In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, my husband and I opened our first home improvement retail store: Blue Mist Paint & Flooring in Spartanburg S.C. While opening a business has its own set of challenges, the first thing I tackled—other than trying to succeed in unprecedented times—was the fact that my career had been steadfastly in healthcare for 17 years.
Looking back, I had shared my dream of working in interior design to my husband before we were married and told him how life had taken me down the healthcare path instead. Though I am forever grateful for my education and knowledge in healthcare, 17 years later I knew my dreams weren’t being fulfilled. I wanted to create a career that allowed me to work for myself doing all the things I loved—along with a schedule that allowed me freedom on my terms.
So, I took a big risk and left my 17 years in healthcare and we took the appropriate steps to open our first brick-and-mortar location where we sold cabinetry, tile, flooring and hardware.
Chasing the dream
Since our initial opening, we have moved to a better, more fitting location and brought on new product lines. We also realized we couldn’t successfully run our renovations business and our own showroom at the same time. So, we took another big risk and decided to put all our efforts into our retail store.
That move has led to a few challenges. One thing I have learned is you can’t just open your doors and expect people will come. To overcome this, I took a class on outside sales and have learned the importance of networking. I have also seen the value in learning more about the products you sell. Sure, I can explain color theory and which color will look best in your north-facing room, but I find it is equally as important to explain the wood species, the wear layer and if a certain type of flooring is suitable for a particular room.
Overall, I think learning is a critical part of success. In fact, I wanted to show other women they can learn the basics and beyond and not feel intimidated. I am an advocate for education—even if it’s not via a traditional route. In fact, once I learned as much as I could about the products we sell—color, species, production, application, etc.—I even moved onto installation. This is where I feel like I have stepped up my game in this industry. I can talk all things flooring with the best of them. And I think that’s because I respect the ones who’ve done it before me and I have found the courage to ask questions and be teachable so I can share that same knowledge. Today, I teach hands-on classes to women in my community—including how to lay flooring.
Ashley Peterson is the owner of Blue Mist Paint & Flooring in Spartanburg S.C., which opened at the height of the pandemic in 2021. She is a certified design professional and teaches women in her community all aspects of the industry such as how to lay flooring.