As one of Australia’s leading interior designers whose work has been featured in Home Beautiful, Adore Magazine and House and Garden, Sarah Yarrow of Sarah Yarrow Interiors, has built a reputation for creating sustainable homes with timeless designs that are also environmentally conscious.
I was lucky enough to meet Sarah somewhat serendipitously on one of my trips back home to Australia when I was living in the US. I had seen that Denise Duffield Thomas’ book launch was going to be on while I was in Sydney, so on a whim I booked the tickets. Sarah and I sat next to each other and instantly connected over our adventures in business.
We’ve stayed in touch ever since, and it’s been super inspiring to watch as her business explode over the last few years. So I’m incredibly honored to be sharing the story behind her journey and how she’s designed a life and business that honors her true nature.
Let’s dive in!
What does a typical day look like for you now that you’re creating a business and a life in alignment with your true self?
When I first wake up, I immediately try to to think of something positive and loving to say to myself.
Depending on life at the time and what’s happening, it will either be something to reassure myself that things are going to be ok e.g. “Today is a great day, you’re going to be ok whatever happens” or it might be more upbeat where I’m my own cheerleader e.g. “You’re so capable and strong, you’ve totally got this!”
Either way, it’s nice to start the day off reaffirming my own self love, knowing that whatever things happen today, I don’t need any external approval or love to make myself happy. It has started off from within.
Then I try to move my body, sometimes that’s a PT session doing weights and other times it’s a gentle walk, I listen to whatever I need these days, that wasn’t always the case, I was a culprit for “pushing”.
When I’m on my walk I try to look out for the beauty around me, sometimes that’s noticing the bark on a gumtree and the colouring of it’s trunk, other times it feeling the warmth of the sun or smiling at a strangers we pass each other on the footpath.
When I’m on my walk or on the drive to work, I listen to a podcast, audiobook or sometimes YouTube for something motivational, Louise Hay is a favourite!
All of these things have been done before I look at emails or social media for the day, that’s the key I think – being able to centre and ground myself in my own strength before I put myself out to the world or respond to other people’s requests.
How / when / where did your career shifting journey start; what prompted it? Was it gradual or was there a particular moment you knew you had to make a change?
I was working in a corporate role, which I had enjoyed in my early to mid twenties, back then, I thrived off the fast pace, work at all hours without boundaries type environment but deep down it was conflicting with my true self and it wasn’t until I was late twenties/early thirties that I knew something had to change – I just couldn’t imagine myself doing that job or being in that environment for the rest of my life.
I knew there was something more for me.
I think the driving force was that I didn’t see myself working for someone else’s an employee longer term, I wanted to run my own gig. I just didn’t know what that was or looked ike or how it would happen!
But that’s the thing about The Universe – you don’t need to know the ‘how’, you just need to hold the vision.
I would say the decision to make a change happened quite quickly, I’m a ‘quick start’ type personality and take action right away but the process from there was gradual. That was 7 years ago now. It’s been a roller coaster ever since and a self development journey I could never have predicted but gosh, I’m so glad I did it.
Life is too short not to seek something better!
Is there anything you wish you would have known before you embarked on your career change?
No actually. I think if I had known the challenges I would never started! lol. But that’s fear talking and I never want to let that take over or stop me from doing something.
I think the important part was that I held onto the vision of the life I wanted – which was one filled with flexibility and freedom to explore what truly lit me up. The ‘how’ would figure itself out.
If you hold the vision to the end ‘goal’ then you’ll naturally put yourself in situations where you have a chance encounter and meet the ‘right’ person at the right time who will then lead you onto certain opportunities.
I believe we create those moments from the intentions we’ve already created for ourselves, those moments of inspired action always lead us to the next right step in the process.
It’s just allowing that to be and not manipulating or controlling it too much.
What are your top tips or lessons you’ve learned to cultivate a thriving career as an introvert and sensitive soul?
Rest. Take time out to rest and recharge the energy levels from within.
For me, that means only scheduling client meetings on certain days of the week and having other days where I’m on my own all day (I love those days!) It means, having a nap for 30 minutes in the middle of the day if I need it, just because that’s what my body is telling me to do.
Other times, it’s starting work later so I have time to sleep a little longer or head down to the beach, grab a coffee or chai and just sit for a few minutes to ground and feel connected to myself again, before giving any of that energy out to others.
I also decline a lot of industry events and evening events, simply because I can think of nothing worse than making small talk in a noisy room full of people when all I want to do is be home in my pyjamas on the lounge!
If I do have to go to an event, I get there early, focusing on having connected conversations with a small number of people and then slip out early (to get home to my pyjamas and be on the lounge!)
I find the relationships I make one-on-one with suppliers or clients are not cultivated in a noisy room full of people, they’re done over a period of time via connected and intentional personalised conversations.
That’s what builds relationships from my perspective and is also in alignment with my true self.
What failures/ challenges have you overcome on your journey? How did these help to fuel your future success?
I’m not sure I look back at anything I’ve been through as a “failure”. They’ve been many learning experiences but never failures. For if it weren’t for all of those experiences I would not grow or learn or improve, so I wouldn’t be the person I am today. They go hand in hand – the successes and the learnings.
In terms of those learning experiences though, there have been some pivotal ones, two come to mind:
When I first started out as an interior designer, I went into a partnership with a friend. At the time, it felt like the ‘safe’ option as we were able to navigate the intimidating world of small business ownership and all it entails, together. Ultimately, it didn’t last more than 18 months and was, in hindsight, one of the most challenging times in my life. I left that relationship feeling very lost. I had zero self confidence, I was completely disconnected from my inner self, I literally didn’t feel like I knew who I was anymore. I was riddled with doubt and anxiety and paralysed with fear of judgement.
Not to mention the shame and embarrassment I felt having come out of a business which didn’t work out, and knowing most people expected it wouldn’t. It was awful.
The second challenging situation that comes to mind was when my husband left his very well paid stable job so we could start another business – a construction firm to accompany my already established interior design business. It was a huge learning curve both professionally and personally as we had to navigate establishing boundaries around work and our home life (for the first year, there were none!) in order for both our businesses and our marriage to thrive.
It has taken practice but nearly three years down the track, there are no regrets and couldn’t be more proud of ourselves for taking the leap to give things a go.
Holding the vision for the life we wanted to create for ourselves is what got me through both these challenges, knowing that there was a better life ahead for me and to keep going in that direction to find it by taking small steps.
I wouldn’t change either of these experiences for the world.
Without them I would not have been forced to move through the self development I have, to be forced to deal with uncomfortable situations and conversations I’ve had and to really identify the types of people I’m prepared to let into my life (and leave those that no longer align behind).
Tell me about your self-care practices? How do you honor your quiet energy?
I would say spending time in nature. Honestly, I can’t express what a positive impact that has on me. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a day in the countryside (although that is one of my favourite things to do), it could just be sitting in a park on the grass in the sun for 20 minutes.
It’s about consciously removing myself from the traffic, the people, the ‘noise’ and demands of emails and social media and phone calls, just momentarily, so I can then return to those things feeling stronger and more capable of dealing with them without taking onboard their energy, I am able to disconnect myself.
I try to get into nature in some capacity every day.
Other self care practices are – going to bed early!
It doesn’t happen every day but I know I need a lot of sleep to function at my best so it’s honouring that knowing that staying up late watching another Netflix show is not doing me any good or leading me to the best version of myself.
What rituals, practices or tools do you use every day to support your energy?
Meditation, gratitude, Angel cards. I have on my desk at work a small marble candle holder with some of my grandma’s ashes in it – each morning I light a candle and just ask her to be with me and guide me through the day. It’s a nice way to stay connected to her and feel energetically supported.
What do you love most about your sensitive superpowers?
I feel like I’m really good at reading people. Mostly that comes via non verbal communication and is more about feeling what they are thinking then tapping into that.
This really helps with my work, which is such a personal experience, and helps me know when to assure a client if they’re feeling confused and overwhelmed, or conversely, when to encourage and ‘fill them up’ with excitement for the transformation to come.
This superpower also helps in social situations allowing me to navigate away certain types or people and/or go within to protect my energy.
What has been the biggest mindset shift you’ve had to make since transitioning from employee to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I guess just remembering that I’m running my own show, I’m the one making the rules and with that means I can structure my days and weeks how I wish.
The whole 9am-5pm thing has never really suited my energy levels so now I choose to work at times when I can tap into my best energy and consequently I produce the best kind of work.
It allows me to spend more time in my ‘zone of genius’.
What’s the best advice you have for others who want to follow their big dreams?
I think it’s important to have some kind of plan. Yes you need to have the self motivation and there’s a place for the ‘just do it’ type motivation to take a plunge into a new venture but I also think without some sort of loose planning, that dream may quickly become a black hole of resentment. Within the plan, you need to know basics like, who you’re serving, what the service/product offering is, pricing structure, what you need to be making to cover your overheads and at what point a profit will be made.
These are basics and they will evolve and change over time many times but starting out you need to know that stuff well before considering quitting the day jump and ‘following the dream’.
Unfortunately, sheer willpower and motivation isn’t enough, you need to know there is a market willing to pay a good price for the service or product you’ll be offering.
Unless of course, following your dream doesn’t involve needing to running profitable business, in which case it would be a hobby which is also great. But it’s important to distinguish the two.
Do you have anything exciting coming in 2023 to share?
Lots! We’re expect our first child in June so our lives are about to change forever in the best possible way. We’ll be learning to find balance between our businesses and being parents. I’m sure it will be a roller coaster! We have some great projects coming up which will push the boundaries of our studio creatively and we’ll welcome three new additional members to the work team.
It’s taken several years of hard work and lots of trial and error to get to this point but we’re finally feel the momentum kick in, exciting times ahead!
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