I am excited to kick off the first post on the Monogram Decor blog with an office tour of a dynamic duo of Krista Coupar and Lisa Davis. These two dynamos recently joined forces and moved to a space in the San Francisco Design Center that makes me weak in the knees. I was lucky enough to corner these two busy ladies for a bit to discuss the new digs, their working relationship and garner some tidbits of insight for running a successful business……
Public relations and business consulting for interior designers under the same roof? Sounds like a little slice of heaven, but how did you two hook up?
Krista Coupar (KC): We were actually introduced through a mutual friend, but it wasn’t until Lisa debuted her firm formally on Facebook that I reached out to her. She’s a natural in PR and spent the past 25 years in the design industry as what I perceived to be a brand ambassador for San Francisco’s Kravet, Lee Jofa, and Brunschwig, so it was kind of a no-brainer that I wanted to collaborate with her once she opened her doors. Her personality and approach is a complement to my business and its a benefit to have another person looking at the same business goals and objectives but completely differently. We are able to problem solve quickly which is a valuable to the clients that work with us. And honestly, she cracks me up. She’s all business with a wicked sense of humor. Who wouldn’t want to work around someone like that?
Lisa Davis (LD): It’s a dynamic partnership. Krista is a whiz at understanding the nuts and the bolts needed to run a successful interior design business. I am more “front of the house” — I jokingly call myself the “Yenta Matchmaker” because I really seem my job as understanding my clients brands and matching them to the outlets that make the most sense. Krista gets our client’s business affairs in order with web sites, project photography and finances. Once that back of the house stuff is taken care of, she passes the baton to me and and I get the word out about the fabulous things they are doing.
So this question is specifically to Lisa, how has public relations changed for the design community? It use to be designers did a show house, shot their projects and pitched them to print magazines. I am assuming things have changed a bit…..
(LD): It’s a misconception that public relation professional are all running around trying to get their clients into magazines. Don’t get me wrong, getting published is a piece of the puzzle, but it doesn’t encompass the entire landscape. Digital mediums like online magazines, blogs and now blogs (video blogs) are changing the landscape. Not only do they provide instant “gratification” to a client (interview on Tuesday and have the profile pushed to thousands of people a day later) but those online opportunities more often than not translate into business opportunities. A small percentage of design projects ever see the printed page, so I counsel clients to be strategic and look at online as an opportunity to target a specific audience.
And now for you Krista, your business takes a really different approach and fills a void for many designers. Can you explains how you found this niche?
(KC): I wish it was this massive epiphany were I had a moment of clarity while meditating some place that would make folks envious, but really it was a combination of questions and frustrations I found myself and other designers had while navigating the industry. I found there was a few core issues that I kept coming across that I wanted to address or resolve, namely work/life balance, managing (and surviving) volatility as a designer and delivering a premier experience to clients.
The largest impact on the space though, quite frankly is the art. James Bacchi with ArtHaus curated my house and he was gracious enough to show some of the pieces from the gallery in our space. The collection speaks to my aesthetic in art showcasing color and texture, and I love a bit of sheen. The entry piece is may favorite, it reminds me of an silk scarf from the 1980s you’d find at a Barney’s or Bergdorf’s. I think art is one of the places that can be very daring in interiors without compromising the livability of the space.
Being around designers and decorators all day must result in some good advice. What is the best piece of a advice you have gotten?
(LD): Don’t ever discount yourself or put yourself on “sale”. I am not a fan of when I see designers do “one free hour of consulting.” I think it diminishes the integrity of the industry as a whole. You would never a respected lawyer or doctor cutting their rates as it would set a negative precedent. Never negotiate your fees. Have confidence that what you bring to the table is of value and worthy of being compensated accordingly.
(KC): My guiding quote for design was taught to me while designing with Patrice Cowan Bevans Interiors and it was on her website: “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Coco Chanel. With the exception of shoes, I believe this to be absolutely true and it especially applies to interiors.
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