Her two-month stay was up, and Regina Correa had a decision to make.
A native Brazilian, Correa initially traveled to New Orleans to visit, but her return flight south left without Correa aboard—she was here for good.
That was back in 1999. More than 20 years later, Correa has made the most of a very long trip, pursuing her passion as owner of Studio Riche Designs Interiors and Decor in New Orleans and succeeding with a little help.
Correa’s love of decorating started young. She always seemed to find new ways of rearranging things in her childhood home, and as she got older, she found herself compelled to add a touch of flair here and there.
"I would keep rearranging my mom’s kitchen all the time,” Correa said. “I was making curtains or doing this or that and so I looked at interior design and it seemed like a fit for me.”
While Correa may not have grown up knowing she would one day take up permanent residence in the United States, she had an early sense of the skills that would set her up for success. Instead of attending college, she decided to learn English.
“It was the investment I knew I needed to make in my education as opposed to going to college because I didn’t know what I wanted to do then,” Correa said.
By the time she landed in New Orleans, though, she knew what her future held, and she charted a path to get there. She studied interior design for four years and worked for a few companies along the way. She knew she wanted to branch out on her own, so she also earned a business degree to ensure she’d be able to handle every aspect of running her own shop.
In 2012, all that preparation culminated in the birth of Studio Riche Designs.
For over a decade, Correa has helped families get the most of their spaces. With an eye for detail and that signature touch of flair, she’s transformed a range of spaces throughout the city, with more on the way.
If you ask Correa, she believes that her job is more than just buying furnishings, hanging drapes and laying down carpet—it’s a way to tell a story.
“Creating spaces for people is much more than just putting beautiful things together. There is a why behind it,” she said. “Finding that reason and creating a story for my clients. That’s what’s important.”
And after previous stops working for other companies, she’s found that being her own boss really suits her. “I think it’s pretty powerful that I get to make all the decisions. Good or bad,” she said.
The road hasn’t been easy for Correa. As a one-woman show, there are always areas where she could use a little help.
Fortunately, enrolling in Hancock Whitney’s Small Business Matters program helped shore up areas of her business she wasn’t previously able to focus on.
“It was very helpful. We were able to exchange ideas and perspective and I left with fire under my feet,” Correa said.
Using marketing tips she learned through the Small Business Matters courses, she began publishing a digital magazine to showcase her work, and making the most of Google advertising, where she now gets the majority of her clients.
Along with networking and access to information, the Small Business Matters program’s biggest perk for Correa was knowing she had access to help when she needed it.
"Usually, business owners are trying to figure all of these things out. We are everybody in our businesses,” Correa said. “There’s so much to get done, that whenever there is someone that comes along and helps us streamline that process, it’s so important and so helpful.”