Before living “green” was the trendy thing to do, Robin Wilson was working to create living spaces where customers’ wellness and environmental impact were top priorities. Suffering from childhood allergies and asthma while growing up in the eco-friendly town of Austin, TX made healthy living a passion of hers from an early age.
In 2000, she walked away from a successful corporate career to become president of her own interior design firm, Robin Wilson Home, focused on eco-friendly and hypoallergenic products.
Her success as an entrepreneur has exceeded her own dreams. In 2004, her design of the Harlem office of President Bill Clinton was profiled in O magazine. She’s gone on to launch her own textile line, and build a full-fledged lifestyle brand.
I asked Robin about what it takes to have the vision to stay ahead of trends and build a brand that stays true to her mission of wellness.
Madame Noire: Can you describe Robin Wilson Home for those unfamiliar with your brand? What differentiates you from your competitors?
Robin Wilson: Robin Wilson Home is a lifestyle brand with two business areas: interior design and brand licensing. We have worked with some amazing clients across the U.S. to design eco-friendly homes and commercial spaces. Plus, we are the first brand to license our name to eco-friendly kitchen cabinetry sold by over 500 dealers nationwide — and made in the USA by Holiday Kitchens. We also have a line of textiles sold on Bed Bath & Beyond’s website and they will be coming soon to select retail stores.
MN: You had a successful career dealing with environmental issues before you started your firm. Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
RW: I began my career at the Lower Colorado River Authority, a hydroelectric utility in Austin, and then worked at both a San Francisco and Boston-based consulting firms in their energy groups. These firms taught me best practices for corporate governance — but I also recognized that the founders of these firms were passionate visionaries. Since my family has a history of entrepreneurs, it was easy for me to understand the focus and charisma of those individuals. I made a goal on my bucket list to be an entrepreneur by the time I was 30… and was fortunate to see it come true for the past 13 years.
MN: What did the early days of Robin Wilson Home look like? How did you get your business off the ground?
RW: We had the wonderful opportunity to be self-funded due to a windfall received when the firm I was working for went public due to an IPO. I was the only employee and worked as a project manager and designer. The early days were amazing due to freedom from a desk, the chance to be casual everyday, and new projects through word-of-mouth.
MN: Did you know green living would take off the way that it has?
RW: It was never “green” to me… and I actually refer to our practices as eco-friendly (to your living space and the environment) and wellness-oriented. However, when the articles started to refer to us as in the “green” space, I had to accept the moniker as a way to describe our business. But I remain committed to telling people that the bottom line is “wellness” for you and your lifestyle.
MN: What gave you the courage to pursue a specialty that wasn’t mainstream at the time?
Robin: I live by the motto “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” So my focus has never been about what is mainstream but very much about what I believe is good for my friends and family.