INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
How These Interior Design Disruptors Have Shaken Up Their Industry in a Pandemic World
We talked to Diana Greenhalgh, co-founder of My Bespoke Room, about how to create happy home effortlessly,
all at a happy price and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Diana Greenhalgh: We are doing well, thank you. Starting 2021 in yet another lockdown isn’t what any of us had hoped for. With Zoom fatigue well and truly upon us, we have been finding new ways to keep our spirits up, stay connected, and keep active. But with spring around the corner and the vaccine on the way, there is a lot of hope, and we’re excited for some return to normalcy in the not-too-distant future!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded My Bespoke Room.
Diana Greenhalgh: After ten years of working in operational marketing with L’Oréal, I took the leap with a friend to start an interior design business. In 2014, Laura Simpson and I co-founded My Bespoke Room. Inspired by our own frustrations whilst renovating our homes, we saw a gap in the market for an accessible, affordable interior design service.
So, we created our online platform. We wanted our service to be unpretentious, easy to use with no hidden costs. In the beginning, we raised £18,000 with help from family and friends and bootstrapped the business. We are the number one design service on Houzz seven years later, with a team of over 40+ design consultants and growing.
How does My Bespoke Room innovate?
Diana Greenhalgh: As an online tech business, we are well placed to be able to innovate. We aim to transform the interior design industry and solve problems for both consumers and designers.
During the pandemic, we have accelerated and shared our technology that helps designers get back to doing what they love: working with customers, creating beautiful designs, and growing their business. As we go into the new normal, we all need many tools in our armory to be able to continue doing business effectively and online.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Diana Greenhalgh: The pandemic has brought immense challenges. Not only did Laura and I both get Covid-19, but our funding fell through at the 11th hour in that first lockdown. It was a real lesson in perseverance. Thankfully, we were able to weather the storm and continued to innovate and grow. We’re proud to have seen 104% growth last year and recently closed £700K in angel investment.
This investment will help us to scale our operations with our new SaaS platform, Design Pal Pro. This tool helps independent designers run their business more efficiently, connect them with an engaged online community, an academy, and extend their client reach.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Diana Greenhalgh: The pandemic has spurred our desire to give back to the industry and build a more resilient sector. It’s made us make difficult (but exciting) steps to offer more designers online solutions to help them do what they love best.
Just 12% of UK startup funding goes to women-run firms. Now with a pandemic, investors can be even more risk-averse. So, we have had to fight hard to get our voices heard and be respected as serious players in the industry. I will continue with a steadfast determination to be the best whilst helping ours. This focus has meant we have raised £2 million to date, and if we stay on course, exciting things lay ahead.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Diana Greenhalgh: As I previously mentioned, our customers and our partners have been using our bespoke technology platform. Design Pal Pro (our SaaS tool) allows designers and clients to engage in a new convenient way, spending more time designing and collaborating with their clients. Clients and designers are able to message and make comments easily. This avoids unnecessary overheads and creates a more efficient design process. We have offered this solution to all designers for free for three months to help them through the pandemic, allowing them to be more productive, do more business, and earn more.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Diana Greenhalgh: Room Lab and Topology Interiors also provide online design services, and given the landscape, there will be no shortage of designers pivoting and moving their businesses online. But we are uniquely placed in the industry, not just as a destination for customers but as a hub for interior designers. We are the only design service offering SaaS, trade sourcing, personal shopping, an academy, and a community for designers all in one place. We want to support as many designers as possible with administrative support, training, flexible working, reaching their customers, and ultimately growing their businesses.
Your final thoughts?
Diana Greenhalgh: The world is changing fast, and we have to keep adapting the vision for what’s coming next. Disruptive technologies that challenge the status quo are exactly what the world needs across every sector. That’s what we’re doing at My Bespoke Room, and I encourage entrepreneurs out there to have the courage to keep innovating and thinking outside the box.
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