Profession: Owner and founder, Colleen Waguespack Interiors/Fig & Dove
Hometown: New Orleans
Family: Married to husband, Stephen Waguespack, with three children: Craig (16), Christopher (13) and Brady (12)
Years with company: 4 with Fig & Dove; 3 with Colleen Waguespack Interiors
Shortly after Colleen Waguespack and her husband, Stephen, moved back to Louisiana, their son Christopher was diagnosed with autism. With services for Christopher spread across town, Waguespack saw firsthand the need for a one-stop-shop for coordinated care. The Baton Rouge mother became inspired to help ensure community children with autism each had equal access to care.
Now the vice chair for the Emerge Foundation, her long-term vision for Emerge has grown to open centers across Louisiana.
“The impact of autism is the exact same everywhere,” Waguespack says. “There’s not one community that’s impacted more than the next community. If we can fill a building with that many children in Baton Rouge, you can do the same in Shreveport, Monroe, New Orleans and Alexandria.”
Her work with the Emerge Center and its capital campaign for a new school inspired her to risk striking out on her own and start her own business. In search of more flexibility in her professional and personal life, Waguespack left the world of corporate interiors to start her own residential interior design company—Colleen Waguespack Interiors.
“When you meet with people who can write the check, who can buy a wing of a building or donate a classroom or whatnot, the common thread is they all own their own businesses,” Waguespack explains. “At that point as an interior designer, I can buy the table at an event but I can’t have a classroom. I decided to start my own business in hopes that one day I’ll be able to give back bigger.”
The New Orleans native was destined for a career in interior design. She’s been an artistic entrepreneur since childhood, and jokes that at sleepovers as a young girl she would spend most of the night reorganizing her host’s bedroom.
After graduating from LSU, Waguespack landed a high-end corporate interior job that brought her to Washington D.C., where she honed her skills for the first decade of her career.
Along with nurturing her company, she’s continued to expand her Christmas accessories brand. Launched in 2015, Fig & Dove has grown from a direct-to-consumer line of Christmas home decor to being stocked in stores such as Neiman Marcus. Waguespack is working on collaborating with larger labels for a future expansion with the aim of creating a national lifestyle brand.
Between all of her obligations, she admits she’s stretched pretty thin. She wakes up promptly before the sun rises to get a head start on that day’s work before the kids wake up, and she often opens her laptop in the evening—well after the sun is set and her kids are in bed—to tie up loose ends from the day. She credits her 14-years at the all-girls Academy of Sacred Heart in New Orleans and her all-female staff for helping her stay flexible.
“There’s some women finding themselves wanting to integrate into a man’s world,” Waguespack says, “and I’m actually a woman who’s very comfortable working with women.”
2012-2014: Leads the Emerge Capital Campaign, serving as president of the board during this time
2015: Launches Fig & Dove, an e-commerce platform selling high-end Christmas decorations direct to consumers
2016: Completes the Circular Board program, a women’s business accelerator program based in Houston
2016: Creates wholesale division of Fig & Dove, selling nationally to retail stores for the 2016 Christmas season
2016: Opens Colleen Waguespack Interiors
2017: Creates custom private collections for national retailers Nordstrom & One Kings Lane, and begins producing products overseas
2018: Becomes vice president of the board of the Emerge Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the Emerge Center and the Emerge Charter school for autism
A life-changing experience
Leading the capital campaign for the Emerge Center changed my life in more ways than I could ever count. Our son, Christopher, is on the autism spectrum. Through years of getting to know other parents “in the halls of therapy,” I knew there was a great need in our community for one place for early intervention services with “all services under one roof.”
Necessary workplace changes
There is a whole work force of talented women who took time off to raise their children when they were young but would now like to re-enter the workforce. At the same time, they are not looking for a 9-5 job that ties them to a desk with set work hours and vacation days. There are so many smart and capable women that would love a rewarding job that also enables them to work during the hours of the school day.
Relaxing when stressed
I walk the lakes with a friend. I’m an extrovert and need to “talk it out.” Thankfully, I’ve got really good girlfriends who have the patience to listen to it all!