One of our happy buyer clients recently came to The Washingtonian Group for some referrals; he was in need of a designer that could help him maximize the square footage of the Columbia Heights home that he recently purchased. He’s collected a lot of meaningful art over the last few years, and wanted to make sure to display his collection in a thoughtful and artistic way.
We immediately thought to refer him to framer and designer, Meredith Forte, owner and creative genius behind Frame Avenue Design, in Washington D.C.: A mobile picture framing and picture hanging company with an expertise in framing, as well as wall design and hanging services.
We’ve been following Meredith’s (gorgeous) Instagram for over a year now, and have gravitated to her work from the very beginning. We were anxious to finally connect with her, so we asked our client (who is now also one of her clients) to introduce us.
A few weeks ago, we got the opportunity to sit down with Meredith and learned so much about her business and life as an artist and a mother:
Meredith says she can't remember a time when creative expression and owning her own business didn't call to her; she considers herself a crafter, has always enjoyed making things, and an entrepreneurial streak has always been a part of her spirit. Early into our interview, we shared a laugh after she mentioned how she capitalized on her her first business idea as a tween: a hair accessory collection of (at the time) very on-trend hair berets. Her creative eye and business mind have carried her many places, and we are so glad that she is currently using her talent to beautiful homes all across The DMV, one wall at a time.
Keep reading the full interview for Meredith’s take on life as a mom, crafter, and creative entrepreneur in the Nation’s Capital.
TWG: When and how did you learn how to frame and design walls? Did you go to art school?
M: Like so many creative people, I feel like I never resonated with the traditional education system and I hated school. After enrolling in college as a Political Science major, I decided to leave school and my internship with The Supreme Court behind to pursue my real passions. So then I worked and apprenticed at three galleries in The District and honed my experience and skills under the mentorship of some several very successful, reputable artists in the area. As far as the designing and hanging, that’s self taught. I think I just have the eye and patience for it, which is not necessarily something anyone can teach you.
TWG: How did Frame Avenue Design come to be?
M: When I first opened my business, I had a storefront where I did primarily framing. My business even had a different name at the time. Then, in 2015 I needed to rebuild everything. I found myself in a situation of needing to leave an unhealthy relationship and living situation, and I needed to figure out a way to thrive as a single mother. A big part of that meant figuring out a way to grow my business so that I could take care of myself and my kids. There was a time when I was so broke; I remember when I needed to make a box of spaghetti last an entire week…
TWG: ...and now your business is booming!?
M: Yeah, thankfully I have my parents. I couldn’t have done all of this without their help and support from my friends. I had to work so hard to get to where I am now, and I had to make a lot of other changes.
TWG: What kind of things did you do to help your business?
M: I rebuilt everything; completely rebranded, and I found ways to re-empower myself. I changed my businesses name, tax ID, everything. I also downsized, got rid of the storefront and moved my studio into my home. It turned my business into a mobile service, which grew my network immediately. I also made the decision to expand the concept of the business, so I added Wall Design and Hanging as services I offer, and things have really taken off since 2016.
TWG: What is your process when working with a new client?
M: It starts with a consultation in their home so I can check out all of the art they need framed and see the rest of their art collection. I take notes and pictures to capture their aesthetic in each room, and pay attention to the layout of the furniture. This all helps me when I go back to my studio and am trying to pair each piece with its perfect frame. Then I take each piece that I’ll be framing back to my studio, get to work, and bring them all back when it’s time to complete the wall design and installation.
TWG: That’s a lot of work! Do you do this all yourself or do you have an assistants?
M: Yeah it’s all me! Well...I occasionally have two elementary aged assistants (my daughters) on the job with me. But usually they elect not to come and tell me they’d rather be doing something else.
TWG: When you’re not working away, what is your favorite thing to do in the city with your kids?
M: Well so much of my non-working time is devoted to them; taking them to their activities or whatever is going on with them. But sometimes I say, ‘Today we are doing something Mom wants to do!’ And we do a day at the Hirshorn, or like last weekend I told them ‘You’re coming to the DC Pow Wow Festival with me!’ And usually they’re happy I dragged with me them afterward.
TWG: What is the one thing about being an entrepreneur you think is often misconceived?
M: People sometimes think that when you work for yourself you work less. That is not true. I work 24/7, but it’s much better than working for anyone else. I really don’t like sad time schedules; I can’t do the nine to five life.
TWG: What’s one thing you’ve done that has created growth in your business?
M: In 2016, I made a year long rule for myself. I decided I was going to put myself out there more. I started networking with people I wanted to know— I’d reach out to them on Instagram, message them and ask to take them to coffee. I’d ask them about themselves and their achievements, and try to soak up as much of their insight as possible. It was so helpful, that I challenged myself to meet with someone I admired once a week. And pretty soon, not only was I learning from them, but I was networking like crazy. I also challenged myself to go to at least one designated networking event each week, and to hand out at least one business card to a stranger each week. I made a lot of connections that way too.
TWG: That’s awesome! What are some of your goals for 2018?
M: For my business, my goal is to participate in more speaking engagements and to focus on creating opportunities for more Publicity. But then at the same time, my family will always come first to me. So the even bigger goal I have for myself is to ensure that my personal relationships stay balanced while all of this big growth in my business is taking place.
TWG: What areas of the DMV do you serve?
M: I am constantly traveling all throughout the DMV for my clients because they are seriously all over now. Instagram has boosted my reach so much and now it ranges all throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
TWG: For those who want to get in touch with you or follow your work, where should we www.instagram.com/framermastermersend them?