2 Designers and an Antique Dealer Speak about Entrepreneurship and Planning

This post is part of an interview series conducted by Arts Entrepreneurship students at SMU. With this project, we are seeking to understand if, in creative entrepreneurship, business plans are necessary. SMU student Gabby Garcy conducted these interviews and offered her analysis.

Donna Lynch

I conducted an interview with Donna Lynch from Danville, California. Donna has been in the design and furniture business for over 30 years. She started in real estate and switched into the furniture industry. Donna is the owner of Welcome Home, a home staging and furniture company. She has experience in the design industry in North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world, as well as San Francisco Bay Area, where she is currently located today. Donna has expertise in buying and selling home goods and furniture. With her expertise, she has a design eye to decorate homes for clients. Additionally, she has created a business based on staging homes. This includes staging for home resell. Her clients include furniture manufacturers, home buyers and sellers, and builders. In the past she has also owned retail furniture stores for 21 years. She has touched all aspects of the interior design industry and is well versed in the industry.

Donna was asked three questions based on her experience of starting Welcome Home and being involved in the industry, which includes:

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

Donna: “I know this is totally the wrong answer but no, not really. The business we started, staging and renting furniture to other stagers, was very new. I still don’t know of another business doing what we are doing. There are lots of stagers out there and Cort Furniture Rental and Brook Furniture Rental, but no one that does both. We learned the business as we went along. We had a budget planned and we had to work with that. As we went, every penny we brought in went back into buying inventory. We didn’t take a paycheck for about 2 years.”

Secondly, Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

Donna: “I think they are a guide.”

Lastly, what three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs? “Go with your instincts… I believe this business would work and was willing to give it my all to make it work. I knew my set costs and was willing to lose that if I failed, always knowing I could sell the inventory and re-coop that investment.”

Robin Aboitiz

I conducted an interview with Robin Aboitiz, who was a long-time private interior designer in Texas and the Philippines. She always had an eye for design and this spurred her into interior design. She has designed countless projects around the world. Robin has a small clientele and had worked with them exclusively on their projects over the years. She began her interest working in a china store when she was just a teenager. Here, her knowledge on design and antiques began to expand and led her to her interior design interests she has today. In addition to design, Robin has vast knowledge on antiques.

She was asked three questions, based on her experience of being a private interior designer and being involved in the industry which includes:

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

No, I did not have a business plan. Back in the day that wasn’t so necessary to have created and followed a business plan, especially because the industry and clients are constantly changing and evolving. I also had such a passion from the time I was a little girl for design and antiques and people saw what I did and was intrigued by my personal design style. I then created a client base and continued using my creativity for my clients and projects. It just happened and evolved for me.”

Secondly, do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

“I think they are a guide. No, I do not. I think an interior designer takes a lot from more passion and creativity. I don’t think you have to have a business plan, from my experience in this industry.”

Lastly, what three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs? “I advise to keep following your passion, be unique with your design sense, and don’t follow the latest trends and what everyone else is doing. Have your own unique style and never second guess yourself.”

Marcia Harmon

Marcia Harmon is the owner of an antique store in Danville, California. She has 18 years of experience in the collective’s sphere. She has been creating jewelry, her own line named UBU, for 20 years and has owned her own antique store for 18 years. Prior to being in the design and art sphere, Marcia was in the corporate world before she transitioned from creating UBU at home attending trade shows for her company. She networked at trade shows and eventually fell into the antique world. This is when she began an antique collective with a business partner. A few years later, she created Cottage Jewel and started her own antique store in Danville.

Marcia was asked three questions based on her experience of being a designer and owning an antique store which includes,

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?
 “No, not a formal document.”

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

Marcia: Not necessarily a formal business plan. The rules of the game have changed and there is no right or wrong answer to having a business plan or not.  It does not necessarily apply for our industry, but can vary for other industries. In my industry, the vision and structure of the business needs to remain flexible.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Marcia: When I give business advice to artists or someone who is establishing a retail business, I tend to ask about their scenario and what they want to accomplish before I give advice, especially young entrepreneurs that want to promote the arts. It’s important to know the product and evaluate current times and trends in language and terms that can be comprehended by the current fashion and trends.  I’ve been at this a long time and sought advice from older people in my industry, always having targeted questions and I was able to translate it myself to the current times. Rules of the game are so different. Everything is done online and people are hungry for experience, authenticity, and personal connection without taking on the overhead. Doing business in the antique world for 18 years, it started for me as I began being artist at age 9 stringing beaded necklaces. Best bet for interior design is to start out as an intern for somebody else and watch their style, and what they do, and learn every aspect of the business you can, and know your weaknesses are. Support someone else’s business and build your own resume and network of specialists and have a portfolio to show your own style.

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