Be disciplined and have an “off-switch”, With Audrey Craig and Brenda Cascio of GB Design House

“…Be disciplined and have an “off-switch!” I love what I do, it’s fun, but designing is consuming. Make time for family, friends and…

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“…Be disciplined and have an “off-switch!” I love what I do, it’s fun, but designing is consuming. Make time for family, friends and down-time.

…I sit at a computer all day, so I try workout during my lunch break. It’s a great mental break and helps me regroup. As a business owner it is hard to find time to take off. Every few months, my family and I take time unplug, unwind, and to spend quality time together.”

I had the pleasure to interview Audrey Craig, and Brenda Cascio. Audrey Craig is President and CEO of GB Design House, specializing in custom branding fabulous events with personalized products and gifts. Blending her entrepreneurial spirit and design flair, Audrey brings style and savvy to her lifestyle brand. Brenda Cascio, Founder and Creative Director, is the artistic heart of GB Design House. She has an eye for creating great designs to take an event from average to extraordinary.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Brenda: As an artist, I’ve always had a need for a creative outlet. In 2005, Hurricane Rita ripped the roof off of my art studio. Having no place to paint, and a yearning to create, I opened Gracious Bridal, an e-commerce store focusing on wedding favors. Gracious Bridal allowed me to marry the creative and business sides of myself. The business started to grow so quickly that I brought in my business partner and daughter Audrey Craig and together our wedding favors business turned into GB Design House, a full-fledged entertaining design house.

Audrey: After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I had various positions, none of which were challenging nor creative. After much deliberation, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my job, diving head first into GB Design House. It was a calculated risk that has fulfilled my business and creative interests.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

Brenda: Within the first two years of starting Gracious Bridal, featured us in an article about mother/daughter businesses. We received several calls from various production companies about creating a reality show for us — which is hilarious. However, the producers often wanted to find family drama and stress, and we are more likely to dissolve into laughter not tears, so it never materialized.

Audrey: The most interesting part has been growing a small e-commerce store from our homes into a full-service design house with a team of employees and garnering national corporate clients.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Brenda: Wow! In business, I consider that an oxymoron. We strive to NOT make mistakes, and when we do, I don’t find it particularly funny. We are pretty meticulous, but occasionally there is a mistakes. After correcting the problem, we ask, “what could we have done to eliminate the mistake,” and “did we exceed their expectations in the resolution of the situation.” Each mistake is a valuable opportunity to learn a lesson.

Audrey: Brenda is correct. We are working with customers who are planning important and memorable events, sometimes the biggest day of their life, and mistakes are not funny. Getting things right the first time around is critical to building repeat customers.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Brenda: What sets GB Design House apart from others is our meticulous attention to detail and personal service. We had a client that had two daughters getting married only a few months apart in two different countries. They had many of the same guests on both lists and wanted original ideas for each wedding, both of which were fun projects. Later, her husband was receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and we were asked to create custom accessories for the after party. It is an honor when someone brings you into all their family’s special celebrations.

Audrey: GB Design House stands out because we provide impeccable customer service and an almost obsessive attention to detail. It’s rewarding to see our customers’ faces light when we reveal something new designed specifically for their event.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Brenda: Be disciplined and have an “off-switch!” I love what I do, it’s fun, but designing is consuming. Make time for family, friends and down-time.

Audrey: I sit at a computer all day, so I try workout during my lunch break. It’s a great mental break and helps me regroup. As a business owner it is hard to find time to take off. Every few months, my family and I take time unplug, unwind, and to spend quality time together.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Brenda: My husband, Gerard. He has always believed in me and encouraged me in anything, except for welding. I’ve always had a crazy desire to weld, and he is not particularly enamored of the idea of coming home to a woman in a jumpsuit and mask — at least not the welding kind!

Audrey: My mom, Brenda. We have been business partners in GB Design House for over 10 years and we make a fabulous team! She is my biggest cheerleader.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Brenda: Professionally and personally we are very supportive of Mobile Loaves and Fishes and Health Talents, International.

Audrey: Through Health Talents, International, I have traveled several times to Guatemala. While there we have helped translate for the physicians and worked with patients.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

Brenda: “Never quit, just pivot.” In 2011, we hired a highly-recommended SEO firm for our e-commerce business. We saw a huge spike in traffic, sales were great, and then one morning we woke up to crickets. Google made an algorithm change, and overnight it was as if someone turned out the lights to our store. Unbeknownst to us, that SEO company used “black hat” techniques, which Google disallowed. Quickly, we had to developed new strategic sales avenues by expanding GB Design House’s business with corporate clients.

Audrey: My dad repeated “you are the number that you wear” every morning before I headed into school. I was always encouraged to “wear” an emphatic ten on my forehead. It taught me two important lessons: Act confident, even when you aren’t, and believe in yourself and you will be treated with respect.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Brenda: I’m so glad you asked that question. As you know, school budgets for art and music programs continue to be cut. I would love to implement a program where every sixth grader is given a harmonica and lessons. It is a portable and inexpensive musical instrument that is easy to learn and allows kids to create without straining a budget.

Audrey: I can’t think of anything better than taking the Austin charity, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, to a national level. With almost 20,000 volunteers, the truck ministry has served over 5 million meals to the homeless since 1998, and just opened a master community to house the chronically homeless, support employment and ultimately, hope. In light of all the negativity out there, I would love to shine a spotlight on such a worthy, noble group.

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