On the up Fred Heritage · 29 February 2016
Design for Me founder: it’s important to have a vision of where you want to be.
Qualified architect Emily Barnes set up Design for Me after working in residential architecture for a several years. She spoke to Business Advice about her startup experience and the importance of goal-setting. Finding that people simply don’t know how to begin searching for an architect or designer, and recognising a common misconception that such professionals would be too expensive for small, residential projects, Barnes? online platform connects homeowners with appropriate architects and designers for specific jobs. (1) Who are you and what’s your business? My name is Emily Barnes and I’m the founder of Design for Me an online platform that matches homeowners with the right architect, interior or garden designer for their particular job. (2) How long have you been around for? I came up with the idea for Design for Me about three years ago. Half of this time was spent researching, planning and building the early version of the website. Then, 18 months ago I left my full time job as an architect to launch the site and grow thebusiness. (3) What makes you different and why should people take notice? Unlike other databases or search engines, Design for Me provides a double-sided platform to quickly and effectively whittle down your search with no phone calls. Once jobs get posted, they are quickly matched with the best candidates, and businesses will be notified of who’s interested. All the design professionals on Design for Me have been invited to join based on their suitability and willingness to work on private residential projects with “normal” budgets. Design for Me also provides a simple and effective marketing tool for the design professionals to find new work. It’s particularly good for innovative young practices or freelancers, who can otherwise find it difficult to build up a reputation and portfolio. (4) How does Design for Me make money? The answer to this question continues to change! I think it’s always important to interrogate the business model and change direction if necessary. Up until recently Design for Me charged both homeowners and design professionals to use the service. Although many homeowners were willing to pay, it really held back growth of our user base one which I knew would be critical to the ongoing success of the business. Now, we only charge a subscription fee to design professionals. More homeowners with interesting projects has led to more interactions on the site and therefore more design professionals have signed up and subscribed. (5) What was most important when starting out? The drive to make the project succeed and self-confidence probably. Discussing the idea with friends, family and colleagues made it more real? in my mind. Before long all I wanted to do was start researching and planning, which was a critical first stage in Design for Me’s life. (6) What’s been your biggest achievement so far? My main ambition, which affects every aspect of the business, is to make it invaluable to users. Getting positive feedback brings the best sense of achievement, which is happening more and more as time goes on. (7) Have you had any setbacks along the way?
ABOUT THE EXPERTFred Heritage
Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.