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How Interior Designers Save Time and Money with DesignerInc.

Like so many of the wonderful people I have met in interior design, I was first introduced to Heather of DesignerInc on A Well-Designed Business Podcast. I have emailed with Heather from DesignerInc. off and on several times over the past few months trying to decide how this service may fit within my business. She has been amazing at providing full and quick responses to my questions. Typically, when I source for interior designers, I have had to use retail or the few trade sources I have. Since I don't purchase the items, it is difficult for vendors to want to grant me a trade account, an issue I know you are likely dealing with as well as an interior designer. I have used DesignerInc. on a couple projects now and wanted to invite Heather to share more about her business and how helpful they are to the interior design industry. Check out the interview below!

I know that your background is primarily in the tech industry, what made you pursue a project in the interior design industry? Tell us a little about yourself.

For the first time in my life I was able to buy a home rather than rent - I finally had my own place. I had been surrounded by beautiful design growing up in an affluent city with neighbors like Steve Jobs, Jim Clark (founder of Netscape, etc.), and I recognized the level of excellence that only a professional interior designer can bring to a space. I myself couldn’t afford to hire a traditional designer, so I set out to create a design firm that could provide professional interior design in a more scalable, affordable way.

That pursuit to do this at scale, and the lack of technology and tools available to the industry, required that we build our own tools with the largest time saver being our own product sourcing website. We built it because my designers were spending 42% of their time sourcing product, and from this came the birth of DesignerInc. Once DesignerInc was opened up to the industry, designers were requesting that we buy the various items they were discovering on the platform, and the purchasing service evolved from there.

Your website states that you currently work with over 700 trade-only manufacturers. How much do you see that number growing within the next few years? Do your manufacturer/vendor relationships have limitations on which of their products they will allow you to showcase on DesignerInc?(for example, only sofas or accessories)

I see that number growing significantly but I want to expand with a focus on unique, high quality, mom and pop-type decor. I believe having a vast selection of these manufacturers on DesignerInc provides the most value to designers because it creates a great place to source and discover new, amazingly beautiful and unique items for your client. And these small, lesser known manufacturers can truly benefit from a more scalable and affordable marketing opportunity by getting in front of thousands of designers every day for free, and not just when a trade show is happening.

As far as limiting the product categories of each manufacturer, we let the manufacturers decide what they want to list with us. Usually it is their entire product library, but it’s up to them once we decide whether they as a manufacturer would be a good fit for DesignerInc.

Describe a designer’s typical experience when sourcing from DesignerInc?

Every designer uses it a little differently, but the flow that I believe is the most valuable time saver is:

  • Locating all of the possible options you’re considering for your client by saving them to a project or a proposal in DesignerInc, and then clicking one button “get quote” from that project or proposal.

  • From there my team gets to work getting the pricing, actual shipping costs and lead times for every one of the items in your cart.

  • We send that back to you and from there you can send out a proposal from within di., or you can clip the information into your own PM software, picking and choosing which items to include in your proposal.

  • Once you’ve made the decision, you can simply click the “checkout” button and purchase the items. From there, we provide concierge level service.

  • To start with, we will send a “communication schedule” email listing the exact day for each item you’ve purchased that we will be checking in with the manufacturer, and on that same day we also contact you with the update.

  • We manage the item all the way to the point of shipment to its first destination, which 99% of the time is a receiver.

  • If a return is needed, we handle that too and we adhere to the policies of the manufacturer in each case which we’ve called out previously in your quote.

Think of the amount of time you spend as a designer getting all of the pricing and shipping information back from your vendors, that you can now do with the click of a button using DesignerInc. As well, after you make a purchase through DesignerInc, having someone micromanage that purchase for you, is another huge chunk of time savings.

Once designers try our purchasing service they become hooked. 84% of our orders are from repeat designers who keep buying through us again and again.

What items do you feel are best to source from DesignerInc? Is there a particular item type, like sofas or art, that your specialize in?

I think it comes down to what the designer is most comfortable with buying from us, but I will tell you that we’re really good with custom or semi-custom items. We’ve built quizzes for most of the skus on DesignerInc where there are custom options walking you through every decision you need to make and then we get an accurate quote for you using the information in your quiz.

Is it fair to say that DesignerInc operates as a purchasing agent over several brands for interior designers? How does trade pricing a designer receives from Designer Inc compare to direct showroom pricing? There is such a large number of items listed on the site, how often are they reviewed to ensure that they are still available and not out of stock or discontinued?

Yes, that’s a really good description of how we operate. For product that is sold through showrooms exclusively we buy from those same showrooms that the designers do. In fact we’re in a big push to try and reach all showrooms and get the message out there that that is how we operate. Without showrooms, we’re out of business. I explain the domino effect here in a recent blog post that I did:

The prices when buying through DesignerInc are Designer Net or the showroom price, but sometimes we’re able to offer even lower prices because of our purchasing history. It just depends on the manufacturer, whether they are sold through a showroom or not, and whether we’ve been able to achieve better pricing through our history with them.

As far as how often we refresh the product library, we do it as often as is possible given how often we’re able to get that information from the manufacturer. However, if you compare it to sourcing books and catalogs that are printed in stone, we are certainly much more flexible and fluid with product line changes than what used to be the norm.

What is the most important thing you would like designers to know about using DesignerInc.

I’d like to encourage them to try our purchasing service because I think they will be blown away, and of course that’s how we stay alive as a company.

We have negotiated a commission from the manufacturers for the sales we place, with the exception being showroom level product. We do not earn a commission for showroom level product, but we believe it’s still very important that we include this product in our library. Designers won’t see value in using DesignerInc unless we offer a comprehensive product library. Think of Google search. You wouldn’t find Google useful if the only search results came back from paid advertisers, it’s the same with DesignerInc, and our overriding philosophy.

Oh, and one more thing! Please don’t forget to input your reseller number after registering. If you’re not verified there are only of couple of manufacturers we display and all of the functionality of the site is not available to you.

What would you like designers to recognize about DesignerInc as a company?

That we’re a friend to the industry and not here to disrupt. We are here to work with the infrastructure that exists and evolve along with the industry. The industry is in fact changing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from the evolution - we just need to embrace it and come together so we have influence over where the industry goes.

Do you have any advice for an interior designer who is still on the fence about using this service?

Give it a try, it’s free! And if there’s something you don’t like or additions you’d like to see, tell us! We make changes every two weeks and are molding this product based on what designers, manufacturers and showrooms tell us. This is your chance to be a part of what we build and ultimately what the product becomes in the long run.

How can designers learn more about you or reach you with questions?

Please go to the site and the chat function on the site reaches me personally as well as my team. I am available through that chat virtually 24/7 - so ask away!

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