Mary Grace Peak is a certified interior decorator, Reiki practitioner, and certified Feng Shui expert. She launched Vibrant Interiors to help others find balance by functionally using their space and energy. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager spoke with Mary Grace about launching a startup during the pandemic and making connections in Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
NAN PRICE: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
MARY GRACE PEAK: I’ve been inspired by entrepreneurs since I was a child. My dad immigrated from Italy when he was 16 and he was a tailor his entire life. I always think of him as the original “work from home guy” because, by the time I came around, he had sold the building he worked in and converted our garage into a tailor shop. So, growing up, my dad was always at home and I really appreciated the fact that he could be there for us.
I spent many years as a lobbyist for Judith Blei, who was very entrepreneurial. And my husband is also an entrepreneur; he does financial advising. Personally, I’ve always wanted to have my own schedule and live a more creative life while trying to balance having little ones to look after.
I admire that entrepreneurial spirit. I saw it growing up and being around my husband and amazing women and advocates who built businesses from the ground up. I knew I was destined for it, but what exactly?
NAN: How did you answer that question?
MARY GRACE: I’ve always felt the pull to do something creative. Interior decorating has been my “therapy” from the time I was a kid decorating my own room, through college, and then having apartments and living on my own.
Recently, I was helping a friend decorate her home and she said: You should do this for a living. At that point I thought: Why not? I was looking for a creative venture and thought this could be something fun to do on the side.
Also, COVID-19 had hit and everything went into lockdown. I’ve always been into alternative healing combined with traditional medicine, and all of a sudden I couldn’t see all of my practitioners. I stumbled upon Reiki, which works on healing the mind, body, and spirit. Feng Shui is the same type of thing, it’s just applying that healing to spaces. It’s all about bringing everything into alignment.
With the pandemic, everyone had to become a little entrepreneurial. Many of us have been working from home and trying to balance schedules and family. Your home has become a gym, a school, a place to relax, and a place to work. I thought: What better way to bring more peace and clarity to people than by helping improve their spaces?
NAN: When did you launch?
MARY GRACE: I launched in June 2021. I got my interior design, Feng Shui, and reiki certifications during the lockdown, which enabled me to have the space to really focus on my studies and how I can truly help people inside and out. Interior design isn’t just your interior space, it’s also mind, body, and spirit.
NAN: Did you utilize any local resources as you were starting out?
MARY GRACE: The Secretary of State’s website was very user-friendly, which made it easy to register my LLC. I worked with my accountant to set everything up and I connected with Anissa Teich at The Small Business Collective, which designed my website and helped bring a voice to my vision.
I found that, as a new small business, Connecticut has been very welcoming. There are so many smart people out there who are willing to cater to small businesses, which made the whole starting out process fairly easy.
NAN: How are you marketing and building your clientele?
MARY GRACE: I use a lot of social media and I’ve been working my network. A lot of it right now has been referral and word-of-mouth. My clientele is both residential and commercial. I’m finding the commercial work extremely rewarding, especially as people are returning to work. They want to clear the stagnant energy and move things around. And, working with commercial spaces is leading to new referrals.
I’ve also been building a lot of content on my website to share more knowledge. It’s really about empowering people in their own spaces, whether it be work or at home, and helping them create supportive environments.
That’s been phase one. In phase two, I’m looking to connect with other local resources, like IDH. I had a few busy months between starting the website and then doing the actual work. Now the dust is settling a little bit and it’s time to be out there.
NAN: Is this your first startup?
MARY GRACE: I did do some political consulting in the past, but this is totally different shift for me. It’s a different world, but using the same skills that I learned.
NAN: What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in terms of starting out?
MARY GRACE: The biggest challenge for me right now is finding an amazing office space. I love being here at home and I love being in people’s spaces, but I’d love to have a brick-and-mortar location.
My other challenge right is getting the word out. I feel like Connecticut is a small state, so it’s easy to make connections. It’s been pretty business-friendly and I’m finding all these amazing business resources.
NAN: What’s next?
MARY GRACE: Once it’s safe, I want to do more in-person workshops, so I can educate people about what I do and get out there. I really love the corporate and commercial side and there are a lot of group activities I can do with offices. So, eventually I’d love to start doing more of that.