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Meet Crystal Russell of TVL Creative Ltd. in Lincoln Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Russell.

Crystal, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
To make a very long story short, I’ve wanted to be in design and architecture since high school. I was hell-bent on getting there and was offered a scholarship to Philadelphia University’s Interior Design Program for college. I attended there for my undergraduate, which was an incredible program to be a part of.

After I graduated, I moved back home to Denver to look for work. The building and design industry was still horribly flat, and it was super tough to get work for anyone… especially young new graduates. I started working at a small design-centric retail shop just outside of Denver and met a lot of really amazing creatives in the industry. This job was inspiring in a number of ways: I wasn’t utilizing my formal interior design knowledge, per se, but I was networking and learning the art of sales which has benefited me endlessly since that position. I left that retail job to pursue a Masters of Architecture degree, and then later a Masters of Fine Art in Media Design. I returned to Philadelphia following the acquirement of those degrees to teach back at the university as an Adjunct. I focused on Interior Design studio and visualization courses—specifically advanced modeling and rendering in 3dsMax, Rhino, and Revit. It was here that I innovated and perfected much of my current photorealistic visualization skills. While working at the University, I took on a second job simultaneously working for a remodeling contractor in the city. This was a very small company, so I was able to move into a lead designer position almost immediately. The owner of the company was/is a general contractor, and he needed a lot of help on the marketing and design end. I jumped into that role and used it as an opportunity to learn everything I could about how he was running his business: contract writing, marketing, web promotion, and client acquisition. I spent an immense amount of time in the office, but also had to be on site very often as the only design professional in the company at the time. This on-site experience is how I learned to actually see construction. I began to understand and grow comfortable with so many of the small details of construction processes that you really don’t learn in school. This experience empowered me in just about every way. I moved back to Denver in 2013 and didn’t think twice about founding my own company. It’s been six years and the rest is history!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I feel like entrepreneurship is never a smooth road, and that’s part of the reason I love it. Clear, straight roads never made great drivers, right? Everything from the moment I started the business through each expansion has been tricky, trying, and difficult on every mental and emotional level. When I founded, I had absolutely no startup capital or formal business education, so I had to just bootstrap and learn as I went. I used what I knew about psychology and branding to develop something really strong and captivating about my own company. I drew attention using free resources to start and lived by the “fake it ’till you make it” mantra. As this is true with any rapidly growing business, I am constantly faced with financial fears, rejection, and failure. My life as an entrepreneur, and more specifically as a CEO and Construction Manager in a traditionally male-dominated field has been complex and often difficult. Pair that with my age, and it has been anything but easy to rise up in this industry. I am small, young, and female; something that has been fairly foreign to the construction industry. As things currently stand, this is my biggest challenge to date: changing the face of management and business as it pertains to construction. I’m loving that challenge, by the way.

TVL Creative Ltd. – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
There is not one part of my company that I’m not insanely proud of. TVL Creative is, at its core, dynamic, disruptive, and full of insane talent.

We are a full-service design + build company that offers innovative and impactful design solutions for both residential and commercial spaces. We specialize in technologically advanced approaches to design and visualization, offering our clients an unmatched view into the potential for their spaces.

Beyond this, our entire process has created a true innovation in this industry. We have a team of six accredited interior designers who produce phenomenal designs daily, in-house. We also employ and salary two in-house build teams to construct our projects. This means that our builders and installers are not subcontractors, eliminating the all-too-common fear of accountability and work quality on job sites. This also means that there are constant and uninterrupted dialogue and collaboration between the designers and the folks building the work. This means fewer errors, tighter bids, and better quality. Nothing ever leaves our umbrella (pun intended), and that maintains quality and timeliness beyond what we can describe. We are efficient, successful, and hold every single phase of a project to the highest standards in both design and construction.

Aside from all of this, we are known for our culture. We are, holistically, quite alternative in our industry. It was my mission to develop a brand that rejected the relatively unwelcoming air of the interior design industry and to provide a service that clients not only feel embraced by but involved in. We have never wanted interior design to feel like an unapproachable luxury because we believe in the science of design and its ability to better lives and improve health. We are charismatic, inky, alternative, young and bring energy to the table that is truly unique in this field. Our company operates like a family, and it is my top priority to ensure my employee wellness and happiness beyond all else. You can feel that in our brand; it is evident in the loyalty seen in the office, quality of work done on site, and desire to be here every single day.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I love this question. Success can be so many things. To me, success can obviously be measured in formal metrics and data like profit, revenue, years in business, turnover rates, etc. That said, I very much respect and observe those metrics but do not allow them to define success for me. To me, success is the ability to move through growth phases again and again without falling apart. This doesn’t mean avoiding failure, in fact, quite the opposite. I feel most successful when I’ve failed and started again. When I’ve learned something, moved forward, and kept going. Aside from this, my most successful moments in life have been those when I lay down at night and know, deeply, that I have inspired someone somewhere, and that my visions for business are extending far beyond making money and growing in the traditional business ways. Business is about addressing the need, shaking up the system, and shocking people with results again and again.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rebecca Ann Photography, Grace Combs Photography

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