Sarah Oakley, partner and registered interior designer, Parallel 45 Design Group

Sarah Oakley
Sarah Oakley
Editor's Note

Each year, OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce choose 40 of the region’s top young entrepreneurs and business executives and recognize them for their professional achievements, expertise and community service.


In these profiles, OBJ highlights some of this year’s recipients – their impressive accomplishments, what drives them and how they like to spend their downtime away from the business world.


See the full list of recipient profiles here and be sure to check out OBJ’s coverage of the 2018 gala here.

Birthplace: Ottawa

Company: A commercial interior design firm specializing in corporate, dental and medical office design.

Education: Diploma of interior design – advanced, Algonquin College (2000)

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

Charitable involvement: Angels Anonymous Connection

Biggest biz achievement: Identifying a gap in the Ottawa market and expanding our company’s service offering into the health-care sector. While still excelling at corporate office design, Parallel 45 Design has become a leader in the medical and dental interior design market, completing work ranging in sizes from 1,000-square-foot to over 15,000-square-foot medical offices in the Ottawa area.

Biggest obstacle: The transition from employee to owner was challenging from a time-management perspective with a young family in the mix. The shift happened very fast, and I suddenly felt a new level of pressure and responsibility to manage both business and family with a high level of success.

Biggest influence: My family. I strive to be a strong female business owner by day and a loving compassionate mother and wife by night. Without the love and support of my family, what I do in a day would not be possible. I want my son to look back and know that women can rock this business world and manage to be there for their family too.

Biggest lesson learned: Not only to listen to your clients but really hear them. As interior designers, we need to be there and educate them throughout the design and renovation/fit-up process. I like to say to physicians, “As you are able to treat a particular issue with your skills, I can help achieve greater efficiencies in your practice with mine.” To recommend first and foremost what you feel is the best direction for them from a budget and functionality standpoint, and to guide them when they are unsure. In the end, it is they who have to live in the space you create for the next five to 10 years; it has to be functional and they have got to love it!

First job: Retail sales clerk

Advice I’d give the younger me: You will get there; keep pursuing your passion and stop sweating the small stuff.

What’s left to do: Personally, I would like keep travelling the world with my family and continue to demonstrate to my son that hard work pays off. Professionally, I want to take my knowledge of medical office planning and design to the next level by incorporating new upcoming wellness standards and focusing on more detailed efficiencies resulting in direct payback in time for my clients.

Favourite pastimes: Reading, music, sewing, travelling to Australia

I’m currently reading: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (my guilty pleasure)

Favourite movie: Overboard

Favourite song: Courage by The Tragically Hip

Favourite local pro sports team: Ottawa Senators

Favourite local summer event: Canada Day

Preferred social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram

Twitter handle: @sarahoakley613

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