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Business, Branding, Blogging and Booze..not necessarily in that order

by habituallychic

05 . 21 . 09

First, I want to apologize for not posting yesterday. As you can imagine it’s a little hard at times to juggle my client work with writing the blog and having any semblance of a personal life. That’s why I love talking to other designers about how they started their own business because they all went through the same things and always have great advice.

I got together with June House Beautiful cover star/interior designer David Lawrence last night and he definitely motivated and inspired me. David and I used to work for the same designer, not at the same time, and he understands having so many things to do that sometimes you don’t even know where to begin. The business of design is not easy and he really stresses the importance of being organized and getting your business infrastructure in place before you even begin working with clients. He spent a lot of time on the business side of his operations and just four years after he went out on his own, he has the cover of a magazine and a beautiful new showroom/office. I will definitely be listening to everything David tells me!

Sometimes I feel like I landed in business school with no idea how I got here and no idea what I am doing. There is a reason why I majored in art history and not business so I appreciate all the people who have been kind enough to answer my questions, give advice and pass on references of professionals who work with designers. One of my goals has always been to write about my experience and what I’ve learned so I can help others who want to start their own design businesses. I spoke with a design business consultant and we might partner up on some posts so look for those in the future.

I also attended a great lecture this morning at the D&D Building about branding that was moderating by Newell Turner of House Beautiful magazine. The panelists were Keith Granet of Granet & Associates, a management consulting firm for the design industry that I didn’t even know existed, as well as interior designers Suzanne Kasler and Amanda Nisbet. Granet helped both designers set up their product lines and the how that process works is fascinating. I will definitely be putting together a more in depth post about how Suzanne developed her new furniture line for Hickory Chair and Amanda’s lighting designs for Urban Electric and both of their new fabric lines.

One of the questions after the lecture was how you get to the point of having product lines and magazine coverage and everyone agreed that you need to build relationships. You may be a great designer but if you don’t put yourself out there and meet editors and others in the design community, how is anyone going to find you. Everyone teases me about going to lots of parties but for me it’s just as much about work as it is having fun. I couldn’t do half of what I do if I didn’t get out and meet other designers and interesting people to profile, events to discuss, and exhibitions, artists and authors to support.

I actually have a lot of great things on the back burner that I have to write about and post so I am hoping that I can get caught up over the long weekend. But first I have some client projects to finish and an event to attend. Remember what they say about all work and no play…

Photo from Suzanne Kasler

Comments Closed

  1. Suzy May 21, 2009 | 5:15 am

    Fabulous! Can’t wait to hear more about what the consultants suggested…I would love to be joining you in the world of solo career soon!

  2. C May 21, 2009 | 9:11 am

    Best of luck with all your new projects! You seem busy, but meeting lots of new people at parties means much more to share with us so, keep calm & carry on!

  3. Laura May 21, 2009 | 10:36 am

    Heather – I can totally relate to what you are going through. I’ve recently left my corporate job to go out on my own and although I have three clients (it’s only been 6 weeks), I’m taking the time to get my company organized and not approaching any new business until I have my ducks in a row. Additionally, all my clients were obtained through networking which I do plenty of – and yes, it is exhausting sometimes. I have been following you for a year now and in that time have made my life what I always wanted it to be. I was sorry to hear that you lost your job but knew that a multitude of opportunities were waiting for someone as talented as you. I think your true asset though, in your blog and your career, is how genuine a person you are. I have no doubt that you will one day soon be gracing the cover of a magazine and have your own product line. And no pressure of course, we’re all watching you!

  4. Scott Fazzini May 21, 2009 | 11:02 am

    Heather -What a great post. I can empathize with you completely. I feel so overwhelmed and lost with the organizational and business side of things. It must be rare to find a creative mind that is also well versed in the business arena. I look forward, very much, to your upcoming series of how-to’s!

    Keep up the great work!

  5. DIY Claire May 21, 2009 | 11:29 am

    It is actually really hard working and finding time to blog. I started a blog when I was between jobs, now I blog once a month.

    So good on you!

  6. A Gift Wrapped Life May 21, 2009 | 12:19 pm

    It’s a rare designer who can (or wants too!) juggle both the creative and business side of their career, knowing that from the get-go can be an advantage. Acknowledge it and then get as much help as you can to bring both skills up to the same level, good designers need both. Obviously, you already know this, so you are way ahead! Great idea to do some posts on business-building, networking, etc. it’s great that you are willing to ahare this information.

  7. pve design May 21, 2009 | 12:59 pm

    T’is wonderful that you live in NY and can attend these events. They are not only informative, but also wonderful social ways to meet other contacts. I also think it is good to “get out” and educate your eye and see what works for others. I find myself “juggling” many balls, a business, blogging, my family and a home and trying to say Yes to a few things to keep my eye excited. Saying yes to fun and a bit of play is good.

  8. An Aesthete's Lament May 21, 2009 | 1:54 pm

    The lecture was terrific! It inspired me to branch out and see about creating a few lines of something myself.

  9. Musette May 21, 2009 | 2:37 pm

    I really enjoy your blog – please don’t apologize for not posting daily-that’s the beauty of having your own blog. Post on your schedule!

    Okay – on to business. I gave up my garden design biz ages ago (I own a machine shop (long story) but the principles are still the same. GET YOUR BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL DUCKS IN A ROW. A business plan and an operations plan are essential. Seriously. If structuring the business side of things isn’t your ‘thing’ get with a reputable, trusted person who can help you – it doesn’t have to be a partner. I hate the financials, for example, so I utilize my CPA as my CFO – she has an incredible track record of working with small businesses who need that sort of expertise but cannot afford a full-time finance person. Use your networking contacts to learn who the best support folks are – once you get that structure in place you will be able to devote more time to the actual design work (though you will still have to keep an eagle eye on your biz)

    Sorry for the long-winded comment but I thought some of this might be of help.

    Best of luck! And keep up the invaluable networking!!!


  10. Emily May 21, 2009 | 2:44 pm

    Good luck with your new ventures!

  11. mary May 21, 2009 | 3:47 pm

    Heather. This is a superb post and just what I needed to hear. I have been developing my product line for a year. I know it is good, but I just do not have the skill set to do the marketing. Thank you for lighting a fire under my…….to go to a consultant and do it right.
    Also, regarding the business model and structure: all things that I need to pay attention to, and put off. Please keep sending these reminders and insights.

  12. The Antiques Diva™ May 21, 2009 | 4:33 pm

    Running my business, I sometimes feel like I’m running in circles, finding myself exhausted over the tinest things. But you are so RIGHT you have to get yourself out there – in the public eye! At the end of the day, sometimes I want to curl up under the covers and say AAAAAAAAAAAA…. but instead I put on red lipstick and my LBD and a whole lot of YSL touche eclate ready for another night (or day)!!

    It’s always good to read other business owners thoughts on getting their ducks in row. Good post, and judging by the other comments one lots of us can relate to!

    My problem de jour is searching to hire someone to work with me in a new country – it’s a MAJOR HEADACHE! My 3 employees were all friends before joining my endeavor leading antique shopping tours, but now with expanding to Germany I’m at a loss and for the first time will have to recruit/hire a stranger! Needless to say, I”ve been having lots of those banging my head on the wall moments as of late!

    Take care,

  13. Trove Interiors May 21, 2009 | 4:36 pm

    Thanks for the insightful post. I too am in the process of starting a design business after many years in the corporate world of retail and product development. It is thrilling and daunting at the same time! You can get so focused on the creative side that the business side gets put on the back burner. However, it’s important to remember that the business side drives the creative opportunities. I’m looking forward to your posts on how to successfully balance both.
    I’m thankful that you are in NY and have access to all the wonderful designers and forums the city has to offer. It’s a great resource to those of us in other cities across the U.S.
    Thanks again for all your hard work!

  14. Anonymous May 21, 2009 | 5:37 pm

    This is a great post. As someone whose business side has gone a wee off track…it’s good to be reminded that I can get help to put it right! You have a gift, and not just with interior design. Thank you for your generosity in sharing all of this with us.

  15. Southern Aspirations May 21, 2009 | 5:40 pm

    Good post. I DID go to business school and have the MBA but don’t have tons of the design talent… (but wishing I had gone to SCAD!!)

    Not sure what the design business consultant had to add, but another thought for those starting out… try to hook up with an MBA student and have them do a case study on your business and come up with some great, actionable, tactics and strategies.

  16. Mimi May 21, 2009 | 6:47 pm

    Hi Heather,
    This was a great post. I can certainly relate. I have been self employed for most of my adult life. After deciding to go back to school to become an interior designer, I realized that I had to start again, at 37… I love interior design, and all of the hard work. Blogging takes up a LOT of time and lets not forget my children. Although I enjoy it all..I often ask myself the same question …How do you put yourself out there??? Especially when life seems Crrrrazy! It would be great to have support in the design community. Looking forward to seeing the results of your new partnerships…Good luck!

  17. Eliza Coleman May 22, 2009 | 12:15 am

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time but have stayed in the shadows, and this post inspired me to say hello! You are so right that getting out there and meeting people and building relationships is so important. Thanks for such a great blog!

  18. maison21 May 22, 2009 | 1:54 am

    what a timely post, young lady! i was just thinking the morning aobut how i LOVE the creative side of my job, but really need someoe else to handle the other aspects- like billing, filing and most importantly, gettin’ my name out there! outside of the occasional blog post, that is an area in which i am sorely lacking! i need a marketing and PR powerhouse on retainer…

  19. ParisBreakfasts May 24, 2009 | 9:34 am

    The “juggling” act…always a challange. I almost wish I wasn’t in Paris so I could have attended that lecture…not that I got an invite etc. 🙂
    Do tell more.