Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs are interior architects Stéphanie Drake and Asal Khan, who’ve been dreaming about a career in their field since they were children and currently operate one of Toronto’s top design firms. We caught up with the duo to find out about their biggest milestones and what advice they would share with other young professionals…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
Drake+Khan: We create unique spaces by fusing our take on aesthetic expression with the needs of our clients.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
Drake+Khan: This career holds many technical and innovative facets, and with every new client new ideas and inspirations are brought to life. That’s an amazing thing, to get to see creativity flourish in every project. Not many have that luxury.
Khan: With architects as parents, I grew up almost trained to observe and experience my surroundings. I was excited by the potential for greatness within the ordinary and witness to the joys and frustrations of artistic expression. After-school site visits with my parents, observing the culmination of the creative process, and the responses it evoked in clients and users fascinated me… all that meant I would follow their footsteps!
Drake: It is amazing the influence our parents have on our hopes and dreams. My dreams started as a little girl when I was able to visit construction sites with my father; his knowledge and patience not only taught me about the pre-construction and construction phases, but also triggered a passion and excitement in me. From that point on I knew I wanted to go into interior architecture. My career isn’t something I take lightly and I appreciate every day I’m in it.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Drake+Khan: Being featured on Notable of course!
We think an overwhelming milestone was the day we finished setting up our new office. After two years of hard work, successes, and a few learning opportunities (we don’t believe in failure; everything helps us become stronger), and in face of pessimism expressed by some of our friends, that day signified that the hardest part was behind us and that we are on the right path to a successful, fulfilling career.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Khan: It is my passion to create designs are memorable and inspiring, giving users a sense of connection. I also want to see our creations come to fruition internationally. I see myself spending the next 5,10, 20 years steering our company towards achieving that.
Drake: The aim is to be just as passionate about what I do now in 5, 10 and 20 years. I want to guide our company towards continued growth, to promote a positive and memorable experience for all. My objective is to design spaces that evoke a positive connection between the end users and the space no matter their function.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Drake+Khan: It’s cliché, but enjoy what you do. It should excite you, facilitate your urge to create, and feed your intellectual curiosity. In other words, be passionate about what you do!
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
Drake+Khan: We are currently involved in a drive for the homeless in the Toronto/Durham Region. Seasonally we put together care packages that are handed out to those in need. The last ones were winter care packages with clothing, blankets, toiletries, food and other essentials to help make the holidays a bit ‘warmer’.
We also can’t wait to take part in Habitat for Humanity’s Build Days this year. It’s our way of giving back a tiny bit.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
This may not be a major challenge, but it’s a habit that has proven tough to shed: to let go of your brain-child.
Khan: I used to hear my mother tell me about how hard it was to let go of a project when it is complete, to pass over the torch to the client and allow them to utilize the space as they deem best.
Drake: We now know what our parents meant – giving birth to a concept and seeing it through its infancy stages to completion, it’s definitely hard to let go. We’ve come a long way.
Khan: Some clients would probably laugh and disagree.
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Drake+Khan: Worthy of mention and to be remembered.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Drake+Khan: El Catrin and Weslodge for their design and ambiance. They’ve truly put in a lot of work and detailing into the space. For the foodie in us, Pure Spirits and Joso’s. (We love seafood).
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Khan: Pinterest is the current one, Archdaily is another one. As for music on my phone, Pearl Jam’s Alive is currently a top song (English, that is).
Drake: Sotheby’s Real Estate. I love seeing what’s out on the market internationally.
The most played song at the moment is Kriebels (mixtape) by Sam Feldt. It’s even my alarm to wake me up in the morning.
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Khan: HONY (Humans of New York) has truly connected people from across the world on a positive platform like no one else. Nobel-worthy in my opinion.
Drake: I couldn’t agree more with Asal about HONY. As for my inner executive, I find Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington to be great people to follow and be inspired by their entrepreneurial skills.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Drake+Khan: Where do we begin? Each is so unique in itself that a comparison is unfair.
Khan: I was in Brazil for the FIFA World Cup. The culture, weather, nature, food, architecture and people (the list goes on) have left me yearning for another South American trip. Maybe Argentina?
Drake: I had a short taste of the Middle East last summer. I must say, I hope to get back there as soon as possible.
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Drake+Khan: Not being able to see some of the UN heritage sites due to destruction in war-torn or conflict areas.
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Drake+Khan: Food! We are trying to have a healthy 2016, and let’s just say it isn’t easy!
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Khan: I think I am quite frugal, so no regrets thus far, but I certainly wish I would spend more on travel. I know Stéphanie feels the same.
Drake: I don’t have any regrets at this stage. I do, however, intend to devote more money to travelling the world as much as possible.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Drake+Khan: When work feels like play, when you have the freedom to spend time with those closest to you, give back to your community, and explore the world.