One day Alex Hechart’s husband asked her what she would do if she could do anything she wanted for a living. She knew the answer. For years she’d helped her mother, Donna Woodfin, decorate friends’ homes for fun. She wanted to start a home decor and design company with her mom, but the idea of turning something she loved to do into a business seemed too good to be true. When the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to her day job of selling copiers, Alex figured it was now or never, and Home with Hechart was born. Through Home with Hechart, Alex and Donna offer interior design services and sell home decor both online and at their shop at The Mercantile by Miller. We talked with Alex and Donna about what it’s like building a business with family, what it takes to make a house a home and so much more. Meet our newest FACES of Birmingham!
Now that interior design and selling home decor are what you do for a living, what do you love most about your job?
Alex: I love picking out pieces for the website. That is something I do every morning. I look at different websites to see if it’s going to fit our look and our style. I love shopping for what people are going to shop for on our website.
Donna: It’s fun to get to see the products when they come in. It’s always fun to unwrap. It’s kind of like Christmas!
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Alex: We haven’t had to pivot because we don’t know a business without the coronavirus. With our e-design service, we don’t have to go into anyone’s house. We’re able to completely do everything virtually through Zoom calls, phone calls, and by having measurements. We also love brick-and-mortar, but the convenience of being able to have something shipped to your door, especially at a time like this, is something we wanted to give to people through our website.
But we look forward to this pandemic coming to an end so we can see what it’s like to work in a business that isn’t so challenging all the time. Products are not coming in. Vendors are telling us that because of this virus everything is so backed up and delayed. People have told us if you can do your business now, you’ll definitely be able to do it later. That has kept us going.
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What do you do to add Southern charm to your designs or to make your designs uniquely Southern?
Donna: A space has Southern charm when you feel like you’re at home and can be yourself and just enjoy being in the space.
Alex: Southern charm and adding that looks different for each client. It may be adding a beautifully framed family photo or an antique that’s been passed down for many years. It’s about a space being warm and cozy and an area where it’s easy to entertain and show hospitality to others.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with family?
Donna: Working with [Alex] has been great because we are super close anyway, so it allows us to spend every day together. It’s been a blessing to have her here and do something we enjoy doing together. My younger daughter sometimes gets to help, too. It’s just fun. The only disadvantage at this point is we’re doing this out of my home, and unless you’re sleeping, it’s always Home with Hechart. It’s hard to cut that off and just be with family and not talk about the business.
Alex: I would say the advantage is you get to work with your best friend and do something you love with them. Another advantage is you know the person, and you know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they know the same about you. I would say the disadvantages are since we do love it so much, the rest of our family — my husband, my sister, my dad — don’t love talking about it as much as we do. At dinner, we may bring it up, and they’re like, “No more talking about Home with Hechart!”
What tips would you offer someone struggling to make their house or apartment feel like a home?
Alex: A first step is always to declutter. Then rearrange things you have to highlight the pieces you love the most. I would also say lamps and lighting can change an entire space or room. That’s what we recommend to people if they are looking to purchase something small that really will elevate a space. Lighting is something people don’t often think about, but it’s one of the most important parts of a room.
Donna: Assess what you have and decide what would be most important to purchase first. If you have antiques, you want to keep those in the room. That grounds the room. Focus on what you really need in the room and just build up from there to what you actually do love and enjoy — not just what you bought on a whim. Also, pillows and throws can change the look. It’s an inexpensive way to redecorate a room.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Alex: When I’m not working, I love going to dinner with friends and getting to hang out with them. One of my favorite restaurants is Gianmarco’s in Homewood. I love Italian food. I love taking a walk with my dog and my husband around our neighborhood in Crestline. I love to travel, though that’s a bit halted due to the coronavirus.
Donna: I love getting up early in the morning and having my coffee and quiet time when it’s just me and no interruptions and it’s still dark outside. It’s just a really serene time. I love playing tennis with friends and going to lunch and dinner with friends. Chuck’s Fish and Automatic are two of my favorite restaurants. And it’s not fine dining, but I love McAlister’s for the sweet tea. I love walks and travel. I love going to the beach and just sitting on the beach for the day with a good book.
What’s your best advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Alex: As cliché as it sounds, just do it. It is difficult, and there will be trying things, but we can do hard things, and we can do hard things well. Believe in yourself. Have a community of people who believe in you and want to see you succeed and will do what it takes with you to see that goal come to life. Failure is not ever failure. If you try and you fail, get back up and try again. There was something that was learned the first time around — something valuable to help you be more successful in the next go-around.
Donna: Go for it even if you think it’s impossible. It’s not. It is within reach; just keep trying. Obviously in life, you’re going to sometimes have difficulties, but you can overcome them if you just keep going for it and keep having the faith that it will work at some point. A lot of people don’t succeed the first time, but if they just keep going and trying, they will succeed, and they learn something from each experience in life. Each time you get a “no,” just keep going back until you get a “yes.” Persistence is a great thing. Don’t be afraid, and if you are afraid, just do it afraid.
Name three fun things you can’t live without.
Donna: Sweets, my dog Noble, and Netflix.
Alex: Queso, my sound machine, and I eat a bag of M&Ms every night.
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