Starting a business is very daunting, more so during tough economic times. But not for Julie Anderson. In January 2010, she left her executive level job to pursue her passion for interior design and start Anderson ReDesign http://andersonredesign.com/.Anderson, recognizing that potential customers during a recession are not too keen on splurging on high-end custom design, decided to focus her business on offering affordable interior design services. Anderson ReDesign helps homeowners and other customers improve the look and feel of their homes by using existing items and what they already own. The business focuses on reusing, recombining, reconfiguring, remixing, and repositioning existing furniture and accessories to help clients reappreciate their homes.
Read Anderson’s experience in starting her interior redesign business.
What inspired you to start Anderson ReDesign?
I spent over a decade as an executive manager in large private and public sector organizations. Interior design has been my passion and hobby over the past twenty years. I took a break from the intense career as an executive and opened my own business to pour my energies into something completely different and creative. After launching my business, I concluded very quickly that I love being my own boss.
What preparations did you do to jumpstart your business?
I wrote a formal business plan based on my MBA training and experience working for a Fortune 10 Company. The ten page plan includes market research, market segment analysis, competition analysis, product and service summary, marketing goals and objectives, sales goals and objectives, and the media mix and scheduling for marketing and advertising activities. The plan allowed me to identify any holes or weaknesses before launching the business. It also gave me structured way to brainstorm names of people in my network, and associate them with each phase of the start-up so they could assist me in their particular areas of expertise. I also consulted with my accountant about the best legal and financial structures to set up for the type of business I was starting before making any final decisions.
Who is your target market? How are you marketing your business to reach this segment?
Target market is married and single women 45 and younger. They care about the look of their homes, but they may not always have the time or energy to improve the look of their surroundings because of family or work commitments. My marketing strategies and plans include reaching the target market through new media — web-sites, blogs, list-servs, on-line publications; social media — Facebook, Twitter; and earned media — newspaper articles like the recent feature piece about my new business in the Dupont Current newspaper in DC. I’m using each channel to raise awareness of my new business and communicate the benefits of a redesign approach vs. a custom interior design project or expensive remodeling. I’m also leveraging the “network effect” of social media to multiply the awareness of my business and drive more traffic to my web-site.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
I selected two strategic differentiators when developing my business plan: value of different services offered and more affordable price points. More specifically, redesign uses a person’s existing furniture and accessories rather than purchasing new items so it is more budget-friendly and environmentally responsible. Redesign is also a less expensive alternative to custom interior design services that can cost $300 per hour, with a requirement to purchase a minimum of ten hours. My market research concluded that in a recession, redesign services were a good substitute for more expensive design services for those who still want their homes to look nice.
What was the hardest part of starting Anderson ReDesign?
Landing the first few clients. Interior redesign is largely a referral based business, so it takes a few clients who are brave enough to try your work without receiving a recommendation from a friend. Those initial clients then help build the book of business based on their referrals to family and friends.
Now that your business is up and running, what keeps you awake at night about the business? What are your biggest concerns right now?
I worry a bit about whether the “network effect” of a referral based business that works through networks and communities of people is spreading quickly enough to build a solid book of business within the first six months. Six months is my original goal, as articulated in my business plan.
What lessons have you learned so far?
Patience is important when building awareness and name recognition of a new business. Because I was so excited about my idea and threw myself energetically into starting it, I assumed that others, i.e. clients, would follow quickly. Instead, I’ve learned to be patient and follow my original marketing plan of sustained earned media and paid advertising in channels that reach my target market segments. I’ve also become much more uninhibited about promoting my business in casual conversations and cocktail parties.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I haven’t yet made a large mistake, but I have no doubt there will be a learning moment in the near future as I continue to build the business.
How do you see your business in the next five years?
I intend for my business to have a solid book of business that contains repeat clients, including clients for whom I’ve performed redesign services on more than one of their homes as they move up the real estate ladder. I also hope it will achieve name recognition in the DC Metro region so that networks of women are familiar with the quality of my work as well as the name of my company.
What other tips and lessons can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
Rely on other women business owners, consultants, and experts in your network to help you refine your thinking and connect you with other women who can help you. It’s a powerful and useful network, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.