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Rising Stars: Meet Ava White

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ava White.

Hi Ava, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My name is Ava White, and I can proudly say that I’m a KCMO girl born and raised! Growing up as the youngest of four, I was fortunate enough to see things like my Dad finishing our basement and my Mom crafting and scrapbooking. Each of them meticulously working. Little did I know, I was learning so much as I was observing their craftsmanship and attention to detail.

In elementary school, I was the child who stayed up late on a school night, waiting for my family to fall asleep so that I could rearrange my bedroom the way I wanted it to be. I look back now and just laugh, how bold of me! From then on, I enjoyed making things with my own hands and just being creative. From hand-sewn Capri-Sun purses (yikes) to painting old dressers to hosting my own garage sales to raise money for extracurricular sports, I kept hoping that one day I could have a real business of my own. Fast-forward to my senior year of high school, my heart was set on attending a state university to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism. Towards the end of the year, a debilitating knee surgery prompted me to change my plans and stay home for college. A couple of weeks before graduation, my thoughtful Mom suggested a local community college, Johnson County Community College, to try my hand at their Interior Design Program. Not knowing what else to do, I agreed and applied, receiving my acceptance email the next day!

In the fall of 2017, I can remember being so nervous for my first class with my new mentor, Professor Kathryn Grube, but not even five minutes in, I was sure I made the right decision. During the duration of my education at JCCC, I was continually reassured and taught by professors who were practicing interior designers. We toured local designer-only showrooms, created countless projects for imaginary clients, studied to learn building codes and regulations, completed internships, and were given the tools to become entrepreneurs in the interior design industry. In the fall of my third and final year of college, I was selected to participate on a small team as a student designer for the 2020 Kansas City Symphony Designers’ Showhouse. My team and I went on to win multiple design awards, including a most recent National Gold Award in April 2021. Our design has also been featured in multiple local magazine publications. Following the completion of that project and all of my courses, I went on to graduate in May 2020 with a degree in Interior Design, a degree in Kitchen & Bath Design and received a certification in Interior Staging as well.

I am now working independently, through Designs by Ava Nicole, as a creative artist and interior design professional, living out my childhood dreams of helping others with my very own business. As my first local art show quickly approaches in July, I reminisce on my eight-year-old self, who just won her first art contest with a full heart and just feel so grateful to God for my journey and how I have come full circle. My passion for helping others and my zeal for life show through my creative ability.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
In life, challenges and obstacles are inevitable but how a person deals with said challenges and obstacles speaks to their character. I like to think that my character has been refined by the fire. From a young age, I was handmaking gifts for holidays and friend’s birthdays because my big family ran on a tight budget in which prompted me to be creative and use whatever was around the house. The abilities I now possess to create, envision and imagine were all born out of necessity from childhood and I use them every day! When I started college, I knew that funding my education was going to be hard work and challenging at times. There were definitely some semesters I wasn’t sure how I would be able to afford the tuition bill, but I am so grateful to those who have supported me and for the work ethic that has been built over the years because I know it will only help me as I continue to go forward! During my college years, I worked multiple jobs simultaneously to support myself, including waitressing, babysitting, being an administrative assistant, and finally interning as I transitioned into working in the interior design industry full-time. Looking back, I can see how each job I’ve done has prepared me to be in the position I am now.

Some challenges are common to entrepreneurs and I have come face to face with many of them. Like not knowing what direction to take my business, the learning curve that comes with balancing work life and personal life, and just having another person to bounce new ideas off of. I was just talking with my mentor, Professor Kathryn Grube, the other day and we were laughing about waking up in the middle of the night with brilliant ideas for clients… I have found forming genuine connections with other designers and related professionals, attend industry-related events, and volunteering to be so beneficial in helping me stay firmly grounded and from feeling overwhelmed as a business owner.

I am still facing the challenges of learning and growing as a professional in the interior design industry today, as a minority and person of color. Through the power of technology, I found even more community and inspiration to pave my own path through following and engaging with other like-minded creatives and designers on social media locally and in other parts of the world!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a creative artist and interior design professional most known for my services, including Interior Design, Selection Assistance, Staging, Furniture Restoration, and Commission Artwork. I specialize in the transformation process! Whether it be a room that needs designing, an old dresser with sentimental value that just can’t be thrown away, or a blank canvas waiting to be made new, I love using my imagination to see past something’s current state and envision what it could be.

Some of my proudest moments as a designer have been attending the world’s largest Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, seeing my team’s design published in a magazine for the first time, graduating college with multiple degrees, and completing my first art series. I am especially proud of my work when my clients are blown away with the unique and functional product they’ve received, the reaction is priceless each time! My genuine desire to help people, knowledge of Kansas City homes and history, and my positive outlook towards life set me apart from others.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
I found my mentor through schooling and even learned many of my networking skills from involvement with JCCC’s Interior Design Student Association. For anyone looking for a mentor or to build their network and community, I would recommend networking at local events related to your industry (Google some), joining a Facebook group related to your industry, contacting people you admire to ask questions, and just possessing an overall willingness to learn from other people and put yourself out there!

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