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Life Designed: An Entrepreneur's Story

This company started from a journey of wanting to design my life which started with questioning everything that I knew to be right, wrong or "normal". Get married, buy a house, have kids, get a promotion, get a dog, buy a bigger house. This was the path for most people I knew and it was the success story that was sold to me by movies, family and culture. Never once did I stop to question it all. I made it to step 2 by buying a house and getting married and of course, had that flashy ring that I thought I needed.

Our Wedding

Back then I was an international student recruiter for a great University in Canada. It was a job that allowed me to do the one thing I knew I loved, which was travelling the world. I worked hard to get a full-time secure job since starting out at the university I was bouncing from one contract job to another. I was singularly focused on job security because that was the coveted goal in my age group at the time. So often I find that if we aren't careful, our goals are just the goals of the people around us because that's how we are seen as "successful".

A few years later, I had a boss that I could not trust and my secure job left me feeling completely Claustrophobic. Is this it? Is this the rest of my life, working 9 to 5 where someone owns 80% of my waking hours in a week? Luckily my saving grace was taking a year's education leave from work to finish my MBA. When I was afforded the time to just focus on studying instead of both work and school, I had the ability to slow down and reflect. I began by asking myself, what does my perfect day look like?

I imagined waking up and smelling the ocean, having the sun on my skin while I drank my morning tea, going for a run on the beach or doing yoga outdoors to start my day. Then work outside in the sun on my computer while breaking midday to have lunch with my husband. Once the workday was over, we would walk into the city centre for great food, and dance the night away. To many, this may seem like a ridiculous fairytale, that it could never happen in real life. But then I asked myself why not? Did I not have control over my own life?

We hope our first full winter away will be at one of our favourite spots in Costa Rica

I understand I live a privileged life since there are only a few countries in the world where women have the freedoms that I enjoy. However, that was even more motivation for me. If I am given the freedom to choose how to live my life then wouldn't it be worse to lead an unexamined life shaped only by cultural societal norms? That's when what I call "leaving the matrix" began.

I began to ask why to everything. Why do I stay in Canada during the winter when I hate the cold so much... Why does watching TV every day seem normal and called "killing" time, and yet time is the only finite thing we have in life... Why is marriage such an indicator of success when 50% or more of them end in divorce...

To honestly answer these questions made me realize that a lot of what I believed was because it's easier not to think about it and instead go with what is "normal".

White Dahlia Design was one of the first stepping stones to re-designing my life (and in reality, it was the first time I was consciously designing it). I never went back to my secure job after my year off on education leave. Instead, I've been on a path ever since to tweak every corner of my life to feel that I consciously designed it, fully aware while stepping out of the comfortable "Matrix" of cultural expectations.

White Dahlia Design has been my attempt to marry my innate love of design and beauty with my pragmatic business education. Having grown up in an immigrant family where we had very little, it never stopped my mother from creating beauty anyway she could. I watched her sew exquisite evening gowns from scratch, make our curtains and bedding in order to transform our humble home into what felt like a palace.

My glamorous & resourceful mother

Because my family came from very little they were determined that my future would be different. Being successful and rich meant that being a creative was not in the plan, which is why I was told I could not accept my offer to fashion design school (in fact how dare I even apply). Instead, I was off to one of the best business schools in Canada because that would lead to - you guessed it - job security.

Starting this interior design company was the first step to leading my conscious life. It meant 3 things for me: going back to my love for beauty which felt like part of my core being, testing my 7 years of business school education to see if it did me any good, and disrupting a luxury industry by offering affordable interior design services so more people can have a beautifully designed home. Although interior design is often seen as frivolous, or fluff, we can not ignore that we are highly impacted by our environment. I truly believe that having a home that reflects your unique personality will bring you a sense of pride, inspire you and perhaps encourage you to design your perfect day.

- Gloria Song, Founder & Owner of White Dahlia Design



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