Jennie Doran is the designer and owner of Room Service, a lifestyle boutique and creative firm in Ohio City, Cleveland. Together with her actor and filmmaker husband Andrew, Jennie brings together a diverse and intentional collection of goods in her shop that reflect her deep appreciation of beautiful, functional, and unique things.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received?
Received or learned… I would say it’s an important piece of advice that I learned first and then was told - after the fact - as though it was obvious: Beware of under capitalizing. It’s not sexy, I know, but it is so deeply true I can’t stress it enough. Be truthful with yourself, your investors, your lenders, your parents- whomever may be a part of your journey- this is going to cost money, don’t underestimate it. Think of the money as energy- it flows in, it flows out. Your job is to direct it, shape it and utilize it in the best way possible. But recognize you can’t shape something you don’t have. So, ask for (or save) more than you think you need, and then plan for your success.
What characteristic do you most admire in other entrepreneurial women?
I admire women (entrepreneurial and otherwise) that make choices they know to be right- for themselves and for their businesses, because they trust themselves enough to risk. I admire women who are not afraid of their creativity. Who understand that to grow it, you need to nurture it, express it, and make room for it.
What do you like most about your workspace?
I love its possibility. My radar is always on for new materials, fixtures, props, fabrics, even the silliest, strangest things . . . so, the workspace is a home for so many possible visuals- be it for the shop, or for our clients. Admittedly, it can get a bit full, and I need to take stock and edit regularly- but I love to move through our space and become inspired for the next project.
Name a woman, past or present, who you admire.
My stepmother Sue. She is a wildly independent, strong-willed, an absolute bad ass of a creature who moved to the middle-of-nowhere-Washington State (my part-time home growing up) and started her own organic farm- way before it was cool. This woman knows hard work. She’s a classical pianist, a lover of literature and a guardian of the wildness of nature. She’s given me some of the truest, clearest eyes on running a business (and gave me her ‘77 Toyota Celica when I was 19). She’s a powerhouse.
What piece of advice would you give to women starting their own businesses?
Sleep now? No, I’m kidding. I would say, take stock in what you have in your life that makes you you . . . because you will need it. You will need to draw upon it for inspiration, for support, and for energy. Recognize that your most powerful asset is you. Your business won’t dissolve if you take time to have a real dinner with your partner, if you walk to get lunch, if you spend an extra 20 minutes putzing in your garden (me). These are the things that made you the woman who is starting and succeeding in her field. Embrace them!
Growing up, what was your dream job?
Oh gracious, well I vacillated a bit. I will say I was, and am, wild about the ocean and had always dreamed of working as a marine biologist. However, perhaps one of my most indicative forays as a child was when my uncle sent me a carton of pencils and erasers and I went door to door selling them for a nickel a piece. So it would seem I’ve always been a bit of a shopkeeper at heart.
"I admire women who are not afraid of their creativity. Who understand that to grow it, you need to nurture it, express it, and make room for it."
What is something you could not go a day without?
Probably NPR- I’m not an addict per se, but it is part of my day in so many ways. Andrew and I listen to it in the mornings while drinking coffee and discussing our garden. It’s always on in the car. We joke about what the journalists look like in person (we’ve never Googled it, that would ruin the fun). It’s an important source for us. But, that said, we also know when to turn it off.
Have any mistakes shaped the way your run your business today?
The fallacy of believing you can do it (or anything, really) alone. This doesn’t mean accept anyone. Far from it. I too often, for too long, truly believed I could do everything myself. Moreover, that I was good at it all (ha). Check your pride at the door and build a team that amplifies each other’s best abilities. Honesty with your weaknesses doesn’t indicate weakness.
As R/S Creative, Jennie and Andrew branch out to realize engaging, inspiring environments and experiences. Be it retail spaces, (their own serving as the headquarters for all things wonder inducing!), event installations, art direction or brand styling- they believe that great design is everything.
Jennie and Andrew live in Detroit Shoreway on their urban homestead of sorts with a dog, 2 cats, 5 chickens, and an ever evolving home.
You can find Room Service in the Home section of The List.