Success Profile: Debbie Wiener Designing Solutions

Debbie Wiener's Story of Leaving Corporate America to Start Home Design Business

••• Debbie Wiener

Debbie Wiener is the go-to expert for pet-friendly and family- friendly home design for over 15 years. Her goal is to help parents, pet lovers, partners and spouses live a slob-proof life. Debbie is the author of Slobproof!: Real-Life Design Solutions and has a second book in the works. She also has her own furniture line: Slobproof! with Crypton

Debbie has been featured in the LA Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Washington Home and Garden, Home Magazine,, Entrepreneur and served as the Design Editor for Dog Fancy Magazine. She has appeared on the WBAL Morning Show, Martha Stewart Living on Sirius Radio and NPR's Tell Me More.

How did you start your home business?

I started my own business out of desperation. I worked in the chemical regulatory field but quit to start a family. With two kids in tow, I was shopping in a K-Mart one day and my credit card was declined! We needed more money! Like Scarlett O'Hara, I swore to my family that I would never allow that to happen again and proceeded to job hunt. When I couldn't find any work in my field that fit my mommy schedule and didn't have me traveling 5 days a week, I decided to be my own boss and set my own hours. I knew it wouldn't be working in the chemical industry, so I took a leap of faith. With a little good taste, some experience decorating my own home, my common sense and a whole lot of chutzpah, I started Designing Solutions. (This is the short version) Now we are one of the top firms in the Wash, DC area.

What steps did you take to get started?

I have no design background and no business training, but I trusted what my common sense told me. I advertised cheaply in high-end neighborhood newsletters because no other designer did and because I knew that's the one thing everyone reads...they want to know what's going on around the corner. The ads worked. I wrote tips sheets from "How to Buy Upholstery" to "How to Touch Up Painted Trim and Walls," and I sent them out to overworked Home Editors who needed to fill in the Home Section. I spoke at small women's groups, led tours at the Design Center and basically, I faked it till I made it...learning what I needed to know when I needed to know it so I could do the job. Now, years later, it's instinctual and I know if I can do it, so can others and so I am franchising my business.

What was your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge continues to be finding balance between work and personal life. Basically, there's no separation. Wherever I am, I am always thinking about work, always checking emails, always thinking. I have a staff, but the buck stops with me and that never lets me rest. My family does on occasion complain. On the plus side, I often spend the whole day at my desk in my pajamas. And I don't care who sees me!

What is your greatest success?

My greatest success was turning an idea into an invention- the Slobproof! Paint Pen. My own family inspired me- they are slobs and they destroyed everything in our home, especially the walls and trim. Everyday, the foyer looked like a battle zone after the kids came home throwing backpacks and kicking off shoes. The walls were full of marks, missing paint and messes. I was desperate to find a quick and easy way to keep the paint looking fresh and new, so I came up with the Paint Pen. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew when you got started?

Now, looking back, I wish I had done this sooner. If I had known how much I would love working from home, controlling my hours and building my business from family inspiration, I would have done this much sooner. I'm sorry I waited.