We had the good fortune of connecting with Dorsa Afsharjavan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dorsa, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
The three habits I feel that have helped me be most successful in both life and business are: organization, communication and transparency.
I’m a list, spreadsheet and note taking type of person. Daily, weekly and monthly to-do and organizational lists help me prioritize my work and tasks. My daily notebook is my life! I’m not sure what I would do without my series of Moleskins (ps. pls sponsor me!!). Documentation is especially helpful when working on numerous projects at the same time. What is unique about my line of work is I can be working on several projects at one given time, all at various points in the design and build process. The exciting yet challenging aspect of what I do is that each project is unique to its location, team, timeline, contractor and scope so keeping lists and spreadsheets to track projects is what keeps me moving on track.
Throughout the years, I have learned that excellent communication skills are essential to success. This includes verbal, written and graphic. You need to be able to communicate to your clients, while also coordinating with other team members ranging from architects, general contractors and even people as essential as delivery guys. I grew up around construction sites as a young girl, so I learned early on that communication and respect is mutual and works both ways – something I carry with myself when I am out in the field.
I was taught to always keep a well documented trail – you never know when things may go wrong and it’s important to make sure you have written communication reflecting decisions made by clients, vendors, inspectors and all others involved in the process. I can be known for writing lengthy (at times color coordinated) emails (I often wonder if they get read all the way through) but it’s my way of making sure assignments and tasks are clear amongst groups of professionals.
What I feel many professionals forget or lack is graphic communication. My undergraduate studies as a Landscape Architecture student as well as my early year internships at Architectural and Planning firms taught me that graphic communication is integral to selling a vision. Plans, renderings and graphics are what designers need to sell and eventually build their product. A professor of mine once compared a set of Construction Documents to a piece of art, and I’ll never forget that. However, after years in the business I have learned that graphic communication is a tool that must be also utilized to get things done on the building end as well. Working on projects in cities where I am not physically present means I need to be able to send markups, diagrams, notes and sketches to those on the ground to ensure that projects are being executed as planned. My go-to for on the spot graphic diagrams is simply using the Instagram story screen to markup and edit documents, drawings and photographs when on the spot questions arise. We seriously have all the tools we need right in the palm of our hands!!
Lastly, I greatly value transparency. I am an open book with both my clients and the professionals I work with. This includes hours, fees and costs associated with projects. If there is honesty and trust between myself and my clients, then the rest will work out as it should. I treat my projects as if they were my own investments, and transparency within my decision making process and the clients financials are of utmost value for me.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I should start by saying that growing up, I didn’t want to have my own business. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and from an early age saw how that forms your way of life, both positively and negatively. Fast forward many years later, here I am. I opened up a concept gallery in Miami Beach in 2018. Was managing an interior design firm by the time I was 23. And now I have my own company, DORSAcorporation where I work as a design/build consultant for clients as well as do landscape design projects all over the map. Getting to this point was not planned (coming from someone who obsesses over business plans) but it seemed to be the path I was destined to be on.
While living abroad in Prague and Zürich in 2015, I had been working as a freelance landscape designer for larger Landscape Architecture and Planning companies and eventually established my own corporation for that reason. Upon returning to the states in 2017 with a Masters in Landscape Engineering in hand, I took a big pivot and moved to Miami Beach to open a concept art and design gallery with my mom, Sogol Afsharjavan, called Platform by Sogol Décor. Sogol is also the lead designer of her interior design company, Sogol Décor, which I then took over the management of. By 2019, I had a gallery, several interior design projects across the US and numerous local and international landscape design projects under my management. When the pandemic hit, we had to put the gallery space on pause due to the inability to host our curated events, so I focused on the increased demand for residential designers. With the support of dear friends and family, one project led to another and here we are with a rolodex of interior and exterior projects under way.
What is unique about my company at this given time is that I am working on projects in Miami, FL, Washington, DC, Shelter Island, NY and Palm Springs, CA. Traveling from city to city for my projects during the pandemic was a challenge but I was able to overcome those difficult times. I now split my time amongst these cities depending on the project’s needs, always allowing some time for both business and pleasure to balance it all out 🙂
I have treated these first few years of owning my own business as the ultimate learning experience. I am learning things daily, whether it’s in regards to general business management and administration or the projects themselves. Every day I learn something new and I am so grateful to be able to have this experience.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh the list is endless in this city! Being a Miami Beach local, I would take them out to my favorite ventanita across the street for a cortadito, followed by La Folie on Española Way for breakfast (still my favorite spot since I was 15 doing my summer internship at the Wolfsonian Museum). We would stop by our gallery space, Platform by Sogol Décor to say hi to my mom, Sogol Afsharjavan, before heading to the Soho House for some much needed beach time and relaxation. I’d encourage a yoga class with Jenny Cornero at the National Hotel under the palm trees in the afternoon to keep our bodies active. For dinner I would propose Chotto Matte, Call Me Gaby or Soya y Pomodoro before heading out for the evening. Depending on the night, I’d suggest Segafredo for an espresso martini, Lagniappe for some wine and tunes, or Space for a night of dancing on the terrace.
The first question I always ask my guests is what vibe are you craving? Miami truly has it all so I try to keep my guests on their toes and show them the best time depending on the weekend and events happening around town. I try to keep a balanced trip so if there’s too much fun and partying going on I treat them to fresh morning juices at home and try to spoil them with a rejuvenating facial with Mahin Huschmand before sending them off back to their hometowns!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone at a young age and to give everything a try so I thank them for supporting and inspiring me to always push the boundaries in my life. This mindset led me to multiple internships at a young age followed by numerous degrees and professional positions and opportunities both in the US and abroad. I have to thank all of my past professors, employers, classmates and colleagues for their insight and support along the way as well as my NY familia and most recent clients for trusting me with their homes.