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May 12, 2020

A Time for Collaboration, Not Competition

Business Banking
MH Interiors Banner

Sheila Clarke, a Reading native and owner of M&H Interiors has always believed “the busier the better” – and it shows! Since starting her business only four years ago, she has tapped into many facets of the design world. Sheila specializes in four verticals: residential and commercial interior design, home renovations, staging and property investment projects. When asked why she decided to get involved in all these different verticals, Sheila explained “the busier I could stay, the more I could do”, which allowed her to see what would take off and be successful.

Although residential interior design and renovations make up the largest percentage of her business, Sheila has grown her portfolio of services to include larger commercial projects. Most recently, she designed and managed the renovations of the Burbank YMCA lobby, and will soon be working on their women’s locker room. Also, on the docket for Sheila: the office design of a tech company in Boston.

Since the pandemic started, some projects have been put on hold, but fortunately, most of Sheila’s work has continued. Due to the stay at home order, people are now working from their kitchens or living rooms and those design projects, once on the backburner, have become top of mind again. Sheila swiftly adapted her project management and execution process to accommodate the new government safety guidelines and has kept projects moving forward. However, she emphasized that some of her fellow local businesses have not been so lucky. Discovering new ways to collaborate could be the key to helping each other out of all this, she explained. “We need to know our neighbors and support each other, it’s crucial that people aren’t competing for business right now”.

Even with a full project load, Sheila is committed to boosting businesses in her community, they are “in this together.” Sheila and her team recently ran a social media campaign with posts highlighting products available at other Reading businesses. For example:

  • If you’re looking to enhance your home’s curb appeal, check out the local home décor store to get those chic new Spring planters.
  • Feeling a little stir crazy, and trying to escape? Dive into a new coffee table book that can be ordered from the neighborhood bookstore.

With Sheila’s large social following, these small gestures can have a huge impact on the businesses she features.

As mentioned, new safety guidelines have required adjusting business as usual. For her projects in progress, Sheila makes sure to only visit sites when completely necessary. When she does need to be on site, there are limited individuals present, they are all 6-10 feet from each other, and always wearing a mask. Sheila’s new “office” has become her patio, which allows for better social distancing when clients come for a consult.

Sheila is pleased to see how municipalities are also getting creative with how to handle their standard procedures. Permitting, inspections, and walk-throughs look a little bit different these days. Sending pictures of electrical wiring to the inspector or vacating the premises to allow for a walkthrough are examples of their new methods to make sure these projects get completed. “Seeing this flexibility” of all parties involved has been great, Sheila relayed.

There are a lot of unknowns ahead, but Sheila is ready to persevere and #StayTrue to her fellow small businesses, clients and beloved community. One really amazing element to the pandemic, has been how her old and new clients continue to check in with her to see how her family and business is fairing. It reminds her of why she does the work she does. When we are finally able to get back to a new normal, Sheila is looking forward to people’s excitement being restored and clients having friends and family to their homes again. Hopefully soon will those homes host birthdays, cookouts and holidays, and Sheila can know she contributed to creating a space for those gatherings to happen!

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Northern Bank is a full-service bank dedicated to providing practical, common sense financial solutions to help our customers live their lives and grow their businesses. From deposit products to loans to payment and collections services, we work hands-on with our entrepreneurial customers, both locally and across the country, to provide the financial support they need to realize their personal and business goals. Founded in 1960, Northern Bank has assets of $2.87 billion with 13 locations serving communities throughout Middlesex County. Northern Bank is a Member of the FDIC, and an Equal Housing Lender.

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