Corporate Roots Blossom Into a Design Career
Ueno studied accounting, marketing, advertising and economics in college. This equipped her for a corporate role at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which was acquired by Marriott International in 2016. “I worked in the hotel industry for 16 years, but about six years into it, I realized I wanted to be a designer. I love interior design so much. It was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have a degree in it, so I started designing my own house and family’s houses for free,” she says.
“My boss at Starwood knew that I loved design. So in 2010, she actually employed me to work on a project for our offices. She said, ‘Hey, I know you love this. Do you want to redesign our office space? Get a building, work with the real estate team, work with the construction team and architect, finance, legal, everything, and do this project?’ I said an emphatic yes,” says Ueno. “And that project led to my first paid [design] job.”
Ueno says that while she was developing this passion and designing on the side, the enticing salary and benefits kept her in the corporate world. Then she moved to Miami in 2014, and her side hustle really took off. “I was designing nights and weekends while still working full-time, managing a big team and big budgets,” she says. And in 2018, she quit corporate America to start a full-time business, Ann Ueno Interior Design, and give it 100%.
“I always tell aspiring designers who didn’t go to school for it to just go ahead and get the design experience, whatever that may be,” Ueno says. “I got more experience in nine years than I would have going to school for it, and without the student debt.”