The Designers’ Advisor Polly Williams, inspired by her love of helping designers and brands to launch and expand their design business, founded the multi award winning Camberyard in 2015. She is now one of the UK’s leading business development consultants for interiors, brands and designers. Polly returns to Decorex this year following last year’s sold-out event with her insightful panel talk “So you’re a brilliant designer … but do you have the skills to launch and grow your own design business?”. She has invited four members of her thriving Camberyard Collective – Emma Hooton, Petra Arko, Ciara Ephson & Jeannine Birch – to share their wisdom on the interiors world ahead of their panel discussion on 19 September 2018 at 12pm.
Finding your USP is an evolving process.
You may know your design niche from the start, but it can evolve over time. Take your particular passion, look at the market, listen to clients – and be open to developing your skills and tailoring your services to meet the need.
Design school is invaluable for making initial contacts and building a support network.
Who you meet during your design schooling – from teachers, to fellow students, to firms (you work with), to industry leaders (who come to your final show) – can be as important as what you learn. The network you build and the exposure you gain often opens doors to jobs across the industry as well as provides access to mentoring and support throughout your career.
Identifying your ideal clients is down to shared passions and/or what projects you enjoy most. Your product, as a brand, may be very specific, which narrows the field down immediately. As a designer, after getting a few projects under your belt, you naturally begin to hone in on the projects you most enjoy and the clients with whom you like working. Sharing a passion for a type of interior provides a starting point but staying open to new opportunities and pushing your own boundaries can be equally rewarding.
Establishing clear communication from the start helps ensure you reflect your client’s vision.
Happy clients are vital. To achieve that, communication is key. Take a detailed brief – listen carefully and use your intuition, you may need to read between the lines! Make sure clients understand the process and, as the project evolves, keep them updated. Importantly, keep listening and keep taking clients out of their comfort zone – it’s their vision and their home, but it’s your job to make it better than they imagined.
Instagram is the go-to social media outlet for the interiors world.
Fresh, fun, creative, inspiring – Instagram offers a little snapshot of the industry and provides a clean, easily accessible interface to both discover and engage with designers, artists, craftspeople, bloggers and stores. The Stories aspect is a wonderful way to be more informal, interact with followers and highlight day-to-day life. Some new designers or brands get their first big break through Instagram!
Features in top industry magazines will get you seen, but your website is your shop window.
Being featured in industry magazines or getting on, for instance, House & Garden’s ‘The List’ are some of the top forms of traditional print marketing, which then also translates easily to online. Going to and exhibiting at fairs or markets is also important – touching and seeing samples, especially for brands, is essential. Networking through social media can open doors as well. Ultimately, however, your website will be potential clients’ first port of call to check out your business, so ensure it is optimised with fresh content and SEO – it forms the keystone of any other marketing activity.
Mentors provide an important source of advice, knowledge and support.
Having a person or people to support you in running your own interiors business is essential. Not only can mentors give you a massive confidence boost and a sense of place in the industry, they can open up contacts and support with suppliers and other designers – invaluable in what can be quite a closed industry. Like-minded designers understand the issues and can make you realise that whatever problem you’re facing, others are too. Whether it’s Polly from Camberyard or fellow designers and/or a supportive partner – having someone to help navigate the complexities of running your own company makes you more likely to succeed.
Look to the wider design world for a wealth of inspiration.
The Camberyard Collective looks across the globe to be inspired. Favourites at the moment include: Vincent Van Duysen from Belgium; Piet Boon from the Netherlands; Studio Dimore and Studio Peppe from Italy; Louise Liljencrantz from Sweden; Brian Paquette, Apparaturs, Zak + Fox, and Peter Dunham from the USA; Pierre Yovanovitch and India Mahdavi from France; and in the UK Sophie from Studio Ashby and Louise Holt Interior Design. Going beyond interiors – our designers look to architecture and art; for instance, the American artist Claire Oswalt’s watercolours.
A week in the life …
While there doesn’t seem to be a ‘normal’ week, certain themes come up often: forward planning, client meetings, site meetings, sourcing with suppliers and manufacturers, project coordination, designing!, designer appointments (for brands), and general admin (estimates, purchase orders, invoicing, emails, etc.). Work/life balance is important for the Collective. They all try to fit in some personal time. It might be going to the gym to clear their head and let off steam or going out for a walk or a cycle or taking time (even 10 minutes!) to meditate. Coffee and talking to friends and/or partners also feature heavily!
If you could have given yourself one piece of advice starting out, what would it be?
Be patient, proactive and kind to yourself! Outsource as much as you possibly can and ask for help – support is out there. In return, put yourself out there to support others as much as you can. Write a business plan, have a clear vision and be prepared for it to change. Don’t be afraid to fail and make mistakes – these are part of progress and growth. Most importantly, find the beauty in everyday life and see the challenges as opportunities rather than problems you can’t solve.
Polly Williams will be at Decorex. Purchase your pass here to meet her.