krista Norris

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