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Couple: Robin and Regina Reaves
How long in relationship? Together since 2003; Married since 2008
How long in business together? R&R Interior Design 365 since 2019
Robin and Regina Reaves finally found a groove that works as they navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. The difference-maker: communication.
It’s a skill they’ve honed throughout nearly 13 years of marriage and parenting of a pre-teen and 4-year-old. Communication played an even bigger role after they launched their business, R&R Interior Design 365.
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Regina’s artistry in design existed long before she turned her passion into a full-time gig. Over the years, she received compliments on style choices in her home. It got to a point where friends and family asked her to decorate their homes too. Robin, her biggest cheerleader, saw the joy his wife found in interior design and suggested she think about starting a business. But she downplayed it, lacking confidence at the time to take the leap of faith.
For Robin, it was a no-brainer.
“I was 100% confident in her, and I thought, ‘Whenever you’re ready to go, let’s do it. I’m following behind you,’” he said.
The couple was living comfortably in 2019. Regina worked in property management for a top real estate investment trust. In addition to her leadership duties, she also contributed to decorating model apartments and other work projects. Robin was a coverage investigation unit manager at Allstate while moonlighting as a real estate agent.
During this time, Regina warmed up to the idea of starting a design business. They talked about possible names and knew it was something they wanted to do together. But she was still hesitant about actually launching it — until she woke up one spring day to an influx of follower requests for an R&R Interior Design 365 account on Instagram. It confused Regina because she didn’t set up a profile, yet it was the same name they had discussed for a future business. Unbeknownst to her, Robin had brought the entire business to life.
“He ordered business cards, he did a website, Instagram, Facebook, and I had no clue,” she said. “I just woke up, and it was an official business.”
Robin knew that if he didn’t pull the trigger, Regina would continue teetering about the decision to go for it.
Since Regina is the creative, Robin thought he’d be on-call when his wife needed him but not be hands-on. He was putting energy toward growing his real estate business. They recognized pretty quickly that they needed to figure out who does what in the interior design firm. That meant learning to communicate more effectively.
“Anytime you work with anyone, let alone your spouse, there’s gonna be a lot of emotions,” Regina said.
In the beginning, they scheduled multiple consultations in a week. For every hour of consultation, an additional hour or two went toward putting bids together. She was handling the design part of the company but also part of the administrative tasks, and it was overwhelming. She couldn’t focus how she wanted, and it got to the point where she had to speak up.
The tension was mitigated by one rule of business the couple upholds: Get it out and move on.
“If you have something to say, or you’re having a moment, get it out and then we got to move on to the next thing,” Robin explained. “I think we practice that very well from a business standpoint.”
They needed specific roles, and she needed Robin to be more involved. With his customer service experience, Robin primarily manages client relations and vendors. As lead designer, Regina pours her attention into the creative process. Robin also serves as a design assistant when necessary. For example, his experience as a realtor is helpful for clients who are concerned about investing too much in a particular space. He offers insight into the upgrades that can get a return on investment.
“I’m literally Robin; you’re Batman,” he frequently reminds her.
At the start of 2020, Regina began as regional property manager at her day job, overseeing 30 properties. In February, Robin and Regina took the next step as business owners and registered their interior design firm as a limited liability company. Then, Covid-19 arrived in March.
“A lot of people probably think that with the pandemic, who in the world is going to want to get their home decorated right now? Well, everybody was wanting to get their home decorated because people were working from home,” Regina recalled.
They didn’t expect business to pick up as much as it did. Their expanding list of clients was typically repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals. The requests for consultations went into overdrive. It became a struggle to handle a 9-to-5 and a full-time business.
Before the pandemic, the duo had discussed leaving their day jobs to become full-time entrepreneurs, but there was some anxiety about what that actually meant.
“What are we gonna do about health care? What are we going to do for the months that we don’t have any clients? How are we going to make sure that we have six months worth of income saved?” Robin questioned. “So we were kind of prepared for Covid before Covid happened.”
Regina, who was hesitant about launching the business in the first place, was now ready to walk away from her property management job. She said the pandemic, plus Robin’s encouragement, almost forced her to make the choice.
Last June, Regina put in her two-week notice. That same week, Robin handed in his notice too.
As full-time entrepreneurs, the team knocked out four to five projects a month.
“That’s not normal,” Regina said, comparing their output to more established designers who were completing fewer projects. “I was running on fumes, but I knew I had to hit the ground running and get our name out there.”
They spent about 80 hours shopping for each room, and there were plenty of late nights of completing mood boards, playing with fabrics, researching items to get the best pricing and talking to vendors.
To help the design business stay on track, Robin decided that his real estate work needed to be scheduled around R&R.
“Before I schedule a consultation with a client, before I sell a house or before I go out and do showings, I ask [does R&R] have anything on the calendar? I have to check in with her. She’s my boss, essentially,” he laughed.
Robin says they’ve decorated more than 100 rooms over the last year. While they’d like a vacation, there’s still room for improvement with work-life balance. They schedule staycations to help unwind.
Regina noted that turning off is sometimes easier said than done. They tried setting boundaries like implementing a curfew for answering calls and emails, but it was short-lived.
“It’s extremely hard to turn off, especially as a small business because you don’t want to turn down an opportunity that could be life-changing,” she said.
Robin says although they don’t want to miss opportunities for growth and building a legacy, they also don’t want to miss moments as a family. The couple sacrificed in some areas to reclaim their time. For instance, they hired a lawn service. That was a big step for Robin.
“I’ve never given up cutting the grass because it’s something I like to do. I can spend hours out there,” he said, “but I gave it up to spend more time with my kids and my wife. I’m trying to reinvest that time back into my family.”
The couple also cut back on the number of clients per month and spaced them out. More importantly, the interview process goes both ways.
“Just like our clients are interviewing us, we interview our clients to make sure they’re a good fit,” Robin said.
Right now, they’re booked through July.
Typically, they complete a vision board at the top of the year to keep their goals in front of them — they were too busy to do it this year. However, there’s still a shared vision of what else they’d like to accomplish, such as expanding into services for investment properties and reaching other markets beyond North Carolina and Virginia. Robin is currently in the process of getting his Virginia real estate license.
To learn more about R&R Interior Design 365, visit their website at randrinteriordesign365.com.