Meredith Xavier, Founder, Ligné Agency: Global Expansion at 27 Years Old
Meredith Xavier is Founder and Principal of Ligné Agency, a boutique business development firm representing clients in the interior design industry, which she founded in 2009 aged just 24.
Meredith has since opened two Ligné satellite offices in Sao Paulo and Houston, in addition to her office in Los Angeles.
Always ambitious, Meredith graduated high school a year ahead of schedule. Whilst studying Art History in California, she developed a fascination for composition of interior spaces. During her senior year she pursued her interests in design, working at Christie’s in Beverly Hills.
After graduating college in 2006, Meredith moved to London to attend Christie's Fine and Decorative Arts Connoisseurship Program. At just 22, she received her Masters in European Fine & Decorative Arts before returning to Los Angeles, where she began dealing art through her first company, Meredith Laing Fine Art.
Through her work at the Pacific Design Center Meredith has designed hotel art installations around the world including Presidential Suites for the Ritz Carlton in Miami, the Marriott Hotel in Dubai, Hilton Times Square in New York, and an installation at the UCLA Hospital in Los Angeles.
We spoke to Meredith about how her entrepreneurial journey began; her advice for women starting businesses; and why choosing a client is like embarking on a new relationship.
TNW: What is the
wisest career decision you have made?
MX: Quitting my job in 2009 and starting Ligné Agency was by far the best decision I ever made. I was trapped in a company where I was completely miserable everyday, but was making enough money to feel like I could stick it out. I remember sitting in my family’s living room in Texas on Christmas Eve and it finally hitting me that I could not live day to day in complete misery - as scary as it was, I needed to make a move.
I sent in my resignation that day, turned off my phone and computer, and immediately felt a wave of relief. That feeling of complete and total freedom, followed by “oh no, what now?”
My head was so clear,
and with all of that pressure off my shoulders the concept for Ligné Agency
naturally came to me - it was fresh and exciting, and for the first time in
years I couldn’t wait to work!
TNW: Where did the idea for Ligné Agency originate?
MX: From my work out of graduate school I had
already fully ingrained myself into the interior design industry, and loved
everything about it. I had built relationships with interior designers
and showrooms throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, and I thought through
all of my business development experience I could apply that knowledge to other
companies to help them grow and flourish. I loved product distribution,
sales, marketing and consulting - so I offered up those services to a few
companies I knew well and they signed on - Ligné Agency was born! It all
happened so fast - I had checks made out to my company but was still waiting on
the LLC to process so I could open a bank account. It just came so
naturally, I knew it was right - I found a niché that I knew I could fill.
TNW: Did you always know that one day you would be the head of your own company?
MX: Yes. I am incredibly independent, full of ideas and always looking for creative ways to grow the business.
The idea of a ceiling being over my head was never very appealing. And I think the most rewarding thing is allowing my team of incredible go-getting women to feel the same freedom.
I encourage their ideas and creativity - I want to
create a work environment where they can flourish, grow, build an incredible
portfolio and more than anything love coming to work everyday. I have
always been the take charge type, but also a huge motivator of myself and others.
I’m sure they all get sick of my pep talks and motivational speeches from
time to time!
TNW: Do you have any role models or mentors?
MX: My dad was my biggest role model and mentor- he was an incredibly talented businessman who started from nothing and worked his way to the absolute top. He was always pushing me and motivating me to become the business woman I am today, and no one was ever more excited for my accomplishments. Whether it was a finger painting in elementary school to the day I signed my first client, no one could show excitement for my milestones like he did.
He always had a way of telling me how I should do something without actually telling me what to do - and prepared me for all of the challenges that lie ahead.
I lost him to cancer last year, it was
completely devastating - but his words of wisdom have stuck with me and still
get me through the rough days.
TNW: How does Ligné Agency distinguish itself from the competition?
MX: For one thing, I am a much different
generation than my competitors, which I think gives me an edge. I have a
firm grasp on what’s happening with technology and social media, and can keep
my clients up to date on the latest and most effective ways to grow their
businesses. There are very few firms in the country that do what we do,
and when people are shopping for a publicist and business development
consultant in our industry it is usually narrowed down to the same 4-5 firms.
I have a much different approach to PR than my competitors, I am anything
but traditional - and I never take myself too seriously, we enjoy what we do
and want our clients to enjoy working with us Unfortunately that is not
an attitude you see too often.
TNW: What criteria do you use while choosing clients?
MX: It’s more like we chose one another.
I always tell potential new clients that by working with Ligné Agency they are basically starting a relationship with me - I am a big part of my client’s businesses, I like to be involved every step of the way and we have to be in sync with one another.
For every new client that comes on board I want them to be with me for the next 20 years, which means we have to be on the same page about where they are headed and how they want to get there, what their expectations are - and most importantly, I have to LOVE what they do. If I am not excited about their work and designs, it will never work out.
TNW: You have seen so much growth with your company already, where do you see it in 5 years?
MX: Our growth has been very organic, but it is
gaining extreme momentum. In 5 years I think our presence will definitely
be stronger across the country, and I truly hope we are seeing our clients
experience incredible growth from our joint efforts. I am so grateful
that our clients refer us to others as well, so in 5 years I’m sure our Ligné
family will be much larger! The best part about our clients - they
collaborate with one another - I call them my dream team, and I look forward to
seeing what they will come up with next!
TNW: How do you choose your employees? What characteristics and qualities are you looking for in order to keep the face of Ligné continually in its prime?
MX: I have quickly learned that hiring new
employees is tough - I really depend on referrals instead of cold interviews.
Someone can be great at an interview and when it comes to their first
couple of weeks, it turns into a complete disaster. I have very high
expectations of the women that join my team (we welcome men, but the design
industry tends to be the woman’s domain and there are always very few male
applicants!). I look for type A personalities that are self motivated,
incredibly creative and personable, and are not afraid of a challenge.
Let’s face it - it’s a brutal world out there trying to break through to
editors and writers - you have to know how to make yourself stand out, build a
relationship and stay relevant. The women of Ligné are intelligent, savvy
and eager to leave their mark - I look for that drive, it’s crucial.
TNW: What is one piece of advice you would give women who are starting their own business?
Just go for it. Set fear aside, and don’t let hesitation hold you back. If you love your idea and truly believe in it, you will be successful.
TNW: How do you find balance in your life between
running a company, constant travel and being a wife?
MX: I am very lucky to be married to a man who
understands that what I do requires a lot of travel, and he never resents me
for it. But it is important that I take breaks from being on the road so
we can spend quality time together - he also has a very demanding career, and
it is important that we are there to support one another. He is my sanity
at the end of a crazy day. Of course some days are more balanced than
others...but I had to learn when to stop working for the day and spend time
doing things that are non-work related. Getting burned out makes
productivity impossible, and is not positive for my team. My husband has
always pushed the fact that if I don’t take care of myself, there is no
physical way I can take care of my clients and company.
TNW: What is a typical day like for you?
MX: Everyday is different - which I love. When I am on the road a typical day is back to back meetings or events, followed by a client dinner and several hours on the laptop catching up on emails. Those are always late nights. I try to spend at least one week a month in the Los Angeles office, and the rest of the month I travel in and out of Houston. Full days in the office are few and far between, but I love them because it gives me a chance to catch up and spend time brainstorming with my team.
Sign Up to our Newsletter
So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.