Scaling a Studio with Low Overhead with Alyssa Kapito

Episode 7 April 19, 2024 00:55:13
Scaling a Studio with Low Overhead with Alyssa Kapito
The Interior Collective
Scaling a Studio with Low Overhead with Alyssa Kapito

Apr 19 2024 | 00:55:13


Show Notes

Download this week's bonus content including an itemized overhead budget download and join the private community on Patreon at

In this episode, Alyssa Kapito delves into managing overhead costs in interior design. Transitioning from art history to this field, she shares insights on scaling a business while controlling expenses. Alyssa discusses strategies for handling multiple projects and highlights the benefits of a home office for cost efficiency. Drawing from her internship experiences, she emphasizes the importance of networking. Additionally, Alyssa's ventures in writing a book and launching Gallery Alyssa Kapito underscore her entrepreneurial approach. Through her experiences, listeners gain valuable insights into maintaining financial health and work-life balance in interior design.


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Alyssa Kapito

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Today on the interior collective, five time Elle Decor a list, interior designer Alyssa Capito shares her journey from studying art history to finding her true calling in interior design. We are digging into scaling an interior design business and how to maintain a low overhead while doing so. She's also sharing insights on finding the balance between work and personal life, managing multiple projects, and the benefits of working from home. We dig into Alyssa's background interning at Bunny Williams and the importance of networking and building relationships in the design world. Before todays convo wraps up, though, we hear all about Alyssa's experience writing and publishing a book, as well as launching her gallery gallery Alyssa Capito. You can find any accompanying materials for this episode now on [email protected]. The interior collective including a downloadable example, interior Design studio's overhead breakdown. Ansax recently launched a dozen new collections, ranging from beautiful Stone mosaics to artful terra cotta with marble inserts and and also sustainable artist series tile made from nearly 100% recycled materials. Be sure to check out their website to view the new collections and order samples from your Anzac showroom. We are so excited to invite you to dive deeper into the interior collective. Podcast episodes now on Patreon unlock access to in depth analysis, helpful downloads and worksheets created with each podcast episode. Subscribers gain behind the scenes access to additional resources like examples and screenshots of guest spreadsheets, construction documents, and so much more. Your subscription also gets you immediate access to our private community of interior designers and our team of industry experts. Ready to answer your questions? Subscribe [email protected]. The interior collective or linked in the show notes join the interior collective Patreon community and let's continue this conversation. Hi Alyssa, and welcome to the Interior collective. I'm so, so thrilled to have you on the show. [00:01:58] Speaker B: Hi. I'm thrilled to be here. [00:02:01] Speaker A: This is super exciting because by the time you all are listening to this episode, Alyssa's book will be live on bookshelves. But we get to chat with her just a little bit before it officially launches. So we're going to get all into that a little bit later. But I really want us to focus on how you have scaled and grown your incredible company over the years in what seems like a short time. I assume you are very young, and so I want to get all that. [00:02:28] Speaker B: As young as I look. [00:02:30] Speaker A: I'm excited to get into all the details of how you've really made that happen, but I think to do that, we need to start kind of at the very beginning, the best way to get started is to really think about how you got started and your journey into interior design, because I know it didn't always start with interior design for you. [00:02:45] Speaker B: No, no, no. Actually, I started in art. Honestly, when I was a child, I was obsessed with drawing and painting, and I thought that the art path was definitely the path that I was going to go in. I ended up going to college and getting a degree in art history, and then I went on to get my masters in renaissance art. And somewhere along the line, and it's a bigger story than that, I ended up finding the right place for me in interior design. And, yeah, I have been in love with it ever since. It's really my true calling, my passion. [00:03:20] Speaker A: Well, your master's degree in renaissance art. [00:03:22] Speaker B: That'S not like a light. [00:03:26] Speaker A: It's like a very committed you fully committed. That is intense, and it's amazing. I want to get into chatting about kind of like, where that education, technical education, weaves its way into the work that you produce. But let's dig in a little bit more to that actual story that you say. It's a bigger story. How did you transition from studying art history to pursuing that career in interior design? [00:03:51] Speaker B: Okay, so let's start again from the beginning, where I'm a young child. I love art. My mom, who is a great mom, she was a lawyer who always wanted to be an art historian. So she worked my entire childhood, and she saw that I was creative and was so excited that I was like her. And she really encouraged me to, you know, enjoy the art. She took me to auctions. She. She was museums. She was great. So I thought that that's what I was going to be, and I kind of followed that path. And I do love art. It's very much like another passion of mine. I studied art history in college. Loved it. I went on to get my master's in renaissance art because I particularly loved that period in a school setting. It's incredibly analytical. There are so many texts that are interesting. I mean, I was reading Leonardo da Vinci and Vasari, and it just. It was in a classroom setting. Renaissance art is amazing. But then I was doing my thesis, and I had been married at that point, and my husband and I moved to Boston because that's where he was in business school. And I ended up doing my thesis, and I was, like, in the stacks by myself doing research. And I was like, this is not me. I need people. I need light. And being in the field was actually different than school. And I think this is an issue for a lot of people who are in school, for something that they're going to do, like, school is not the same as a career. And so I felt a bit isolated. All I was Googling was interior design. I was obsessed with it. I had, you know, just set up my first home. I had always been interested in it, but I don't think I ever saw it as a career. I didn't even know that it was a career choice. Like, that wasn't really. I wasn't really exposed to that. [00:05:42] Speaker A: Interior design wasn't a career choice, but renaissance art. [00:05:46] Speaker B: Totally, right? It's because my mom, you know, like, your parents have a big influence on you. [00:05:51] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:05:52] Speaker B: So I didn't even really understand it. I didn't understand the whole world of design because there is a real world of design. And so my husband was like, all you do is Google interior design and you're so, like, you're so lonely in the library. Why don't you try for a summer interior design? Just try something totally different if you're feeling burnt out. We have. I mean, I was lucky enough to have, like, a small pocket of time, and I did. I wasn't going from a job to another job. So that was very lucky on my end. But I. That's when I interned for Bunny Williams for the summer. And I would honestly, you know, at the point, it's so funny because I was so young, but at the point that I was choosing to go for a few months for an internship, I remember thinking, like, I have spent so much time in one direction, you know, I cannot believe I'm just gonna, like, drop it and try something else. And I have to say it was like the best decision I ever made because, like, it's like, yolo, you know, you only live once. Life is short if you're feeling you should love what you do and there should be some joy in it, but, yeah, I mean, it was the best decision I ever made. So I interned for Bunny Williams, and then after that, I was like, interior design is my thing. [00:07:14] Speaker A: That is such a beautiful story. And I think, as you know, when your parents or your husband, your partner, look at all this time, energy, resources, money you've spent into your technical education and then want to pivot totally, it can be a little stressful. But I just personally believe that there was still so much you learned, even about practicalities and how to do research and how to learn interior design that you were able to transition. That just wasn't as black and white as a checklist of, yes, this directly applies. [00:07:47] Speaker B: Absolutely. I think that it was, like, somewhat similar field. And actually, the interior, the art history background has given me a tremendous new perspective on design. You know, like, I'm constantly referencing the periods that I learned through art history. So it's, it's not completely different. And like I said, I was very lucky and that I was coming from a school setting, but I would see that, like, in, like I was saying that schools are really not the same as working. Like, even if you invested time in a school and money, you know, it's like life is short. You know, you can. It's. You don't want to have to do that for the rest of your life just because, you know, I mean, it's a hard choice. It's a. It's a hard choice. But I would say that it's very fulfilling when you're doing something that you love. I couldn't believe people would pay me to do this. Like, that's still, still shocking for me. [00:08:40] Speaker A: I love that insight to a school setting is so different than what it's like when you're actually in the field of whatever industry you're in. And I have to say, even with our clients that we've worked with that are technically trained, went to school for interior design, we hear from them all the time that it does in no way prepares you to run your own business or have your own studio. And so I feel like even in a direct translation, that still can be true for people. And there's just nothing that's going to beat the work experience. Which leads me to my next question because I feel like we skipped over it like it was no big deal. But you interned at Bunny Williams. How did you get that internship with your. Lots of education, but nothing to do with interior design? [00:09:22] Speaker B: Nothing to do with interior design. [00:09:23] Speaker A: How did you apply? How did you know that's where you wanted to go and how did you land that internship? [00:09:28] Speaker B: So I didn't even actually know that much about interior design. Believe it or not, I knew what I loved and I knew I was obsessed with it. But like I said, I didn't really understand the industry. I knew Bunny Williams. I mean, she was a big name and I knew her name. And I was figured it's worth a shot just to make a resume and apply. And honestly, you know, an internship is a really, really low bar in terms of what you're expected to know. So it was a great place to start. So I really just applied and I got the internship and I couldn't believe it. I was so excited. To get the internship. I would say, though, that, like, you know, obviously an internship is something that's great when you're young. It's much harder when you're older. But there are entry level jobs at every, you know, every firm. And I would say that the most important use of your time and money is skills like autocad, a sketchup, those types of things that people really need. And then you'll probably get, like, a starter job type of thing. But, yeah, I was very lucky. I got an internship. I was younger, I was eager. I worked. You know, I would work for free. I would pay them. [00:10:50] Speaker A: Yeah, absolutely. And I feel like as you made this transition and started your career, even just being able to have Bunny Williams on your resume, what a huge deal. So how significant in your strategic growth as we're talking about growing your business, do you feel like that short time at Bunny Williams was? And do you feel like every designer should work at another firm before starting their own? [00:11:15] Speaker B: Okay, that's a great question. A lot of parts to it. And the funny thing about my internship as Bunny Williams is in ways, yes, and in ways no. So in ways yes, in terms of growing my business, it was wonderful, even for the short time that I was there, to see how a very well run design business works, because I had no other, nothing else clouding the way I saw a design business function. And so Bunny does a really, really good job of running a very good business. I mean, she sets up her office in a very organized way. You know, she's the head designer, and then she has designers and project managers. And to this day, I still run my firm the same way because I saw it done really well. So that's one aspect of the development of my business. I would say it's important to work for somebody for a little bit of time just so that you just learn so much, and it's not on your own time. A little bit. Once you start a business, it's serious. You know, you've put up money, you. It's much easier to learn as much as you can when you're working for somebody else. Do I think you absolutely have to work for somebody else? No. I think some people have a really natural talent for design and also a great business end. So I don't think it's a prerequisite, but I think that it's helpful. The second part of the question is that I came into the workforce in 2009, so that was the economic crisis, and nobody was hiring. So, in fact, everybody was scaling back. And here I was fresh out of my renaissance art degree with a internship at Bunny Williams. And honestly, I didn't have a choice. I wanted to start working, and it was really hard to get hired. It was like nobody was building anything at that point in time. So I ended up starting a firm with my friend, and that was a real learning process. It was just like how to get clients, how to do orders and all that stuff. I had to really figure that out really fast. But I did have that small amount of time at Bunny Williams. And actually, the person who I started the firm with, that initial firm, I had met her at Bunny Williams. So we sort of had a understanding of how we wanted to run the firm. So, yeah, it was helpful, but it didn't, like, carry me to my next job. [00:14:05] Speaker A: One of the first impressions prospective clients have of your brand is your website. If you don't have a strong online presence to show off your work, though, you're losing out on potential clients. Ideco Studio offers the selection of limited edition website templates designed specifically for interior designers just like you. If you're looking for a more hands off experience, you can add on implementation and professional copywriting, and we'll have your new website up and running within a few short weeks. Visit idco studio to choose your favorite before it sells out. Okay, so in the trajectory of your career, you've left an intern or completed an internship. You're opening a firm with a partner. What? Can we go into a little more detail about what it was like to try having a studio with a partner? And what made you decide that you wanted to go out on your own? If that was a decision or if it was circumstantial? [00:15:04] Speaker B: Well, the partner, her name was Vivian. She was amazing. She's my friend going in, my friend going out. We still see each other. You know, our kids go to the same school, and she's great. Initially, it was a lot of learning. There's a lot, you know, the design is one aspect of running a design firm. And then there's really the technical, you know, business side of running a design firm, which is making sure you are not spending more money than you have. You know, I think we each put dollar 400 in, and that was. That's it. That's the only amount of money I invested. And one of the. The reasons is I never felt pressured to have things before I can afford them. So, like, I spent a long part of my career working out of my home. We. It took a really long time until we felt confident that we wanted to hire an employee. I see so many people start firms where they, like, get a big office and they get a team of people, and they are spending more money than they actually have. And it's just a really not good idea. I think in any business, there's really not in all businesses. Interior design is a really easy business model to start up because you don't have so many startup costs. But in every business model, there's a way to be a little bit more frugal in the way you're doing things. And still to this day, I'm incredibly frugal if I'm starting a new venture. For instance, the gallery, I waited until it was really the right time, and that was years after I had the idea. So it was really a lot of learning, but it was a lot of figuring out how to make sure that we were growing a business in a way that was slow and healthy. So, yeah, that was a bit what it was, like, big learning experience. [00:16:55] Speaker A: And so how long did you have a partner before you decided to open your own studio? [00:17:00] Speaker B: It was about three years. And then, like I said, it was like we were conscious, uncoupled, you know, like, we had a very, very pleasant. And again, I'm super lucky because I started it with a wonderful person that could get very messy. But, yeah, she was interested in doing something else, and I had really found my passion, and I wanted to keep going with it. And after that experience, I also, like, I kind of restructured in a little bit of a different way, and I knew exactly how I wanted everything to run. I had had, like, a trial period, and I think it really set me up for, you know, success going forward. [00:17:37] Speaker A: Perfect transition to my next question, I'd love to hear, in your words, how did you get to a point of where you felt established as an interior designer, and what does or did established really mean to you in this, as you said, world of interior design? [00:17:58] Speaker B: Okay, so I think there's two. Two things it means for me. The first is well known. Established to me as a young interior designer, was a firm that has name recognition that people know of enough to call them to do a job for them. And then, as I've, you know, been in this industry a really long time, I think that it also means just a healthy business, like making sure that you're running a well run business, that you're not hiring more employees than you can afford, and making sure that your clients are happy and that things are running really smoothly, that you have vendors who you work with, who like working with you, you know, so I think when you think of an established firm, you think of a certain level. Of a certain level of notoriety. Notoriety, but also just, it's well run. [00:18:58] Speaker A: How far into your career as an interior designer do you feel like you were before you felt those emotions? [00:19:07] Speaker B: I think, honestly, I think when Rizzoli asked me to do the book, I was like, oh, wow, that's cool. [00:19:14] Speaker A: I would say so. I would say when Rizzoli reaches out, that's a. I've made a point. [00:19:19] Speaker B: Yeah. I was like, that's big. That's a big deal. [00:19:23] Speaker A: So from my perspective, having a signature style seems to be a really key part of defining a studio. As you start to look at studios that are really well known, your design aesthetic is often described as, like, merging contemporary elements with a timeless sophistication. And I'm hoping you can dive in a little deeper into how you developed the signature style, what influences shaped it, and if it was a conscious decision to have a cohesive aesthetic that is told through the narrative of your career, or if it was like, this is what people are coming to me for, so this is what I'm going to be producing. [00:19:59] Speaker B: Yeah. So the. The signature style is. Is not something that's fully conscious. I know people say I have a signature style, but, you know, until I really paid attention to that, it wasn't something that I was like, oh, I have to have a signature. There are definitely things, though, that I do consistently that I think creates the style that I'm known for. I think that I'm very good at mixing or knowing when to mix contemporary furniture with antiques. And I have a few kind of. They're not real rules because I don't really work with rules. They're just things that I naturally like. But I do like a two to one ratio of new items to antique items. And that kind of. It doesn't make you feel like you live in an antique store. It's kind of the right balance of feeling fresh and at the same time, having things with depth and character. So, like, two pieces that are new, one piece that's antique, I would say, in a room. And obviously, that's not, like, a hard rule if there are things. Sometimes I go a little bit heavier on the antiques. I tend to not love antique sofas. I just think that the clean upholstery is a really nice moment of quiet. And then I mix a lot of italian, danish, and french mid century. So that's something that is consistent through my work. It's my three loves, and I really try to mix all those pieces together so it's not, I don't just go mid century italian. Like, some people are like, they're only shopping mid century italian, they're only shopping. Mid century French, they're only shopping. Louis XVI type of thing. I definitely mix it, and so it has that feeling of that very continental mix. And then there's other things. Like, I never use white. You know, I always use ivory. And I think the funniest thing that people always ask me is like, they're like, is your favorite color white, or is your favorite color beige or. And honestly, it's not white and beige. Well, white I don't love, but beige is a great background. But I, if you look through my work, I really do love green and red. There's a lot of green and red pops that come through my work, but they're really subtle. It's like in an artwork, in a vase, in, you know, those are my real fun times to play. And I think that's what keeps the spaces from looking just blah. Incorporating little, little colors into a beige palette for me is incredibly beautiful. [00:22:44] Speaker A: I'm working on a blog post right now talking about a pop of a primary color and how it can make any room feel so much cooler, so cool. [00:22:54] Speaker B: It's so cool. I mean, a lot of the colors caught, my favorite colors come from the jean prouve, like, color story. You know, like that great green, that, like, really nice red, the bright blue. Those are my favorite colors. [00:23:08] Speaker A: I'd love to move into signature style when we start talking about the book a little bit more. But I want to talk about a point where you began to scale. You mentioned that you held on, or I should say off for as long as you could, keeping your overhead low. Now, you didn't have technical design experience of drawings, etcetera. And so I'm wondering how you were able to execute elevations, floor plans. Did you contract with someone who was doing, like, the technical drawings? Did you self teach yourself and who was your first hire, if there ever was? [00:23:50] Speaker B: I self taught myself. Autocad. Well, I didn't self taught. I signed up for a class. I didn't self teach it to myself. I had had Photoshop in college, which I still knew. Sketchup, I self taught myself. But if you know, autocad, sketchup is, is not as difficult. A lot of the buttons and the features, at least the time that I learned it, were very similar. Now it's like there are so many things that I don't do it so often because I have people doing it for me. And anytime I get on that computer, I'm like, oh, my God, what did I press? But I had those skills, and I did my own floor plans, and initially, the partner that I was with had some of those skills also. So we kind of split that work. We didn't really show clients that type of level of work, you know, Autocad plans, until we had employees. Until I had employees who can do that. My first employee was an Internet. Still to this day, 90% of my employees start as interns because I think it's just a great way to hire people. I think it's, you sort of get a trial, and especially for a small business, and I'm not talking about a free trial because we often pay our interns, but, you know, they're in school, it's part time. You sort of. They haven't committed. Because I take hiring extremely seriously. Like, if I'm going to offer you a job, it's not a temporary position. It's like, you're part of my family. And so, honestly, the employees I have are the interns that I absolutely adored. I think internships are great because, you know, if you're in the right place, they should turn into a real job. I think there's also a lot of people who exploit the internship process, but I take it very, very seriously, and they've turned into jobs a lot of. A lot of times. [00:25:45] Speaker A: If they are to move to employment, is it usually a seamless transition or do they have more schooling? And then you're like, call me when you graduated. [00:25:52] Speaker B: Seamless. So usually I'll have them continue. So they'll have, you know, credits that they need to fulfill or time off in between school days that they can work. So I'll literally have them work until they graduate, and then they're a full time employee. You know, then they're already a full time employee. Yeah. [00:26:07] Speaker A: Today, how many people are on your team? Can you talk us through the corporate structure of what that looks like? I know you mentioned it. Mirror what you learned at Bunny. [00:26:16] Speaker B: Yeah. So basically, we're still a boutique firm, which is. I like to keep it that way. I still love doing the design. What happens is, when you sign on to work with us, you get me as a designer, and then you get a project manager who manages the day to day details of your project. So, you know, we take on, like, eight projects at a time. I couldn't do all the project management and all the design if I gave everybody everything to do. So I kind of split it up into roles. The project managers do often help shop for things like, I'll say I need blue fabrics, I need a boucle, that type of thing. Then they'll bring them back to the office and show me, because I'm doing a lot of projects at the same time. And then I have the junior designers who also help with that, the project managers. The thing that I'm neurotic about is really good organized spreadsheets. As boring as that sounds. Everything needs to be documented. It's just a really good business policy to know what money is coming in, what money is going out, what's been spent, what hasn't been spent. I mean, we have color coordinated spreadsheets like you've never seen from a design firm. [00:27:32] Speaker A: So you handle all of your accounting within spreadsheets. You're not using a software like studio designer or something like that? [00:27:40] Speaker B: We handle all the accounting from there, but that's not done in house. I have somebody else doing that, but my employees are creating those spreadsheets and the invoices and stuff like that. So we have our own system for. [00:27:57] Speaker A: A team of five. How many projects are you typically handling at one time? And obviously, there are different phases of the project, but what's a really good sweet spot for you? [00:28:08] Speaker B: Our really good sweet spot is six. Eight is, I'm, like, almost dead. And four feels light, you know? But it also gives me time to do things. Like, sometimes in, like, a smaller period, I'm like, okay, now's the time where I can do a collaboration, or, you know, those things also take time, so. But six is my sweet spot. I feel like, like, really calm and efficient, and then I get that extra project, and I'm like, oh, my God. [00:28:35] Speaker A: I'm talking about, how many projects did you have on the books while you were writing your book? [00:28:43] Speaker B: Oh, my God, that was, that was, like, a hard, that was a hard time for me also, because I haven't written in so long. So, like, I haven't written since college, and I wanted to write the book myself because I just feel like I know a lot of people get ghost writers, but I just, it didn't feel like me. I was like, I would literally stare at the page for, like, 5 hours and get nothing done. That's not true. I didn't get nothing done. I was so efficient at everything else because I didn't want to write. I'm, like the ultimate procrastinator. So at that time, I think we had, like, seven projects, and I was writing the book also. I was. There were days where I didn't show up to work for like three days just because I was trying to, like, catch up with all the things. That's one thing for, like, a founder. Sometimes when I go into work, it's harder to work because, like, I have a ton of questions coming at me. So sometimes if I really, really need to do work, I'm just like, guys I like, I'm staying home. I also love the people I work with. So, like, we talk a lot, you know. [00:29:45] Speaker A: Ansax recently launched a dozen new collections ranging from beautiful stone mosaics to artful terracotta with marble inserts and also sustainable artist series tile made from nearly 100% recycled materials. Be sure to check out their website to view the new collections and order samples from your Anzac showroom. I think that actually goes back to your concept of, like, being really careful about growing. We have a pretty large physical office space and for about a year I was making everybody. Our team's kind of all over the place, but we have a good core people here in Austin. And I would make everybody come in. I'm like, okay, we're going to do regular business hours. You get Fridays off. And then something kind of pivoted over summer where I was like, oh, you guys can work from home. And then all of a sudden I was like, wait, I'm so much more efficient when everybody works from home. Like, so much more efficient. So my point being, as you're thinking about like, oh, I have to get out of the office. I need to work in an office with my team. Just from my personal experience. My team loves working from home. We still have co working days that are scheduled, sprinkled in here or there. But the efficiency of a four day work week and people working from home is phenomenally higher than making everybody come in, have the travel time, sit around, clicking around when they need a brain break instead of being able to get up and do their laundry. It really is something that if you can hold off getting a physical office space, that is one thing that I don't want to get rid of our office now, but it's pretty much just my personal office. [00:31:21] Speaker B: No, 100%. I couldn't agree more. I don't like FaceTime. Like, I don't want you at the office. Like, if. If you're not like, really working and doing something, then it's like your time is better spent, like getting peace of mind or whatever you need to do to like, take a brain break, as you said. But yeah, it. For and for, yeah, I get bombarded with questions. So sometimes I just need to stay home. And sometimes I feel a little self conscious about it. I'm like, I'm not coming into the office. I really need to do work. I hope they're okay with that. [00:31:54] Speaker A: No, because in office, days become days that you work in office all day, and then you have to do a night shift to do all the work you were supposed to do during the day because all you were doing was reviewing, answering questions, and, like, water cooler chat, which is so fun and important for company culture, but really difficult to do as a founder on a regular basis. So speaking of water cooler chat and chit chat, I'm curious as to how and if networking played a role in growing your business. Without a huge amount of scaling your business, you didn't scale your business personnel wise. So being in an competitive industry, in a competitive market, how important was it to kind of introduce yourself into this design world where you certainly didn't come up in through school, you didn't have buddies that you went to school with? [00:32:44] Speaker B: Yeah, networking was huge for me. I mean, when I started my firm, I went out all the time. I went to dinner with people, I went to lunch with people. And I know you said, like, it's framed as a competitive industry, but I'm going to be honest. Like, the best thing you can do is not see it that way and make friends along the way, because those friends really help you. You know, if you have good friends and it's a give and take relationship. Like, I've had friends who, you know, text me randomly, do you have a good source for this? And of course I'm going to give it to them. And also, you know, I'm going to give it to them because I want them to do well. But also, you know, when I need something, I need. I need somebody in the industry to be able to ask as well. I think not seeing it as competitive is really important because we're in New York, there's a ton, you of know, it's just like, there's so many people who need interior design here, and I think there's really enough to spread around. But I do think having friends in the industry is incredibly important. [00:33:50] Speaker A: How did you go about inviting those people to lunch or dinner? Like, how did you get acquainted with them? I feel like people listening feel a little bit apprehensive or shy about that. Like, can I reach out? Is this person really going to want to go to coffee with me? How can I be respectful of their time? So how did you start making those connections? [00:34:14] Speaker B: Well, I would go to an event, which I knew what was happening. You know, you can always find an event to go to if you are trying and you meet people slowly. It's. I don't know if you know Heather Clawson from habitually chic, but she always jokes around that, like, I don't mind going to an event by myself. She's like, I would feel so awkward. And I was like, no, no, no. You just have to be friendly and just, like, walk up to somebody and be like, hey, my name's Alyssa. You know, what do you do and just talk to people and meet people organically and slowly. Everybody who's at those types of events kind of wants to network also, so there's a good start. It's not like high school where, like, you know, nobody wants to talk to people. People are going to those events to try to meet people. So, you know, do your best to speak up and introduce yourself, and you never know when a really long term relationship is going to come about. And I've met, like, some of my greatest friends like that. [00:35:11] Speaker A: I love that. That's such a good reminder. If someone's at that event, they are, if not searching for, at least prepared to meet new people, 100%. [00:35:20] Speaker B: They're there to meet people. [00:35:22] Speaker A: And for those events, do you advise that those are usually some sort of, you know, industry specific events, or did you go to all. All kinds of event stuff that was happening in the city, art events, et cetera? [00:35:34] Speaker B: No, industry. Industry specific. I mean, anything you want to meet people, any field you want to meet people in, there's always events in New York, but I was going to industry events specifically to meet people in my industry, because I didn't know anybody. I grew up really not knowing anybody in the industry. [00:35:51] Speaker A: So in that same vein, did you go to other industry events to start getting clients? Like, how did you start to get your books full? [00:36:00] Speaker B: Okay, so how did I start getting clients? That's a great question. So it was really. It's really difficult to start getting clients when you didn't work for a firm before, and you can't. You don't have any connections to anybody. You don't have a large body of work. One thing that I did was I had a friend who was a real estate broker, and she knew me, and she knew my taste, and I had already done a website where I had some work. Very, very little. But, you know, when she was selling apartments, she's like, if somebody needed design, she would be like, you. You know, my friend Alyssa is a really good. Sorry a really good interior designer, and she's not that expensive, you know, that type of thing. And then, and then it grew from there, you know, like, once you get your first client, that's like a big win. It kind of does start rolling after that, and you photograph the projects and, you know, eventually you start getting featured, and that's when the real projects start coming in. And so, you know, like, there's always, I think that a little bit of that imposter syndrome. As you get bigger and bigger, you're like, I can't believe still people call me, you know, you're just, I'm so thankful for it. But after that first client, it was kind of like it kept rolling type of thing. [00:37:18] Speaker A: So when you were first starting out with your own firm, you definitely were saying yes to all projects that were coming to you. [00:37:26] Speaker B: I was very not picky when I started. [00:37:29] Speaker A: When did you, when was the turning point of being like, okay, now we're only going to take projects with this minimum budget? [00:37:38] Speaker B: When I had enough projects to turn away the projects with the lower budgets. I mean, you still have to, you still run a business, you still have employees to pay. So I was lucky enough at some point to have enough inquiries that I can take the ones that I wanted. And it's been like that ever since. [00:37:56] Speaker A: If you were to look back, could you put, like a year on how many years of your own firm? If it was years or months or days of when. When you were able to be like, we have enough work coming in that we can start being a little more selective? [00:38:11] Speaker B: It was pretty fast after I did the holiday house show house, and at that point, I started getting really big on Instagram also. So the Instagram aspect of growing my business was also a really, really important aspect of growing my business. But that kind of sped things up a lot. So I would say it was, like, already a year. A year in, but a long year, you know, like, don't, don't discount how long a year is when you're trying to start a business. But it was a year in when I started really getting very big clients. [00:38:44] Speaker A: Interesting that you touched on Instagram. I'd love to go into that a little bit before we start talking about the book and gallery. But you say that Instagram was a big part of growing your business, but that was, you know, ten years ago and ten plus years ago. Do you feel like Instagram is still a big part of your strategy, if you will, or just really your brand significance of keeping active on Instagram, or is it really just like a portfolio now, and you're there because you have new work to show. [00:39:16] Speaker B: My view on Instagram changed a lot over the years. You know, initially it was just photos when we started. I think the video content has changed Instagram a lot. And also, you know, the bigger the brand becomes, I think there's a shift in for some people. You know, some people share everything. I'm not really like that, but I share things that are consistent with our brand. You know, whether we're doing something really amazing in a collaboration or a feature article. I don't post every day. Like, everything I'm doing, it's just. It's changed a bit. [00:39:57] Speaker A: If you were to pick three key categories that you recommend designers invest in in their business to see growth, and those investments could be monetary or time wise, what three categories do you feel are the most important for someone to focus on, to start to feel that snowball effect of growth? [00:40:20] Speaker B: I think actually networking is one. If you haven't gone to, like, dinners and lunches with people, that's a real place where you need to be, like, working on stuff. There's so much to be gained from getting out there, meeting people, forming connections. That's number one, I think number two is hiring people who are really good fits for you. I think a lot of people run into trouble with their employees. One, your employees are a reflection of you. So when you run a firm, you know, if the billing's not done properly, if the employees are sloppy with the way they handle things, that's going to reflect on you, and that's going to really hurt your business. And then I do think that understanding social media and establishing how you want to be viewed and that's really different for everybody is a really important thing. And the advice that I would give somebody in that sphere is find another business that you admire. You know, you don't have to have worked for them. But, like, do you admire the way I run my Instagram? Do you admire the way another designer who shares, you know, details about their kids and their pets? And do you admire somebody who does behind the scenes and model your strategy over that and try to keep it as consistent as possible? Don't be that person one day and a totally different person the next day? I think consistency in a brand image is actually pretty important for clients to know what they want and who to go to. I think those three things are really important. [00:42:09] Speaker A: That is so helpful. Thank you, Alyssa. Let's talk book. By the time this airs, the book will be out. But let's discuss your namesake first book that you wrote yourself. Give us a glimpse into your philosophy around the book and how it's reflected in the ten showcase projects. Okay, Rozzoli came to you, so that's a good first start. But then, like, how did a book shape from there? [00:42:40] Speaker B: So the bookkeep, I like to say it's really like a love letter to creatives. The book, it came a lot from this concept of creating your own style and what that means to everyone and the journey that you go on when you're creating your own style. And like I was saying about Instagram and your brand is modeling what you want to do off of the work of somebody who you respect, who went before. So, for instance, if there's an artist you love, it's really important to learn from them and to understand what they're doing that you love. It helps you understand you. You know, studying somebody else's work is incredibly helpful in understanding your own point of view. But then there has to be things that make it your own. You know, you have to take that style that you love and make it something that's yours. Copying somebody, you'll get a beautiful project, but you, because you'll have copied somebody who did a great job, but it will be lacking a soul. You won't be able to have a body of work without making things your own. And that happens over time, you know, thinking about the things you love, collecting images, collecting information, and then growing, you know, change is also really important. You can love one room, and then you can love another room and see how you can piece those two together. So the book is really a collection of my projects that I hope help people on their journey to find their own style. If my work inspires you, here's my best work. And take what you want from it, use it to learn, and I hope it helps you on your own journey in becoming, you know, an interior designer yourself. [00:44:37] Speaker A: How did you tell that story? Through the selection of ten projects. Like, what was it about these ten projects that helped articulate visually what you were saying? [00:44:50] Speaker B: In your words, they all have a slightly different point of view. I think one is a small city apartment. One is a large house in Rockley. They all have different elements to them. One is more contemporary, one is more traditional. And I feel like it really creates a full body of work. That was the goal, to show the breadth of work. The only thing that I'm sad about is that the timeline for doing a book is so long that there's two projects that I wish had made the deadline but they just, you know, they didn't. But I would. It's book two. [00:45:29] Speaker A: I love that we already have content for book two, so logistically, I. A book is so many people's goal as an interior designer. It's like, you know, oversized dreams. To have Rosalie reach out and pitch you a book deal is like the beyond Oprah size dream. That just feels incredible. What was the process like? It feels as though design books are definitely a very successful business model for Rizzoli and other publishers. We are seeing a lot of them come out. What was the actual process like from someone who was approached for a book deal versus someone who knew that they wanted a book and began pitching that out with, like, a book agent? When they first reached out to you, what was kind of first steps? [00:46:18] Speaker B: The first steps, it was during COVID So there was, like, a long bottleneck. It was, like, established. I only spoke to Rizzoli honestly, but there was a long bottleneck of books that, like, there was, like, a paper shortage or something like that, that, like, we had to wait. So the first concept was, like, what projects do you want to put in this book? And then we went straight into designing the book. It was kind of. They gave me an advance, and it was. It was really, like, it happened very fast, and it was just really easygoing. [00:46:51] Speaker A: Historically, we had always heard that, you know, if you want a book deal, your work cannot have been published. You can't have put those projects out into the world. And I feel like that's changed a little bit, and that probably. Probably happens to do with just the frequency in which these type of books are being produced. Was that something that was a requirement for you? And when you were approached, did you have projects that were, like, just sitting around, not ever shown to anyone? [00:47:19] Speaker B: I had projects that were coming up that we made sure not to publish because the timeline is so long. So I knew that there were going to be new projects involved, but I think in this day and age, it's really hard to ask somebody to not publish any of their work for, like, years. I mean, that's just, like, an unfair standard because it's so important to getting new business. And Rizzoli was really understanding of that. I mean, there were new projects, but there are also some, like, tried and true favorites of mine that I hope people enjoy seeing. [00:47:52] Speaker A: I'd love to transition as we get ready to wrap up, to talk about gallery and what. How that came to fruition and what motivated you to take this leap into a new realm as someone who is a bit more cautious and reserved with risk taking monetarily, as you sincerely prioritize being able to pay your employees and having enough means to have a sustainable business, explain what gallery is and how you made that decision when it was time to launch. [00:48:25] Speaker B: So Galleria listed Capito is a new venture that we're doing where it is a mix of highly collectible furniture that's mostly italian, danish and french, my favorites. And it is also a place where we have Aki additions, which is a collaboration with artisans around the world who are just incredible at what they do. And I design products based on their specialty. So the first aka edition venture was these incredible Carlo Scarpa inspired vases with Marcantonio Brandellini d'Ada from Laguna B, who's glassware people are obsessed with. And it's so good. The collaboration is very different than what he normally does, but it was a real pleasure to work with the Murano glass factories, and the collection came out beautiful. So it's this combination of new products and old historical antiques. And it's been something that I have wanted to start for so long. I've collected forever, and I just. I really wanted to do this. But, you know, a gallery is a totally different business model than an interior design firm. It requires upfront payments, you have to have inventory. And I needed to make sure that financially, we were totally fine to be able to launch into this ventures, which means that I needed to be able to pay my employees, buy furniture, and feel like, confident that if I didn't sell anything, I'd still be okay. I also made sure to not purchase anything. And this is obviously specific to the gallery, but I didn't want to purchase anything. That if I. Everything hit the fan and I ended up with it, that I wouldn't absolutely love to have. So as we grow, that changes. I'm going to be purchasing things that are a little bit more avant garde and stuff like that. But that was a safety net that I always felt like if it doesn't work out, I'll still be okay. But yeah, I waited for a really long time until we were financially stable enough that we can afford all these things. I saved that type of thing. I never even. Until this gallery, I never even had a PR person. The PR firm that we're using, which is amazing, VSJ consulting. I sighed on when I felt comfortable that I can afford all those things. And it's the biggest thing with running a business. I can't tell you how many friends of mine have gotten into trouble for not working like that. It's just really not a smart way to run your business, to spend more money than you can afford. [00:51:19] Speaker A: I feel as though some version of retail, whether that's a brick and mortar e commerce, a gallery or showroom, are often the most popular, or for lack of a better word, more obvious way to diversify revenue. As an interior designer, what have been some of the most rewarding aspects of launching of gallery and also the most daunting or challenging. [00:51:45] Speaker B: So the most rewarding is, honestly, the messages and the images of people with the vases and the books in their home already and the furniture pieces that they're buying. I can't tell you how much, how happy it makes me. So that's been really rewarding. Just like people are so sweet when they're appreciative. I've been very lucky to have gotten really nice messages. The most daunting thing is, honestly, there hasn't been anything that's been that scary. I kind of launched it, like I always do, in a very, very slow way. So we're looking for a physical space and it has to be the right space. So I don't mind taking my time ever, but I hope things sell. That's probably the most daunting. Just growing. [00:52:37] Speaker A: As we wrap up, I love to look ahead and maybe hear a little bit of a secret. What are your goals or aspirations for the future of your firm and gallery in the next year or so? [00:52:53] Speaker B: Growing the gallery is something that, like I said, I've wanted to do this for so long. I'm just like, so excited about growing the gallery, doing more collaborations. We have an incredible collaboration coming up. We have one with an insane fashion house and I'm so excited about that. And then we have another real furniture and lighting with bronze, a bronze maker from Paris that I am excited about as well. So we have a lot going on and I'm just really excited to, like, let everybody see what's happening. It's so fun. I love it. [00:53:28] Speaker A: Well, this was phenomenal. Thank you so much for all of your super thoughtful, insightful and really honest recollections of what it was like to grow your business and how you got there. Thank you for sharing your journey. We are so excited for the book. Congratulations. [00:53:44] Speaker B: Thank you. Thank you. It's such a big moment. So I'm really, I'm really excited, too. Thank you. [00:53:49] Speaker A: You should be. It is a huge deal. And congratulations on writing your own first book. [00:53:53] Speaker B: I feel like that's like another level. Congratulations on finishing it. Sure. Yeah. [00:53:58] Speaker A: Well, thank you so much. And I'm sure we'll talk soon. [00:54:00] Speaker B: Perfect. Bye. [00:54:11] Speaker A: For more in depth analysis of this interview, including exclusive downloads, examples, and more, don't forget to subscribe to the interior collective on Patreon. We are building an amazing private community of interior designers and industry experts open to candid conversations and answering questions. Join us on Patreon in the show notes [email protected] the interiorcollective thank you so, so much for tuning into this episode. Producing this show has truly been the honor of my career, and I cannot believe I get to have these conversations. A big, huge thank you to our production team at IDCo Studio in Quinn made, as well as this season's presenting sponsor, Ansax. Your contribution literally makes this podcast feasible and the biggest thank you to you, our listeners. Your sweet notes, DM's, and reviews mean so much to us as we work to keep our show free and always accessible. Until next time, I'm Anastasia Casey and this is the interior Collective, a podcast for the business of beautiful living.

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