Benjamin Ouellette was 29 when he noticed a Facebook ad promoting the 2016 NKBA 30 Under 30 program. Although he didn’t think he had a shot, he figured he’d try his luck. It was the last year he’d be eligible after all.
“I’m just a kitchen designer from Waterloo, Ontario, and I assumed the NKBA was looking for stars from New York City or Los Angeles,” Ouellette says. “But I knew I had passion and accomplishments. I live and breathe this stuff, so maybe there was a chance.”
Ouellette decided to self-nominate, figuring who knows him better then himself? And, much to his surprise, he won a slot in the class of 2016.
But being a 30 Under 30 honoree doesn’t end after you receive your award at KBIS. It’s just the beginning according to Ouellette.
“You’ll have countless opportunities at your fingertips and access to a community of people just like you,” says Ouellette. “You can take this program and run with it — it’s what you do with these opportunities that counts.”
After winning, his story was splashed across local and national media in profiles like a biography on the front page of the business section in his local newspaper and full-page spreads showcasing his work in various newspapers and luxury lifestyle magazines like London Free Press, Elgin Weekly News, Channers Magazine, Grand Magazine, Lifestyle magazine and the Globe and Mail. Not to mention invitations to trend spot for national newspapers and trade shows.
Benjamin John Ouellette Interior Design, his personal business, has more than doubled since he was named a 30 Under 30, as have his social media followers. It’s safe to say Ouellette’s career has been catapulted onto the fast track.
“Client trust has definitely improved with this accolade under my belt,” says Ouellette. “It’s earned me more respect from clients, reps and, most importantly, manufacturers who want to know how to improve their products and want to hear from the future leaders in the industry.”
In his other job, working as lead designer for Casey’s Creative Kitchens in Waterloo, Ontario, he’s landed higher-end, higher-paying contracts as well.
Besides building his business, Ouellette considers his new partnership with the NKBA and representing them at various events throughout North America one of the biggest benefits of the program.
He’s attended the NKBA Thought Leadership Summit in Arizona, the Jenn-Air Designer Forum in Chicago and KBIS two years in a row, and he’s inundated with invitations to various design shows and events all over North America.
“During these trips, I’ve built lasting relationships with fellow kitchen and bath professionals who share my drive for success and passion for this industry,” says Ouellette. “We have this great fraternity where we can bounce ideas off each other and learn from our mutual experiences.”
Though he wasn’t an NKBA member when he won the NKBA 30 Under 30, he joined soon after and looks forward to achieving his AKBD certification.
“I’ve realized that in this competitive world, it’s important to do all you can to differentiate yourself from the competition, and being an NKBA member does that,” says Ouellette. “Being connected to people in southwestern Ontario and the greater Toronto area has been a great way to share ideas and opinions on a regional level and gives me an edge on staying current in the industry.”
Ouellette encourages anyone thinking about self-nominating to just do it, even if you’ve entered before and weren’t selected. And based on his time as a judge for the 2017 competition, he has some tips for future submissions. As a judge, Ouellette looks for three main things. First, passion — he reads between the lines to determine the nominee’s drive and love for what they do. Second, accomplishments — this program was designed to identify future industry leaders, so hitting sales goals, awards, implementing innovative and effective new processes and educational achievements are all important to emphasize. Finally, aspiration — a desire to change the industry for the better also counts big.
“It’s a difficult task to fine-tune the top 30 because there are so many outstanding professionals who deserve this award,” adds Ouellette. “As your career evolves, and you tackle new and exciting challenges, the NKBA wants to hear from you.”