Only so many Wharton graduates have found their way into the interior design business. Most certainly, far fewer have won national awards for their work. Perhaps only one has earned the National Designer of the Year Award two years in a row. She is Amy Yin, WG’02, of the eponymous, New Jersey-based interior design firm. The firm earned national recognition in 2012 for kitchen work and in 2011 for bedrooms from the Interior Design Society (IDS), one of the largest U.S. design organizations dedicated to serving the residential interior design industry.

It wasn’t always this way. Previously, Yin had worked for a large corporation her entire career—until she came to the Wharton MBA for Executives program.

Amy Yin, WG’02, accepting her 2012 IDS National Designer of the Year Award

Amy Yin, WG’02, accepting her 2012 IDS National Designer of the Year Award

“Coming to Wharton opened my eyes to life outside a big firm. The intense WEMBA experience bolstered my confidence so I felt as ready as I’d ever be to strike out on my own, when the time came to do so,” she tells us.

Soon after graduation, she recalls, an unexpected death and a sudden serious illness in her family helped her realize it was time for a change. She took classes at Parsons The New School for Design and opened her own studio, basing her efforts on her competitive strategy and entrepreneurial marketing courses from Wharton.

“I longed to get lost in a new line of work that would be more fun and more meaningful for me,” she says.

Interior design, meaningful? Yes. For several reasons.

“When we redesign a bathroom so a disabled person can use it or when we design a kitchen with safety features for an elderly homeowner so she can keep on cooking, we really are changing people’s lives and helping them live better now,” Yin says.

What’s more, Amy Yin Interiors is a “for benefit” company. Her studio donates 100 percent of its profits to local charities. So far, that’s meant $20,000 to nonprofits that have supported more than 2,500 children, teens and families, providing transitional and low-income housing to women and children, educational opportunities for teenagers and peer support groups to children whose families have suffered a death. Yin admits that she is fortunate that her family does not need to depend on income from the studio. Still, she says:

“I am extremely proud of what our small studio has been able to do in the community,” adding, “Some of my clients like to joke that they could use bigger discounts as charity too!”