Following Passion to Unexpected Places, with Raili Clasen, Owner of Raili CA Design

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When Raili Clasen’s interior designer left just a week into the job, Clasen was left looking at a massive project that seemed daunting. But when she listened to her gut and decided to take a swing at designing the space herself, it opened up a world of possibilities that launched an incredibly successful business.

“So I bought some business cards,” Clasen said. “I didn’t have a website. I obviously had nothing, but I put some business cards out on the table and at that point was like, ‘Well, if these things are gone at the end of the day, then maybe I’m doing something cool. Maybe someone will hire me.’ That’s how it started.” 

Clasen would be the first to tell you that she didn’t expect to wind up as one of the most successful interior designers in California. She just knew two things: she loved design, and she needed to make a living. She followed that inclination and founded Raili CA Design. What happened next and how did Raili learn to go from being not just a designer but an entrepreneur, a business owner, and a leader? Find out on this episode.

Main Takeaways:

  • Be your own advocate: Sometimes, growth will only happen when you speak up for your talent and put your work in front of others. Leave your business cards on the table. Make the calls to see if someone wants to collaborate. Connections don’t just happen, and clients don’t just drop into your inbox. Use the network you have to seek out any and all opportunities. 
  • Be ready to wear multiple hats: Launching and growing a business means that you’ll be doing more before you can do less. Find ways to be comfortable learning about payroll and customer service – it might be a while before you can delegate those to others.
  • Don’t be afraid to go against the flow: Following your path might look different than the process everyone around you is going through. It’s easy to compare other careers against your own journey, but resisting that urge will help you keep your eyes ahead at what’s coming down the pike for you

Key Quotes:

On building a creative process from scratch: “It was before Pinterest. [I used] magazines…it was my own brain. I would [make] little tear outs. Maybe it was a fireplace idea that I did in the kitchen or something, and then just taking pictures of hotels and restaurants and bathrooms… just cool stuff that I liked.”  

On shifting her day-to-day roles: “I don’t love being a manager and a business owner. I like that it’s my own schedule, but managing people, managing their work with the clients… that’s my struggle. But the negative is so outweighed by the positive.” 

On becoming an entrepreneur later in life: “It’s a blessing in a curse that I’m in my fifties because I started this in my forties. I would not have had the confidence at 30 to take the stance. I also am not living paycheck to paycheck. I had a great career that allowed me to have freedom to not do this if I don’t want to.”

On leaving the future open for changes: “We’ll see what my interest level is. The day that I don’t want to do this is the day I will do something else.”


RailiCA Design is a full service interior design team, specializing in new construction, full remodels and the occasional cool vintage cottage renovation. Our projects range from the uber-cool Kelly Slater Surf Ranch, Urban Flix headquarters and Peninsula Point Tennis Club to our mainstay residential projects located throughout the country.

RailiCA design stems from former fashion executive Raili Clasen’s love for eclectic California interior design. Following a lengthy career with Quiksilver and Paul Frank, Clasen co-founded hip housewares brand, Alice Supply Co. The move into the interior design business came naturally after several of her home projects were featured in magazines, design blogs and her own homes showcased on the popular Newport Harbor Home tour.

This season of the Journey is produced by Mission.org and brought to you by UPS. To learn how UPS can help your small business, go to UPS.com/pivot.


Episode 112