Four years ago, I had been working on a design for what is now known as our signature colorblock pillow. I needed something that would tie colors together for a client. Something simple, refined and timeless. I couldn't find what I was looking for in stores or on the web. Colorblocking was just starting to become a "thing" in fashion again and I couldn't believe it hadn't been translated into anything for home decor.
Using sketches and scrap fabrics, I made mockups until I got the proportions just right. I can tell you now, looking back, I had butterflies and I was anxious to put it out there for the world to see. I thought to myself, "this could really be something special." I listed my first colorblock pillow on Etsy at the end of July and sold the first one on July 30, 2012. And then another, and another, and another...
I couldn't have predicted what was about to happen but I was in for the ride of my life!
My Background in 2012:
- BFA Interior Design, VCU School of the Arts
- High end furniture retail sales
- Small business management
- Self-taught seamstress
- Novice photographer
- ZERO MARKETING EXPEREINCE
Q&A - The Highlights and Learning Curves:
Q: What are your favorite memories to date?
A: That's easy. The firsts!
Blog: August 29, 2012 Best Striped Pillows from Etsy
Magazine: Jan/Feb 2013 HGTV Magazine
House Tour: April 2013 Apartment Therapy
TV: September 2013 Blog Cabin Beach Retreat, DIY Network
Market: November 2013 Renegade Craft Fair - Brooklyn
Newspaper: February 2014 Wall Street Journal with TRNK NY
Magazine Cover: March 2014 Cake & Whiskey Magazine
Retail Space: April 2014 Lou & Grey Flagship - Westport, CT
Trade Show: August 2014 NY Now - Etsy
Design Finalist: September 2014 Martha Stewart American Made
Greenroom: November 2014 Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show Greenroom
New Studio: January 2015 Moving into our new studio!
Catalog: May 2015 Rejuvenation
Pillow Spread: September 2015 Good Housekeeping Magazine
TV Series: November 2015 Supergirl
Etsy Interview: February 2016 Etsy Success Interview with Jillian Rene Decor
Showroom: May 2016 Studio 882
Q: You've had a lot of press. How did you make that happen? Did you pitch your products? Did you pay for the press? How often do you say no?
A: Let me start by saying how incredibly grateful I am for every blogger, magazine editor, interior designer, company and client I've worked with. I would not be HERE if it wasn't for you!
Let's backtrack. As mentioned before, I had ZERO marketing experience when my business took off and it was like I was being shot out of a cannon. I kept up with the Etsy blog and had listened to a seminar about what to do if approached by a magazine editor. In short - act fast! Respond to emails promptly, provide excellent communication, represent your products accurately and deliver on time.
It's okay to say no. From the beginning, I've learned to do my homework when being approached about press of any kind. If they're not forthcoming with information, it tends to be a red flag. Google them, research their social media, investigate their target market and determine their reach. Does it fit with your brand? If it's paid advertising, crunch the numbers. If I won't receive a return on my investment the answer is always no.
I've been asked countless times how I made the press happen. Surprisingly (I now know) I have never pitched a product in the traditional sense. I've relied heavily on word of mouth and to be completely honest, I think it's purer that way. (Again, I had no marketing experience and I've had to learn the ropes as I go.) We very rarely ever pay for press and to be completely transparent, prior to 2016, we only paid for one feature. As a small business, it's impossible to compete with the big companies monetarily so I've had to get creative! Be different, don't be afraid to try something new, use tricks you've learned from other aspects of your life and put yourself out there.
Q: You frequently photograph your pillows in mid-century chairs. How important is photography and styling to your business? Why the Eames Chair?
A: When I was first starting out, I couldn't afford to pay for a professional photographer so I had to practice and practice and practice. Now it's become a passion and I think that translates through my product images and social media. Since I'm primarily selling on the internet I think it's extremely important to make my pillows read as tactile as possible for my customers. I show details, scale, and examples of how to style them in their own space.
Why the Eames Chair? Great question and there are many important reasons. First, it is authentic. Designed by Charles & Ray Eames and manufactured by Herman Miller right here in the USA. Here's a great article about their manufacturing process in the 21st century: Behind the scenes at Herman Miller. I believe in authenticity and American Made. I'm drawn to the simple form and clean lines of the molded plastic arm chair while appreciating the complexity of the design. It makes my pillows pop and reinforces many of my own design principles. I specifically chose the white plastic style as apposed to the the fiberglass version because it allows me to position the pillows without them sliding.
I also frequently photograph my pillows in an authentic Bertoia Chair, designed by Harry Bertoia and manufactured by Knoll. Here's a great write up about the designer and his affiliation with Charles and Ray Eames along with Knoll: Knoll Design Bios. "His iconic wire furniture collection, introduced in 1952, is recognized worldwide as one of the great achievements of 20th century furniture design."
It goes without saying that these designers are icons of their time. I have admired their work for decades and appreciate their work. They developed new methods, designed and created iconic chairs that remain pure, sleek, refined and timeless. The Bertoia Chair allows me to photograph larger sized pillows on a clean, white framework. It's significant for me to pay homage to designers I admire through my photographs. Also, I have this thing with chairs!
See more insight from my Etsy Success Interview HERE.
Q: What are your goals for yourself and your business in the next 3-5 years?
A: Looking back on the last four years, I'm amazed and completely humbled by all that I've been able to accomplish and all the support I've received. I never dreamed of having something I designed in a magazine. I had no idea I would be a source of inspiration for other indie designers and makers. I didn't realize all of the wonderful people I would meet along the way. This journey has been far more gratifying than I ever imagined and I feel like I'm just getting started.
We moved into a new studio a year and a half ago. Now that we're settled, I would love to host events for other creatives in my area. We just launched tea towels and I have a number of new products in the works. We're in the process of hiring some amazing people to join our team and with a little less on my plate I hope to get back into the realm of interior design. In my wildest dreams, one day I hope to have my work grace the pages of Elle Decor, Interior Design Magazine and Architectural Digest. Because... why not?
With enough passion, talent, determination and a little luck ANYTHING is possible.