Last month I was thrilled and honoured in equal measure to be invited to be part of Red Smart Women’s week. This is a wonderful initiative set by Hearst Live events to bring women together under one room and celebrate all things entrepreneurial. So I’m all over that! The itinerary was packed with fabulous and inspirational women from business, health, fashion to social media; Jo Malone, Melissa Hemsley, Clemmie Hooper and Caroline Hirons to name a but a few. However my event was titled “ How to build your interiors brand” and we were the first to sell out in a matter of days! So to find more about this hot topic, read on…
Hosted by the adorable Pip McCormac, Reds Lifestyle editor, the event was held in St James’s central London. My fellow panellists Kelly Hoppen, Linda Boronkay Design director from Soho house group and Jemma Ahmed Director of Global Insights at Etsy where all given the challenge to discuss the secret to interior brand success. This alone was a really interesting topic for me to prepare for as my interiors brand has only really emerged in the past few years. My career as an interior stylist meant that I never considered myself a brand, but prided myself on the fact that I could turn my hand to any style to suit a wide range of clients. It was never about me, and all about them. But with the rapid onset of social media, I now focus more time to my on line presence and viola a brand is born!
With this fast changing and very visual landscape I feel it’s never been more important to know your niche. It’s essential in order to get recognised, to stand out from the crowd and appear an authority. Try and please too many people and your portfolio will just look washed out and forgettable. I’ve met lots of really amazing women on the Colour Psychology courses that I run with Fiona Humberstone, AKA The Brand stylist, and it’s a common problem. When we explain that first you need to actually know who your ideal clients are, then you attract them with your portfolio and branding. And then the big game changer, you start to say no to the clients that don’t support the vision for your brand and your company, that’s when really amazing things start to happen. If you only attract the right clients for you, then you do your best work, if lifts you up and work doesn’t even feel like work! Better still the client will be happier, as you were a great match from the get go, and you’ll probably put even more love and energy in their project if it’s something you believe in. Then your reputation flourishes, before you know it you’re in demand. And with that comes your ability to run a very lucrative business.
So in order to create a successful interiors brand you have to really know who you are and what you offer and like I say, don’t be afraid to be niche. I love colourful, creative and maximalist interiors and that’s all you’ll see on my instagram feed and blog. Even though I have designed hundreds of neutral schemes in my career, that’s not what I want to be known for, or what I really want to be doing. And as such I no longer get asked to design those sorts of interiors. If a brand or client doesn’t feel the right fit for my brand ideals then I don’t hesitate to say no. And since practising this, I’ve never been busier. It also helps you be memorable and again in this very saturated market that is key. I don’t wear ridiculously huge earrings for nothing!
Social media is a brilliant way to communicate what you stand for as a brand and while it’s really hard work, it’s a good exercise to make you analyse what it is you offer and to whom, and even why! I love instagram, as it’s a wonderful networking tool. I’ve discovered some amazing fellow entrepreneurs and designers on the platform as well as getting areal understanding of my customer. I have people fly from all around the globe to attend my workshops and whenever I ask them where they found out about the course, they say ‘I follow you on instagram!’
One word of caution- as I know instagram can also be a massive time waster and can make us feel bad about ourselves or that we are missing out/ not keeping up. First of all remember its a heavily edited version of reality! I’m quite strict about who I follow. On my business account I only follow accounts that are inspiring and more importantly relevant to my business. I don’t see images of food or flat tummies on my interiors account- so I can keep focused on what I’m on instagram for. I do follow some fashion accounts but only those that keep me feeling positive and inspired, of which there are few! But I fully embrace social media, as a visual brand, instagram is where it’s at and it’s a wonderful platform to showcase your brilliance.
Next big headline is to have an awesome team of people behind you. My business has transformed since I took on a business coach, Elizabeth Cairns and subsequently a part time Virtual PA, the wonderful Maria. I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and because I was so used to running my business myself I just didn’t know how to delegate. I have now taken on Luisa Ferdenzi-Rouse, as Interiors Editor, who supports me keeping you up to date with all things interiors on the blog and the colour workshops that I run throughout the year.
One advantage of being a small interiors brand is you can remain fluid and I’d urge everyone, no matter what size, to keep a level of flexibility and be open to opportunity. Keep your eye on what’s going on in the industry and see if there are ways you can be adaptable to remain in the race. For example my industry, publishing, has changed immeasurably in the past five years and continues to do so. We now have instagrammers with more readers than the glossy shop shelf magazines so everyone has to change and adapt.
My brand has evolved into something very multi faceted, it’s the ‘portfolio career’, that is a term that’s been bandied about. I have the media arm to my business, which is supported in the TV work and my Podcast The Great Indoors. Then there is my design work and styling which I do with the fabulous brands I collaborate with. And then the third part of the triangle is my workshops and courses that I run. But these different arms, are all linked together by my focus and passion for colourful and creative interiors and my mission to help people ban the beige in their own homes. So each element compliments and supports the other, while keeping my business fluid and above all interesting for me!