Moreau Designs Founder Jennifer Moreau was one of many designers to showcase her work at the 2022 Junior League of Hartford Show House. When MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price ran into her there, they knew they had to reconnect for an update about Jennifer’s business since her IDH interview in 2017.
NAN PRICE: How has your business evolved since we met. I’m especially curious to know if you had an uptick during the height of the pandemic, when a lot of people were home and thinking about redesigning their space.
JENNIFER MOREAU: When we met in 2017, I was focusing on growing my business organically. One of my thoughts was to branch out and bring some artisan-quality products into the fold. The idea was to create an east meets west or south meets north type of design, where I would go to countries like Peru, bring back textiles, have artisans create the base, and then marry those two together to sell.
When the pandemic hit, that wasn’t really attainable. I had to adjust my sails, not the wind, because the wind was coming, from every which way. So, I had to put keep that idea in the back of my mind.
As I was adjusting my sails, I thought: What brings me the most joy? What do I love the most? I love public projects, I love art, and I love commercial design.
NAN: How did you find those projects?
JENNIFER: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Newington was my first foray into commercial design in spring 2015. And then I had an opportunity to do TJ’s Burritos in East Granby in winter 2020. During the pandemic, I did a big commercial design in Southwick, MA for a luxury retirement community.
What happened during the pandemic was, I had to do everything virtually—a lot of people did. That was a big change for me. But I didn’t really see a huge slow down because, as you guessed, people were spending more time at home and they realized how much their environment was affecting them. It affects how you work. It affects how you play. It affects your psyche. It’s deep.
I’ve gotten a lot of calls for home offices and workspaces. People saw that is was no longer a want; they saw it as a need. That’s been beautiful because I’ve always known how much your environment really affects you. So, the pandemic was kind to me.
I still like to do residential, but commercial is really fun because you can affect more people. You can create an environment an experience, per se.
NAN: Let’s talk about the Junior League of Hartford Designer Show House. How did you become involved and has that led to new business opportunities?
JENNIFER: I became involved four years ago after I ran into former president Sarah Thrall in town and asked her about the design show house. She put me in touch with the current chair and I was selected via mood board submissions after touring the house. I was lucky enough to get to design the sunroom Everything I brought into the house at the time was primarily made by artisans and primarily made by women.
There was a really strong tie that year promoting women in business. So, I made that my platform at that show house and that worked out wonderfully. I got three really big clients. But most importantly, I made a connection to the community I might not have had otherwise.
Fast forward four years—the Junior League does a show house every three years, but because of the pandemic, they did it in four—I was invited to do a design and I got my first choice, which was the screened in porch and the patio. I like any design that puts you in touch with nature. That’s a lot of my reasoning behind choosing another porch or sunroom.
It’s been great for me because, once again, it was a connection to the community. Also, I’m finding this particular show house even more engaging because of the pandemic. I feel like more people are excited to get out and talk in person and really make those connections.
And I’m here for it. That’s my favorite thing. Social media has its benefits; don’t get me wrong, but I feel like nothing replaces that social interaction you get one on one with somebody.
I enjoy being involved with the Junior League’s mission, too. Not only have we raised money for charity, I’ve gained some clients from the experience because they visited the show house and they could see what I do, my ethos, and my design.
NAN: I remember you launched your business in 2009. So, it’s been more than a decade. Can you share your biggest takeaway or lesson learned?
JENNIFER: Never be set on one ideal. Don’t look at business ownership in a sense that you can’t evolve or change. I’ve looked back on certain years where I never would’ve thought that I did what I did.
I had years when I was on live TV, something I thought I’d never do. That was a big thrill. It was really great to publicly share my knowledge. So, never pigeonhole yourself because you’re going to be ever-evolving and changing. As an entrepreneur, you need to adapt—and the pandemic has proved that.