Ava Barnett

Founder and President ? AIB Interior Arch L.L.C. ? Brooklyn, N.Y. ? Age: 37

As a child, Ava Barnett loved to watch her father, Jamaican-born master carpenter Hopeton Barnett, work. It is no surprise, then, that she developed a passion for design. Founder and president of AIB Interior Arch L.L.C. in Brooklyn, N.Y., Barnett today is a sought-after interior designer in the tri-state area. Her brownstone renovations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, most notably The Fletcher Manor, an 18th-century brownstone in the Bedford Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, have garnered critical attention in local publications, such as Our Time Press.

Barnett was driven to start her own business because she wanted to be completely in control of whatever she did. ?I needed to be challenged and I knew that if your name is not on the door, you are expendable,? she says. She also was driven by an unpleasant experience in college, when she attended her first consultation with her assigned academic counselor. Her excitement upon seeing the female counselor was soon crushed, she explains, when, after she described her interest in architecture and outlined her ambitions, the counselor advised her to try nursing or teaching instead because she would not make it to the College of Architecture. ?I told her that she would be the first person I show my degree to,? Barnett recalls.

Barnett and her siblings are the first generation of her family to attend college. She holds a bachelor of design degree in design from the University of Florida?s College of Architecture and post-baccalaureate certification in leadership management for urban executives from Rutgers University. She feels a responsibility to mentor young people, thanks largely to the influence of her mother, Eugenie. ?My mother was the one who passed on her charitable spirit to my siblings and me. She was always helping people, and that taught us to give back,? Barnett says.