Jaime Derringer is the Founder and Editor of US Online Magazine Design Milk and sister site Dog Milk. With a fantastic team of collaborators Design Milk showcases what is new in interiors, architecture, furniture, fashion and art. On Dog Milk, Jaime (along with the trusted advice of Lulu and Beans) showcases the best of the best of dog products. Jaime’s sites are incredible resources and a real must visit!
Kelly believes sharing the success of others is a real way of inspiring others considering following their passion as a profession. We’re thrilled to have Jaime share with us her journey to creating her amazing sites here on Kelly’s Blog.
Tell me a bit about Design Milk and where the inspiration for your site came from.
This is actually a longer story than I thought! I’ve never told the full story and this is actually only a part of it…
My parents bought a nice-sized single family home when I was about 3 years old and purchased a second house at the Jersey shore shortly thereafter. During the ages of 4 through probably 7 or so, I spent every weekend with them, cruising from furniture store to furniture store looking for the right pieces for both of their homes. We went everywhere: local furniture stores, garage sales, estate sales (the estate sale people knew us by name!), and of course IKEA. I remember many a Saturday falling asleep on some random bed in a bedroom display. I ate a lot of fast food and Swedish meatballs. I watched my parents get cranky while assembling furniture with tiny Allen wrenches. This was a memorable time in my life.
In college, I worked at a few furniture stores as a salesperson to help pay for college and living expenses. I think I felt most comfortable in furniture stores, like I was supposed to be there. I loved helping customers choose fabric and make sure sofas would fit in their living spaces. What I didn’t like was the snakey, salesperson like atmosphere of some of the bigger stores. It made me feel uncomfortable to push things on people and play psychological games. After college, I had a bunch of jobs, none of which really felt like the right fit, but I thought that was the path I was supposed to take so I kept on keeping on.
In 2006, I had a townhouse and was looking for a sofa for my home. I discovered the world of blogs at about the same time. I previously had a few online journals and had even tried to start an online magazine, but nothing really stuck. However, I decided maybe I’d start cataloging my internet finds in blog form, the topic simply being things I found that I liked, mostly home décor, furniture, and art. To my surprise, other people seemed to like the same things as me and started following my little blog. Soon enough I found myself buying a domain name, moving to a powerful blogging platform and updating multiple times a day.
At the point when I got contacted by advertisers, I think a light bulb went on – I realized that I was on the cusp of something, but I didn’t really know what yet. Most of my growth is due to luck and the amazing online community of design enthusiasts. I think the fact that I am passionate about my subject matter makes a world of difference. I love art and design. I like to look at furniture, touch it, feel it, sit in it, and tell other people all about it. I think about it all the time. Maybe it has something to do with my experiences all those weekends when I was a child, maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted to do something creative and entrepreneurial, or maybe it’s because when I was younger I had wanted to be a writer. Or, it’s all of the above.
How important has your support network of family and friends been to your success?
My family and friends are the best. They’re very supportive and some of them even have skills that have been crucial to my success.
My mom always told me to be myself, do whatever makes me happy and encouraged creativity. She never pushed me to go to a certain school or major in something specific. I kind of just did whatever I wanted at the time. I made my own mistakes and successes.
I would never be able to do what I do without my husband. He’s extremely supportive and let me quit my day job when I thought the time was right, spends hours talking (OK, mostly listening) about my business plans with me, and always keeps me grounded. Also, he is an attorney, which has been immensely helpful. He reads contracts, drafts them as needed, helped me connect with the right people for accounting and other legal or business-related services. He does all the boring, tedious stuff at tax time.
My brother, Dan, has been the singular most important person in the success of my website. He’s very tech savvy and has taught me most of what I know about programming, html and css, and managing my website on the back end. I would never have such a well designed or functioning website if it wasn’t for his sleepless nights.
Lastly, my friends are amazing. They are all very supportive and encouraging. Most of my friends are other bloggers, which has been extremely helpful because it is easy to bounce ideas off of them and ask for advice – they actually know what I’m talking about!
Who has personally inspired you to follow your passion as a profession?
I listened to my inside voice!
Over the 10-year period that I worked in medical and pharmaceutical advertising, marketing and education, I encountered many people who were so terribly unhappy in their jobs and I didn’t want to be that. I saw how much my mom changed when she moved into a new profession — one she was passionate about and enjoyed. Whether you’re happy with your career definitely affects your outlook on life, your personality, and your health. It sounds stupid, but I followed my bliss.
There are challenges and joys when following your passion as a profession. What have been the ‘highs’ in your journey and what have you learned from you ‘lows’?
The biggest high for me is when I meet someone in person and they recognize my name, face or blog’s name. That means I’m doing a good job spreading the word about my brand.
The biggest low is the fear. Fear of failure, fear of one day being irrelevant, and fear of what the future will bring. Technology moves so fast these days it’s scary and almost impossible to keep up. I’m still learning what I need to do to make sure I stick around for a while…
Do you have a mantra for when things don’t work out as you’d hoped?
No, but I tell myself all kinds of lies! Tomorrow is another day. It will get better. Things can’t get worse, etc… I was listening to (I think) an episode of RadioLab where they found that people who lie to themselves and believe their own lies actually perform better and are more successful because they have tricked themselves into thinking that they can do anything. Sounds dumb, but if you think things are great then sometimes they really are.
What is your philosophy to producing great resources on your site?
Go with your gut. If you don’t really feel supportive of something or you can’t get behind it 100% (pro or con), don’t publish it.
What do you consider success?
Waking up and going to sleep feeling fulfilled, satisfied, and content.
We love your sister site Dog Milk. What inspired you to create it?
My dogs, Lulu and Beans! If there are two things I’m really passionate about it’s design and my dogs. There are some hideous products out there for dogs and I wanted to explore the alternatives. I knew that there must be other dog lovers out there like me who appreciate good design, so I decided to create a place for them. It will probably never be as popular as Design Milk, but it’s a niche where there was a void to be filled.
What are your hopes for the future of Design Milk and Dog Milk?
Success. I’d like my sites to continue to grow, evolve and adapt to fit the needs of the future.
You haven’t seen the last of the Milk brand!
Image: The gorgeous Lulu (left) and Beans (right)!