6 Steps for a “Well-Designed” Start-up

April 16, 2012

For most start-ups, interior decorating is the last thing that comes to mind when starting a new business. Yet, for me, the (hair-pulling, keep-you-up-at night, can’t-stop-thinking-about-and-adding-just-one-more-tweak-to-the-“final”) processes of both have surprising similarities.

When I recently set off to create bethie b, an online interiors boutique that allows clients to buy and sell recycled home furnishings, I wasn’t sure where to start but knew I had to get moving. As a newbie to the start-up scene, I couldn’t help but notice how the two worlds (and steps involved) of interior decorating and creating a new start-up collide…

1. Organize your vision.
It’s undeniable that both need an amazing and creative vision, but even more important is the plan to execute them. A design vision without the steps to complete it is really nothing more than a pretty picture in a magazine. After visualizing your perfect space (or business), it’s critical to strategize the materials, support, timeline of goals, analysis of your surroundings and budget expectations (which will undoubtedly be more than expected) needed to accomplish your objectives. An added bonus is an understanding that your “perfected plan” will likely need to change as soon as you begin the process.

2. Get moving.
This is the dubious first step often keeping us from turning our “take risks” vision into reality. It’s easy to talk about what your perfect space would be or to find rooms to mimic, but it’s extremely difficult to create your own from scratch and take the leap. Much like moving into a brand new, blank palette of a place, creating a start-up can be overwhelming since there is no “one magic bullet blueprint” to follow when designing your own (successful) space. Hence, why the development process, consisting of getting started to see what works and what doesn’t work, is most crucial for both.

3. Out with the old; in with the new.
Once you begin the development and design process, it’s important to take inventory of the items you love and the items that just aren’t cutting it anymore for your space (aka: your strengths and weaknesses). This will help you realize what can be repurposed and what is working well – and the areas that you’re going to need some help. Finding the right support to fit your needs is hard. Finding this with barely any budget is harder. But that’s where creativity comes in…right? Some things will just come together naturally and other ideas will need to be scrapped all together. Being open to change is the name of the game.

4. Show it off.
Even if your space isn’t up to your highest of standards quite yet, it’s important not to over analyze or shut everyone out in the meantime. Instead, start asking people over right away to see and enjoy your new place (i.e. your “minimum viable product”). The reactions of those you trust and respect are an amazing indication of what people like (which may surprise you), or don’t particularly like (even though you’ve spent hours on). Most importantly, seeking input will help ignite new ideas for what you could improve just by listening to new perspectives. The more people you can invite to your place, the better.

5. Continue to innovate & curate.
Based on the reactions and responses you receive, you now have the valuable information you need to make updates, buy new items, return certain pieces, and keep going in the style direction that is slowly but surely coming together based on your feedback (pivot or persevere anyone?). Honing your creativity and having the ability to “know when to hold em’; know when to fold em’” on certain ideas, especially those that have been most important to you, is critical. (And very difficult.) Continuing to grow and perfect your space as additional needs arise will be an ongoing task.

6. Be inspired & remember why you started.
Once you start seeing the success of creating your vision, it can be challenging to just sit back (at least for a minute) and enjoy your hard work before you’re off designing the next space. Pushing yourself to produce your best work and staying ahead of the design (or business) curve is critical – but not at the cost of forgetting why you started building your perfect space to begin with. Recognizing what you’re creating, your motives to create it, and the opportunity to be inspired by the amazing talent surrounding you, at least for me, is the goal of my “design”.