By: Maha Mamish | GFDA Member and Contributor

So you want to succeed as a sustainable design firm? You’ve gone through all the arduous work of researching the life cycles of industry materials, started to revamp your sourcing protocols, and found sufficient vendors and contractors that can align with your vision to start making impact, even if partial. With your new toolkit in hand, you feel motivated to start driving real change through your practice, confident the world and your clients will cheer you on. Hooray! 

Then you start hitting walls. Turns out not everyone on the client side is as excited as you are about all things sustainable. Maybe you are received with half hearted reactions as the word ‘sustainable’ exits your mouth. Or you get a green light initially, only to get pushback once you present budget proposals showcasing costs that are ‘too high’ compared to conventional materials and processes. Then there’s the issue of how to even talk about it with others without sounding like you’re giving lip service to some new trend or on a heavy handed crusade, proudly wearing your Greta Thunberg t-shirt. 

How do you stay elegant, but with purpose? How do you use your values to grow your brand visibility? How do you convince your clients of the necessity of these changes in a language they can truly absorb? It can be daunting and even isolating, depending on your current design practice’s framework you’re shifting from, your existing network, and/or your local cultural norms. Fear not, my brave eco-warrior. There is a path forward.

In my almost 20 years of advising brands on sales growth strategies and stronger branding, many popular trends have offered answers to these questions. Put together a killer portfolio. Hire a consultant to review your fee structures to make you more profitable. Find a PR person. Master Instagram. The list goes on. While none of these things are a bad idea, the problem with these solutions is they are all focused on externalities. The true answer to your question lies in a mindset overhaul. 

Here’s a quote many of us have heard by this point by Albert Einstein: ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’. Or how about the concept expressed in ‘As above, so below.’ Any of that sound familiar? Wondering how to sell yourself as a sustainable designer is a bit like putting up a portfolio of only bathrooms on your website. You don’t do bathroom design: you design environments for all facets of living, period.

When we start at the core, which is us, and we focus on building a life that reflects the ethos we want for ourselves as well as others, that’s where the magic starts. No marketing strategy can eclipse you embodying what you believe and thus exhibiting integrity through all that you do. When you become a model for the changes you wish to express through design, two things happen. 

Firstly, you transform at every level of your being. So all those questions or concerns around ‘how’ to convince others of your cause shifts to simply ‘I am.’ You shift from doing to being, which is a powerful force. Secondly, without even trying you become a leader by example. Like attracts like. Those who are contending internally with the same questions and worries about the chaos our existing system is exhibiting will find their way to you, will feel a compelling safety in your approach, and will perceive you as a guide. So, start by asking yourself first and foremost: am I fully embracing the life of someone who is deeply connected to people, things I bring into my home, and my environment? What are my habits, possessions, and relationships communicating back to me about how I embody and define beauty? Am I engaging in a sort of ecological bypassing or do fully sustainable values translate into my own daily choices? All the knowledge in the world can’t help a chain smoker sell smoking prevention strategies. 

As you deepen in our own relationship to a connected, circular lifestyle, the more intuitive everything becomes. Suddenly you cannot imagine NOT making sensible choices that are good for everyone involved, including our planet. The choice ceases to be a choice.

Written by: Maha Mamish | GFDA Member and Contributor. Maha Mamish is currently the founder and CEO of MAHA, an NYC-based strategic consulting firm that supports growth for sustainable luxury design brands and their owners via holistic business frameworks. Her work sits at the intersection of business, design, wellbeing, and heart-balanced thinking. Maha has an M.A. in Curatorial Studies of European Decorative Arts from Sotheby’s London, as well as having studied Interior Design at Parsons School of Design. After spending a decade and a half gaining expertise in Sales, Business Development and Entrepreneurial Growth within the luxury interiors trade industry in New York City, she continued her studies to incorporate advanced certifications in coaching, neuro linguistics, as well as being a master certified Human Design practitioner. She is also a published author of the book “The Creative Entrepreneur: Use Your Sensitive Nature to Build a Highly Successful Business.”

Have a great candidate for an article?  Get in touch!

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GFDA. We’re on a mission to design out waste in the built environment!