As I prepared for my call with Veronika Miller, CEO of Modenus, to interview her for a series on inspirational women in design, I felt a bit like a fraud. After months of back-to-back travel attending design shows, dealing with business frustrations and suffering through view after view of soulless, disappointing design only to find a few beautiful soulful objects worthy of sharing, I was physically, mentally and emotionally depleted. My passion for design and the dream I had to discover beautiful objects and home décor and share those finds with you, the loyal readers of The Decorating Diva, was perilously close to being extinguished.
I was frightened that I was morphing into the celebrity designer I had interviewed years ago. I remember excitedly asking her what inspired her to create such things of beauty, and then being intensely disappointed, when with passionless eyes she replied, “I no longer get inspired. I don’t seek inspiration. After doing this for so many years, I just create. It’s routine. It’s a job.” I couldn’t comprehend the words that were spilling out of her mouth. I countered that inspiration is the soul of passion, the passion that drives us to fulfill our dreams – to live with purpose. But I could see by her demeanor that she truly no longer had an ounce left in her Inspiration Well. I vowed to myself that day that I wouldn’t end up like this person. Never would I let wane that inspiration fueled passion, which made me want to jump out of bed each morning and go out into the world to discover things of beauty for the home, and bring back those divine finds to share with you. Yet, here I was suffering from burnout, exhausted from dealing with business aspects of my design passion, and slowly losing the inspiration that was my dream seed for The Decorating Diva.
My calling Veronika to discuss inspiration was rather ironic considering I was staring down into a dark, nearly empty Inspiration Well, but that call turned out to be fateful, and truly inspiring in so many ways.
The Power of Dreaming Big, Believing in Yourself and Facing your Fears
Veronika is a loving mother and daughter, entrepreneur extraordinaire, trusted friend, nurturing mentor, inspirational dreamer, dauntless leader and optimistic visionary. Those of us who know Veronika also know that she is a force of nature, and possesses an unwavering passion for making things happen. Taking ideas, concepts, and dreams and bringing them to life. Like her concept for marrying lifestyle and design writers with international travel (with the trip being sponsored by brands, hotels and airlines amongst others – in exchange for organic exposure) to experience design on another level and to share those design finds with their audiences. Veronika’s dream for what is now the wildly successful BlogTour franchise was met with many doubts and hardships from the very moment she shared the idea with her business partner. Veronika notes, “If I had listened to anyone around me about [my idea for] BlogTour, there would not be a BlogTour.”
When she first told her business partner, his response, according to Veronika, was that he looked at her and said, “Absolutely, not. I let you do everything you want to do because you’re the operations girl. It’s your company, but I’m going to say no. This is ridiculous; no one in their right mind is going to pay to send a bunch of people on a trip.” Undaunted, she replied, “I’m going to try it.” And he retorted, “I’m not going to back it.” Unwavering in her passion and belief, Veronika stated, “Okay, I’ll do it myself.” She told me that she then looked over at Tim Bogan, Director of Modenus, United Kingdom, and he gave her a look and said, “We’re doing what?” Veronika confides, “Nobody saw the value [in the BlogTour concept].”
The path to the first BlogTour was fraught with some difficulties as Veronika championed her vision to others, and worked diligently, along with Tim to make their dream a reality. Having been on the inaugural BlogTour, I knew that both Tim and Veronika worked extremely hard, and at great personal and business financial risk to make the event happen. Just a few short days before we were to depart to London, the housing sponsorship that Veronika and Tim had arranged fell through. At this point quite a few of us would throw our hands up, and say, okay we tried, it’s over. Send out the emails to the writers, BlogTour has been canceled. Not so for Veronika and Tim they dug into their own financial reserves to secure us lodging in London. I asked her why she did that when it was easier to call the whole thing off. What inspired her to take that leap of faith with regards to BlogTour? How did she find the courage to take on such a risk, and continue fighting to bring her dream (which was untested as to its successfulness) to live? Tears welled up in my eyes, and I felt my body constricting to hold back the flood of tears I knew was imminent, as she told me, “It was tough. It was sleepless nights and tears. It was dealing with people who wouldn’t give us the time of day.” Her words brought back to me the many struggles I’ve had in championing my dream, in pursuing my bliss. But it was her next words that reminded me why I continue to champion my dream, “We had an absolute believe in that what we were doing was not a fad. We needed to make it work.” And make it work they did.
“We Did It”! – Letting it all Sink In
I asked Veronika when did you have that “Oh, my God, we did it!” moment? With passion she descriptively took me back in time to that moment she and Tim realized what they had created with BlogTour London:
“I can tell you exactly when. It was the most remarkable day. It was the day you guys left London. Tim and I drove back to the South of England to Brighton. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Brighton; almost surreal. We walked down by the beach, picked up some Vietnamese food at this favorite little place we like going to for Po and beer. When we got to the beach, we noticed that the beach was completely shrouded in fog. It was a remarkable, eerie place to be – the beach was full of people, but there was no sunshine. We sat there on the beach, sort of collapsed into the rocks, and said, “Not only did we do it, but we haven’t seen anything yet.” My phone started ringing and one call after another with people requesting information, people wanting to know if we were still in town. It was completely unbelievable. We realized that we had knocked something lose. It was the most rewarding feeling to sit there on that fog covered beach, and just let it all sink in.”
The Power of Dreams: When Dreams become Reality
Very few saw value in Veronika’s BlogTour idea, but that quickly changed as the BlogTour team took London Design Festival by storm last September. BlogTour went viral. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram were ablaze with BlogTour references. The design world was watching, and they liked what they saw. Veronika tells me that many came up to her during the design festival and said, “You did something that no one else has done.” As she notes, there are “a lot of people capable of creating online buzz, lots of traffic and social media buzz, but then how do you convert that? How do you turn that into real life? How do you bring those [consumer] eyeballs? How do you bring that buzz back into where the people need it most? In the tradeshows, showrooms, the retail stores.” And “that’s exactly what BlogTour did.” According to Veronika, the first BlogTour (London) “reached 600,000 people and then one million people with the March 2012 BlogTour New York event (coinciding with the Architectural Digest Home Design Show). Those numbers are quite spectacular, especially considering that none of that would have ever happened, had it not been for one woman with a dream, unshakable courage, a clear vision and an overflowing Well of Inspiration. Veronika, created something new – something that is revolutionizing the design world.
I hope that Veronika’s inspirational story leaves you, as it did me, feeling renewed, buoyed, encouraged, and impassioned. That you will know that in spite of the turmoil, the obstacles, the disappointments, the gut wrenching fears and the difficulties you may face – that you can make your dreams come true. You just need to believe in yourself and never let your Inspiration Well go dry. I leave you with one of my favorite inspirational quotes: