In 2015, Ajia Monet had an aha moment that led to her leaving a government job at the United States Postal Service to pursue her lifelong passion of becoming an interior designer. 

The 27-year-old self-taught freelance designer has since been making big moves in the competitive industry and she is doing so by way of her natural, creative talent.  With no schooling or formal training, the Baltimore-based designer was able to start her own company, A’Blige Interior Designs back in 2014 and it has been a success ever since.

Monet has been a creative visionary her entire life, but it took one argumentative conversation with her father, who is an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry, that helped her come to the realization that she should take that leap of faith and start own business.

At the time, Monet was in the midst of waiting to be recruited by the United States Navy and was working for her father. She said she felt overworked and undervalued. 

“I remember him saying to me when you get your own business, you can run your business how you want to run your business,” Monet said. “It was so funny to me because it was kind of like an aha moment for me because I never even considered it.”

From that moment, the mother of two quit her job and hit the ground running. She started putting together business plans to bring her vision to life. 

“Everybody has always known that I was creative,” Monet added. “I always changed my room. My apartments were always nice, so when he said that to me, it gave me another perspective.”

The interior designer makes it clear that the journey of finding her passion wasn’t that smooth, though.

Monet tried to pursue different jobs before deciding that interior design was her passion. She was interested in becoming a paramedic when she was younger, she tried to join the Navy and she also went to real estate school in 2012. It wasn’t until after working for her father and the postal service, that she realized she didn’t want to sell houses, but instead, she loved seeing the interior of homes.

“It [interior design industry] was super new and foreign to people in my community because it always been like a luxury service,” the Baltimore native said. “I was like, what can I do differently. I wanted to offer affordable services to my people. The supply and demand worked and so many people were willing to patronize and support. The rest is history.”

During the process, Monet was contemplating whether she should go to school to pursue career design since she didn’t have any formal training. She wanted to know the technical side of the industry such as creating blueprints and rendering. Intuitively she knew that even though classes would be great, no one can be taught to have a creative eye. She sought her father’s advice of whether she should do so or not since he was somebody she looked up to on how to run a business. 

He told her that if she wanted to work for someone else, then going to school would be a great idea, but if she wanted to run her own business, then she shouldn’t waste time or money.

So she decided to take that leap of faith in starting the business without school. She realized she could hire and outsource people if she needed to. 

“To be honest this year will be four years I have been in business,” Monet said. “I was looking back like ‘okay, I’ve officially graduated’. I couldn't really do it any other way.”

Monet wants to make it clear that she is not downplaying people who do go to school, but in those four years, she was able to learn through her experience, in the opposite way of those who go to school yet have no experience in their chosen field. 

“They have the skills but they don't have the experience,” she said. “At the end of four years, I was able to have both.” 

During her journey, Monet pursued her business full-time, even though she still had bills to pay and really didn’t have support from others or her father during the time of her transition. But, her situation motivated her to work harder. 

“For me, I felt like that was the push I needed to work harder to prove him (her father) wrong,” Monet said. “Not to say he didn’t believe in me, but what I saw, I didn’t feel the love or encouragement or support that most people need on this journey.” 

In the beginning, there were times where she had to take her two kids to work with her. It was at a point where they had to do their homework in the car because they returned home as late as 2 a.m. 

She had to learn how to efficiently manage her money as well. She was driving a car that couldn’t fit all of her materials and, but eventually, her father was able to step in and help her purchase a truck. 

On top of that, since the Baltimore school system isn’t up-to-par, she had to send her kids to school in Pennsylvania for two years, which limited her quality time with them.

Monet also had to learn how to properly carry herself as a businesswoman and learn the technicalities of running a business, such as handling payroll and acquiring business insurance. She pulled from various resources such as doing research online, reading blogs and using Pinterest to help drive traffic to her business. In these circumstances of starting a new business, most people would have quit. 

“I had next to no budget when I started,” Monet said. “I wasn't really able to show what I could really do. I had to work my way up and build that repertoire with people. I just had to immerse myself in it and I had to find the key ways to do things.” 

Monet was willing to make these sacrifices and now she has structure and balance she needs to fully provide for her two children and have her business to pass down to them.

Photo: A’Blige Interior Designs/Ricky Codio

Based on her experiences, the interior designer decided to launch a Business Coaching Course for people in the interior design industry. 

Although she faced many hardships, Monet believes people should still pursue a career using their natural talents even though they may be afraid to do so, even if they didn’t go to school.

“I feel like if God gave it to you use it,” Monet said. “You just have to believe and have faith in yourself. I hate to sound so spiritual but it all boils down to your state of mind.”

Monet also wants to remind budding entrepreneurs that it still takes time to perfect your craft, and along with it comes a lot of trial and error. 

“There’s always room for improvement,” Monet said. “A good business is always trying to figure out the problem and coming up with a solution to it.”

During her process, Monet had to deal with her mindset of having patience and managing her emotions.

She thinks with entrepreneurs in general, they always feel like they’re never doing enough or making any progress or always reaching for higher heights. One great lesson she learned for herself was how to balance her emotions and control her attitude, especially since customer service is pivotal to her business. She feels like she refined and evolved herself both professionally and personally. 

She also makes it clear that business ownership is not a process of instant gratification and it’s important to trust the process. 

“People don’t see the hard work, the late nights and early mornings and the sacrifice,” Monet said. “They just see the pretty pictures on Instagram and they try to skip the process and not do it with integrity and not do it because they love it. They're just trying to get where you are.” 

For those who are scared to get out of their comfort zone and don’t want to take the leap of faith, Monet believes they should at least try because you never know the outcome.

“I always tell people, God makes you uncomfortable when he wants you to grow,” she said. “I believe that. Being content is a mentality.”

She thinks in order for you to come your greater self it's important to make things your own and taking your vision and finds ways to make it better. 

“Just because this is my story and it worked for me, that doesn’t mean that what worked for you will be a better way,” said.

Monet finds it important to reflect and refine things that work for yourself, and become your own pioneer. 

“It’s important to make and do things on your own terms,” she added. 

Overall, for those following in her footsteps, she just encourages them to pray, focus and believe. According to Monet, if you can believe it you can achieve it. 

“Try it first and if it doesn't work out at least you said you tried,” she continued. “At least if it doesn’t work out, then you can try Plan B, and if Plan B doesn't work go back to Plan A  and just figure out how you’re going to refine it.”

This piece is brought to you in partnership with Toyota.