Liz Toombs, Certified Interior Decorator is the Founder & Lead Decorator of PDR Interiors and this week’s woman in business featured interview.

Tell us about your business

I am a Certified Interior Decorator as well as President & Lead Decorator of PDR Interiors, a firm I founded 15 years ago that focuses on the décor of sorority interiors for projects such as expansions and renovations. To date I’ve worked on more than 100 campuses across 25 states in all regions of the country. Mentoring women is a keystone of my firm, something I’ve learned to value throughout my fraternity experience. Helping to preserve that experience for current and future members of women’s organizations is what drives me to focus on sorority housing projects.

Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?

Being a business owner means having the freedom to create and shape my own path. It’s about the challenge of building something from the ground up and the deep satisfaction of watching it grow. I also cherish the opportunity to give back to the next generation by creating job opportunities within my company. I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to control my destiny and bring my ideas to life. I thrive on innovation and the ability to solve problems creatively.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

If I had to choose one person, it would be my grandfather. After retiring as an elementary school principal, he ventured into real estate. Being exposed to numerous houses through his work ignited my passion for design. His background in education inspired me to mentor and coach college-aged women in my business through internships and shadowing opportunities.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

I am most proud of the fact I built a business from nothing. As the old expression goes, “slow and steady, one client at a time.”

The first job that stands out to me was my first out-of-state project at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. It was my first experience working a project remotely and traveling back and forth between Lexington and the job site. I was hired to source/install art and accessories. The firm who supplied the furnishings was a commercial firm and the client wasn’t pleased with their finishing touches, so they sent me there for a week to execute that portion of the project. As I reflect now, it was really a career-defining project that led me down the path of focusing on sorority housing work. Additionally, I am pleased with my team’s work at the Alpha Chi Omega house at my alma mater, the aforementioned University of Kentucky. It was one of our first large new construction Greek projects. We selected all finishings at the start of the project and at the end, we installed every piece of furniture in that stunning building. It’s amazing to see the finished result when you have worked on a project for a year and a half. The full process took a little longer given the fundraising needs and architects’ plans.

In terms of my overall impact in the sorority interior decorating space, I would estimate more than 10,000 sorority chapter members have benefited from the projects we have completed since PDR started in 2009.

I am so fortunate to have found a niche market that I love. It aligns perfectly with my interest to mentor and elevate college students.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I received came from my business coach, Tobi. She often reminds me that nothing is permanent. You can try new things, and if they don’t work out or a new hire isn’t the right fit, you can make a change and move on. This mindset helps me avoid analysis paralysis. I take action confidently, knowing I can adjust as needed without fear or guilt.

What is your relationship with social media?

Love/hate. I appreciate the way it lets me stay in touch with others and promote my business. I don’t like the way I feel the need to scroll all the time or the comparison trap it creates.

What is your favorite app?

My Closet + app is my favorite. It allows me to catalog all my clothes, shoes, and accessories. I use it to build outfits for packing lists and track how often I wear each item, helping me analyze the cost per wear. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to Cher Horowitz’s closet, fulfilling my inner ’90s child dream!

What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?

I preach to everyone starting a business that networking is the key to building a strong, solid business foundation.  The more people you know and that know you, the better. Having a diverse, deep arsenal of contacts serves two purposes for me: 1. It makes me a dependable resource for my clients when they had a need outside of my expertise, and 2. It raises awareness of my professional services which often leads to referrals from my network.  Originally when I started out, all of my networking was locally focused. Now that my client base is spread across the country, I network in other ways nationally. But the fundamentals are the same. When I was just starting out, I would invest any marketing dollars into professional association memberships to get in front of as many people as possible. Meeting people face-to-face and forming a connection had a much higher ROI than me placing an ad in a publication or online. That has allowed us to grow via word of mouth very steadily and successfully over the years.

What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?

Relationships are everything.  I take pride on fostering the relationships with my clients, vendors and colleagues.  It has served me well.  This commitment has proven invaluable: clients return for repeat business, vendors come to my aid in challenging situations, and colleagues offer unwavering support when needed. But more than that, it has shaped our #1 value at PDR: Be Human First.  Staying people- centered keeps work tasks in perspective.

How has your routine changed since covid?

Since COVID, my routine has become more flexible. I’ve embraced remote work even more than I did pre 2020, which has allowed me to build a great team scattered across the US.  I spend more time with people who are important to me and focus on self-care. I’ve learned to prioritize meaningful moments rather than constantly pushing myself to be on the go. Additionally, the pandemic pushed me to adopt new technologies and digital tools to stay connected with my team and clients.

What productivity tools do you use?

My team relies on Slack for streamlined communication, whether it’s discussing client projects or handling general work matters. Personally, I utilize the Notes app on my phone to capture all my thoughts and ideas. I’ve found that I often experience moments of clarity and creativity during flights, making them prime opportunities for me to engage in productive brainstorming sessions and “brain dumps.”

Are there any other resources/tools that have helped you run your business?

I use a productivity timer from The Brimm to give myself blocks of time to complete tasks efficiently and effectively.

Do you have any new projects coming up or milestones recently achieved? 

We celebrated 15 years in business in the spring and I am so proud of that!  While I don’t dwell solely on past accomplishments, taking the time to reflect on our journey and celebrate our progress has been deeply rewarding.  As we transition into summer, we gear up for our major install season, focusing on sorority house design projects. These upcoming endeavors represent our next big milestones, and I’m excited to continue our journey with these clients.

How do you prepare for the next day?

As part of my evening routine, I utilize my closet app to select my outfit for the next day, ensuring a smooth start. I review my appointments and set reminder alarms accordingly. Prioritizing adequate sleep has become more important to me in recent years, as it ensures I approach the next day feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes my way.

What is the number one meeting you never miss (and why)?

My workout!  It serves as a sanctuary away from the demands of work, family, and other obligations.  It’s time for me to clear my head and push myself physically. I walk out of those workouts feeling energized for the day.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

I love to read! My favorite genres are thriller/mystery and business books.  I also enjoy walking or hiking with friends.  It’s dual purpose- socializing and moving my body.

Liz received the People’s Choice Award for her participation in the Rotary Club of Lexington’s largest fundraising event, Dancing with the Lexington Stars in 2019. She raised $10,000 that benefited Surgery for Sunday, the event’s primary charity partner.

How would you describe yourself in a single sentence?

I am a personable, fun-loving leader who values relationships.

What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?

My primary business goal for the upcoming year is to expand product exploration, leveraging shoppable links and fostering collaborations with other companies.

You want to write a book on…

How to dress your home.  It offers readers a unique perspective on home design by drawing parallels between crafting a space and curating an outfit.

What is the number one book you recommend to our readers? 

One book I highly recommend is “Great on the Job.” It provides a practical, down-to-earth approach to navigating everyday business challenges, offering invaluable insights into developing essential soft skills crucial for success in the professional world.

What practices or boundaries have you implemented in your personal life to create more work/life balance?

I refrain from working on nights or weekends and resist the urge to check or respond to emails during off hours or while on vacation.

What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you?

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