2016 Leading Ladies: Leading Lady Lifetime Achievement Award

Leading Lady Lifetime Achievement Award
Jane Ganz, Directions in Design

By Melissa Mauzy
Portrait Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton
Photography by Alise O'Brien


Having founded her firm in 1975, Jane Ganz was one of the first female business owners in St. Louis. As a high school freshman, Jane was assigned to write a term paper on a career. She interviewed the highly successful interior designer Don Pisoni and was so inspired she pledged to make interior design her career. Don became her mentor and many years later as he was slowing down, Jane offered him a place at Directions in Design to help mentor new staff members. Before starting her own business, Jane worked for a commercial design firm and taught classes at Washington University. As a top interior design firm for over 40 years, Jane has mentored countless designers and provided an environment for them to master their trade in many directions. With projects in almost all states, she has brought important recognition to our region. Her list of industry accolades is astounding and include: 

• Missouri’s Leading Design Firm by Forbes
• The Gatesworth at One McKnight Place recognized by Forbes as a top 10 luxury senior living community in the U.S.
• University of Missouri Faculty Alumni Award for outstanding professional achievement
• More than 60 Homer Awards for display homes for Missouri builders
• Top Ten Interior Design Firms by St. Louis Business Journal for more than 20 years
• Top Woman Business Owner for the last 20 years by St. Louis Business Monthly
• Woman Entrepreneur of the Year sponsored by Ernst and Young
• Recently selected to the Ernst and Young Woman Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
• Outstanding Design Renovations by American School and University Magazine
• Business Person of the Year by the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce

In addition to her many contributions to the design community, Jane is also actively involved with her church, Bonhomme Presbyterian and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Jane directs all corporate philanthropy to many organizations including: American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, Juvenille Diabetes Foundation, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services, Our Little Haven, Toys for Tots, Cystic Fybrosis Foundation, St. Patrick’s Center, Ronald McDonald House, The Haven of Grace, FCA, Backstoppers and many, many more.

Jane is the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient because she is a pioneer in the design industry and she has paved the way for female designers in the St. Louis area.

SLHL: What gave you the inspiration to start your own business?
Jane: Unfortunately many companies see the client as a path for the designers to express his or her creative talents.  I’ve always viewed the projects “through the eyes” of our clients.  This philosophy still drives DID after 41 years.

SLHL: What is your biggest challenge as a business owner?
Jane: There are many good designers, but only a very few outstanding ones who share my vision.  Our challenge has been to find and hire the outstanding ones who really care about their clients’ needs. A design firm can only be as great as its leadership and its people.

SLHL: What is most rewarding about owning your own business?
Jane: It is a wonderful feeling knowing you are not only supporting yourself but also the many families of our employees.   We have helped countless interns through the years determine the direction of their careers in interior design.  

SLHL: What advice would you give someone wanting to start a business?
Follow your passion. Don’t compromise your values for a profit.