Design guru and star of Selling Houses Australia, Shaynna Blaze, returns to share some thoughts on her business and we get to see another side of Shaynna.
Kevin: Makeover magician on Foxtel, much-loved judge on The Block, designer of a fabulous lighting range, and if you watched the Yass episode of Selling Houses Australia, you would have known that Shaynna Blaze – my next guest – is a talented singer, as well.
Shaynna: Hi, Kevin. How you going?
Kevin: Wonderful. I want to pause because I just want to play this little bit of music to you.
So there you go. Does that sound very familiar?
Shaynna: Just a little bit. You put me on the spot.
Kevin: Yes. That was the song that you sang there in that Yass episode. I have to confess that this version that I’m playing here is not your version of It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing. That was a great song. What does it mean to you – that song?
Shaynna: I actually used to play it in one of my bands. We had a 12-piece band. We had a horn section, double bass. It was one of those songs that we used to play, and we used to have a lot of jive dancers who used to follow us and swing dance. They used to come and just dance. It’s a great memory of the time when I used to do a lot of swing singing and jazz, and it’s just about pumping it up and having a great time.
Kevin: Well, there you go. There’s something I didn’t know about you, Shaynna Blaze, that you’re a talented singer, as well, so it’s more than just a hobby. Tell me a little bit more about the band. Is it still going?
Shaynna: Oh, God, no. No. There’s no way I can do what I do and do singing at the same time. No. It was a time in my life. I sang really from when I was about 17 or 18 and used to be in a few very basic cover bands and things like that.
I used to sing at night when I was at design school. I used it to get myself through college, and then when I became a mum, having my business was absolutely overwhelming and having two little kids, so I actually stopped designing for a while and ended up just singing at night a couple of nights a week because the kids would be in bed. So it was just one of these really great things that when they were little, I was there when they were awake, but when they were asleep, I was off at bands and having a great time.
Kevin: Well, you’re obviously very good at it. I was surprised when I saw it. I thought, “Wow. I didn’t even know.” How come you’ve been able to keep that under wraps?
Shaynna: It’s one of those things… Well, thank you, anyway. I heard a few bum notes. But anyway, that was nice of you.
Kevin: Oh, well, I didn’t.
Shaynna: Look. It’s one of those things… There’s so much about design and creativity that all masks together, and when you’re on a roll of one part of your life, you can’t do all the different areas. It was really important for me to focus on the design, but also the writing, and that’s why I have a couple of books out is that those are limits for the ones that work together.
The actual singing wasn’t part of what that was. It really only came out when I was presenting the ASTRAs a couple of years ago. They found out that I sang and they said, “Do you want to do an opening number?” So the first time anyone had really heard me sing was when Matt Shirvington and I did the opening number for the ASTRA awards a couple of years ago. Can I tell you, we blew them away and it was so good.
Kevin: I must admit, I missed that, so I wasn’t aware until I saw the Selling Houses Australia. Maybe I’m just so focused on real estate, that’s a problem.
Shaynna: Well, it was very in-house, too. That’s the Foxtel awards night, so it was very in-house, yes.
Kevin: Is singing a way for you to relax?
Shaynna: It is. It’s actually a bit of an escape. Painting is one of my escapes, as well. But music is something that’s just definitely ingrained in my soul. My mum used to do a little part-time musical theater, and my kids have grown up with music. My daughter was learning violin. My daughter now is very into alternative music, and my kids just love music, so it’s something that wasn’t ingrained as a child; it was more just about have fun and a release.
Kevin: There are a few things I want to talk to you about, but I’m delighted that we’re able to cover off on your musical talents. Thank you for that.
The other thing I wanted to talk to you about was that you were featured recently on the front cover of My Business, and how good was that? That magazine cover, that was great.
Shaynna: Honestly, it was one of those moments where you look at it and you think, “Wow. Is that really me?”
The funny thing is I had done the interview, I knew that was happening, and I had forgotten that they said they might make it the front cover. I was sitting in the Qantas lounge. It was 6:00 a.m., no makeup, just sitting there going, “Oh my god. Here I go again.”
Then I went to go get a magazine and literally looking at me was me. But a different version of me because I didn’t quite have the makeup and hairstyle that I was looking at. So, just to see that, I was very taken aback going, “Oh, wow.”
It’s one of those moments that you think, “Oh, okay. That’s pretty good,” and I did give myself a little pat on the back, which I don’t tend to do, and I tell other people to do, so I just took that in. It was a pretty nice moment.
Kevin: We know of you on Selling Houses Australia. We now know that you’re an accomplished singer, as well. I very rarely think of you – and I should – as being a small business owner, but that’s effectively what you are, isn’t it?
Shaynna: Yes. Well, I’ve been a small business owner really since I was about 21. I used to run my own design business before I had kids, and when I was doing music, I actually ran the band. I used to do all the bookings and the books and create the events and things like that. So I’ve always had my finger in creating stuff, always making sure behind the scenes that I have control of what all the financial elements are, and that’s really hard as a creative person really tapping into that business side.
I think one of the interesting things is that my business has always been going quite smoothly, and it’s really the past 18 months, it’s actually really escalated. That’s because I’m letting it escalate and taking on more jobs. I could have been ridiculously flat out with my business the whole time with inquiries, but I just wanted to stay small and just keep it myself and one other person.
But now, with all that knowledge and everything, it’s time to create the business and make it bigger. There are actually seven of us in the office at the moment, so it’s a whole different world for me at the moment.
Kevin: It is, indeed. The business is called Blank Canvas Interiors. How did it get started?
Shaynna: Probably out of just wanting to be my own boss. I worked for a couple of big corporations when I was first studying design. My husband at the time – who’s now my ex-husband – had his own business. He was a builder and a carpenter, so it made sense for us to work together. I would design and he would create and build. I set up my own business back then, so we kept our businesses separately. That was a good thing by the sound of it, doesn’t it?
Kevin: Yes, I reckon. You must have known something.
Shaynna: I must have known. And really, it just went from there. When I came back into the world of design, I couldn’t get a job, and that had a lot to do with technology that had taken over in the short time that I was away. I think it was only about four years. Everything was incredibly high tech – because I was from a commercial background –and it was a lot harder to get into.
For me to try to be fulfilled and do what I wanted to do, I actually had to do it myself. I did work for a couple of other people in some small areas and I was incredibly frustrated. It was one of those things that I knew I could do it on my own; I just had to push myself and take the leap.
Kevin: Have you got a mentor, someone who helps you in your business?
Shaynna: No, and one thing that I said in this business interview is get a mentor. It was one of the things that I never did.
I did have mentors in the fact of people who I looked up to. It was my first boss, and he is an amazing man who I still have lunch with once a year. He’s incredibly humble. He owns a corporation that is immensely successful, and he sometimes still serves behind the counter and no one would know who he is.
He keeps it very grounded, and to me, that’s the type of mentorship that keeps me grounded. Never try and be bigger than what you are, and you’re always on the same level with everybody else. That’s my biggest advice I feel that’s been given to me.
A mentor for running a small business would have been really helpful, but it’s one of those things where I never felt like I was big enough to ask for help. In hindsight, you can’t get bigger unless you get help.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. That’s something that I always kept inside me and didn’t do. I would not recommend that because you can actually turn yourself in circles and not grow as you should and you make too many mistakes.
Kevin: Great advice. Just before I let you go, you’re currently filming Deadline Design, your new show. When is that due to be on the screen?
Shaynna: We don’t have a date as yet. We’re looking at towards the last half of the year with Lifestyle and Lifestyle Home. It’s absolutely something I’ve been wanting to do for years, pitching all different ideas to the station, and it’s based around my private business and working with private clients.
Most of the design shows that are Australian are working on houses that are for sale and getting things ready on a budget, and this is all about people’s real money, what they spend, how to do things to suit their own lifestyle and how people live, so it really is a peek into design and also a peek into how people live and how decisions are made of how interiors work.
Kevin: Well, when it does hit the screens, I’d love to have you back on the show so that we can talk a little bit more about it.
Shaynna: I’d love to. That would be fantastic, Kevin.
Kevin: My guest has been Shaynna Blaze. Thank you, Shaynna, for your time, and keep up that singing, okay?