Interior designer and founder of 34F Design, Erica Wickes, has made her way to the top with tenacity, an eye on the bigger picture and the passion of creativity
Erica Wickes is a person who makes things happen. Whether it is climbing the ladder from college graduate to CEO or building the skills to be as diverse in business as possible, her approach is the same: have vision, step out of your comfort zone and do it anyway—succeed.
“Right from interior design school I started working my way up to understand all the different parts of the business,” she says. “That meant understanding how design relates to architecture and construction and how important it is for interior designers contribute
to the process.”
Wickes’ experience learning some invaluable lessons about building success and how to handle roadblocks delved her into the inner workings of project management and what designers bring to the table.
“In designing a space and needing to understand the entire infrastructure of a project to make that happen, I realized interior designers make excellent project managers,” Wickes says.
Working for a general contractor allowed her to better understand the construction process and tendering, and to confront the stigma that designers aren’t skilled in the practical side of construction.
“That exposure allowed me to better understand trades people, how the general contractor captures the scope of work and the importance of cost in the entire process,” she says.
Armed with a multidisciplinary knowledge base and raw courage, she opened 34F in 2011. The business quickly grew. “What really launched the business was having great clients like UBC and YVR support 34F,” Wickes says. “They saw the value in our business model and hired 34F to bring their projects to fruition.”
34F has branched into prime consulting, running hundreds of projects from top to bottom, hiring teams and managing it all on the client’s behalf. Wickes’ favourite projects are those with a learning challenge—moving parts, puzzles to solve, and room to expand her ever-evolving skill set.
“I enjoy the most challenging projects and working through obstacles while creating a space that meets the life safety requirements, welfare of the public and our clients’ needs,” she says.
Wickes has had to make some important choices over the years, the most important of which built the integral foundation of her practice. “Communication, transparency and trusted management are the values from which we operate,” she says. “The client is trusting you to take the lead and run with it. The only way to do that is to break down your learning into blocks and start building.”