Karen Bullard '88
“Radford University gave me the confidence and drive to pursue my passions, and the skills to realize them,” says Karen Bullard ’88, founder of Sugar Nest, an online boutique featuring a curated collection of home décor and gift items.
Like many students, when Bullard first arrived at Radford University, she didn’t know what career to pursue. “Being from a small town, I didn’t know that design was even a career option,” explains Bullard. “Radford University really opened up the world for me.
“After taking an Intro to Interior Design class, I was hooked. I declared my major and never looked back,” Bullard says.
During her junior year Bullard had an internship with a local interior designer, Trinia Bell, who also happened to teach one of Bullard’s design courses. “I absolutely loved it,” she says of her internship. “I would have paid her to let me come and work!
“The internship was optional, but I am really glad I did it as the experience helped me get my first job.”
It was this internship that set the foundation for a successful career. After graduating with a degree in interior design and a minor in art, Bullard worked as an assistant interior designer in Roanoke. “The internship most definitely helped me land that first job out of college,” Bullard says.
After a period working as a designer, in both interior and commercial design, Bullard took a position as a manufacturer’s representative for a wall covering company.
“That experience really prepared me for the self-motivation necessary to be self-employed,” Bullard explains. “That job taught me how to be my own boss.”
Bullard took time off from business to start a family, but it wasn’t long until her love of design pulled her back into the business. “I had an urge to get back into design in some way,” Bullard says.
“After much consideration I decided that an online store would be the perfect fit and reach a national audience,” she continues. “That way I could work when my children were at school – or in the middle of the night in many cases.”
It was in 2010 that Bullard founded Sugar Nest. With this business Bullard is able to combine her love of design and retail, allowing her to carefully tailor her design collection to fit the needs of her customers.
“I believe that a lovely appointed home can bring joy and happiness to our lives and gifts should be thoughtful and from the heart,” Bullard explains.
Designer is not Bullard’s only job title with her business, however. She also finds herself working in web maintenance, marketing and she even writes a blog for the site.
“I took marketing, business management and business of design classes while at Radford,” says Bullard. “Those were very helpful. Especially the business of design as it was taught by a design professional.”
Though her most important job title may be that of philanthropist. Each year Sugar Nest gives a percentage of its sales to a children’s charity in the Richmond, Va. area, The Children’s Hospital Foundation, which supports the programs and initiatives of Children’s Hospital Of Richmond at VCU.
“I’m so lucky to serve on the board of The Children’s Hospital Foundation,” Bullard says. “I’ve always liked to give back locally. Our family’s charitable foundation also supports local family based programs.”
While reflecting on her time at Radford University, Bullard offered some advice for current students. “First of all, college can be a really fun and exciting time so take the opportunity to find out who you are and what you love to do,” Bullard says. “Get to know your professors, join student organizations, intern if possible and network like crazy.
“As a student member of the American Society of Interior Designers, I met local designers and continued my involvement with that group after graduation,” Bullard explains. “I made some great friends who I keep in touch with today.”
Her most important advice to students is also her most personal. “When deciding on a career, start with finding a passion,” she says. “It’s hard to be successful without passion in any career.
“Search until you find something that excites you – you don’t have to settle.”
For more information, please visit sugarnest.com.