Amber Golob: Accountant Turned Interior Designer
Today in The Lounge, Nick talks with Amber Golob, accountant turned interior designer, as well as Neil MacKenzie of Universal Furniture. Amber Golob has a marketing tactic that brings in TOO much business so you’ll want to hear about it. Nick tells us what you can expect from the Universal Furniture Showroom at the Fall High Point Market.
What is Universal to the Trade?
Neil is the Marketing Manager of Universal Furniture. He joins us from High Point, North Carolina, the epicenter of Interior Design. The Universal showroom is located downtown High Point and their corporate offices are right down the road (off Highway 68) which connect to their warehouse as well.
Universal consists of three brands, Universal Furniture, Smartstuff, and Universal to the Trade. Universal to the Trade is a new program that launched 2 and a half years ago with exclusive products available only to designers in the industry. There is no order minimum, for all orders, and the prices include freight! With Universal to the Trade’s online system, you can check past order history, easily navigate the website, build a library AND it’s mobile-friendly. Order what you see, and that is what you get. You will receive up to date notifications of where your order is. The turnaround time for a product to be shipped is on average 14 days. Call the design line to order samples now! Universal to the Trade’s focus is on giving designers an easy one-stop shop, so they would love YOUR feedback.
Universal Furniture has one of the biggest showrooms at High Point, over 18,000 square feet. During Market, they will be doing breakfast, lunch, and cocktails so come by, charge your phone, kick back and relax! The showroom is also filled with natural light, fun music, and food so it will be a great place to hang out. You can see the schedule of events at their learning center during High Point Market here. This INCLUDES Nick’s talk, “PASSION SUCKS. It’s All About the Money.” So don’t forget to stop by!
If you want to find Nick at Market, he most likely will be hanging out in his Universal Furniture “office” so go visit!! Nick also wants to have breakfast with YOU so join him in the Universal Furniture Showroom on Saturday 10/14to say hi!
Getting to Know Amber
Amber Golob lives in Chicago and her studio is in Evanston, Illinois. Her favorite movie she’s seen in the last year is Wonder Woman and her favorite childhood memory is when she would clean the house and rearrange the furniture every Saturday with her mother. Amber is originally from Osage, Iowa. She grew up on a large acreage in the woods playing outside – an idyllic childhood. Her favorite fashion accessory is earrings because they can complete any outfit. She and her family don’t vacation in the same spot twice, they are explorers and like to go somewhere new each time. When she is asked beer, wine, or cocktail, Amber prefers a cocktail with gin.
How Amber Went from Accounting to Design
Amber’s interest in interior design started as a little girl when she rearranged the furniture with her mom (to this day she still purges and rearranges when she is stressed). She went to school for Business and later became a practicing accountant, but realized it wasn’t her passion. To be in finance, Amber says, you need to be interested in how money works, and not what it does; and she wasn’t. So she set out to marry her passion with having a business and went back to school to get a Fine Arts degree at Harrington College of Design in Chicago.
A lot of people want to go back school for Interior Design but know that it can be a difficult challenge as you grow older. Amber was married and pregnant with her first child when she went back to get her Fine Arts degree. Her husband was very supportive to her career switch and understood she needed to follow her passion. They were lucky enough to have the financial stability for her to do so, although paying for a second degree can be stressful.
Design school took a little less than two years because Amber’s business degree overlapped with some of the classes, meaning she had already taken them. Surprisingly though, design school was more difficult than getting her accounting degree. It was easy for Amber to cram for an exam in accounting, but taking a design studio is not good for procrastinators. It was very difficult and time-consuming work that is stressful, not ALL fun. At the time, Amber was in her early 30s and wasn’t embarrassed to always raise her hand and ask tons questions. She wanted to get the most value out of her money. When being older and going back to school, your life experience lends to so much more success in school, making it very rewarding.
After school Amber was fairly aggressive about finding a job and contacting hiring managers, as she had recruiting experience. Her dream job had always been working at The Merchandise Mart in the Luxe Home showroom on the first floor. SO she contacted the company and solicited the hiring manager for a job directly, which worked very well. She joined Woodharbor Home as an intern (who are still the major cabinet line she uses in her kitchens today). At Woodharbor Home, Amber went from intern to employee, to independent contractor, and finally a dealer.
Amber always recommends paying a visit to where you’d like to work and asking them for a job directly. Find out who the decision maker is and put your information in front of them. With smaller design firms this should be easier as you can call, find out who that person is, go grab coffee with them and ask them to be your mentor. It takes some guts and it is important to be polite and polished in the interview. Amber’s two interns now understand what it is that designers do because they have exposure to the business. There’s no better way to know what you’re getting into then experiencing it first hand.
The Business Today
Amber and her two interns, (who basically work as designers) handle the design and execution of projects as well as client management. Amber also has a freelance bookkeeper and marketing person. Her studio showcases her kitchen designs which she co-ops with another designer. When Woodharbor Home decided to close their Merchandise Mart showroom after 10 years, the company approached their designers and offered all of the products to them to open their own showrooms. After getting asked multiple times from her now partner, she took everything from the merchandise mart and moved it up to Evanston to open a showroom together. It was the opportunity of a lifetime that landed in her lap. Amber and her partner decided to work in a co-op relationship because they each already had their own client base established.
Amber’s first large project on her own was fairly frightening. It was a large penthouse with $250,000 worth of cabinetry. It was intense but really rewarding as the project almost completely paid for her Evanston showroom. Being a mom and business owner got better over time. Her stress level was very high, and still is, but she has learned how to handle it and not bring anything home with her. Amber says that mistakes will be made but all that matters at the end of the day is that the project is complete and the client is happy with the result. Time management is a big challenge when being a mother and business owner, as you have to work hard but also know when to stop working and make time for the kids. Amber likes to have a routine and stability in her and her kids lives so she stops working from 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm to pick them from school, help with their homework and spend time with them each day.
Keeping up with finances is pretty easy for Amber because the majority of her budget is in bath, kitchen, and cabinetry. She uses a smaller budget for furniture, finishes, and drapery. Although her accounting background helps immensely, she does rely on her bookkeeper to keep track of all her design hours. At any given time she has 10-15 projects going on and about 8 or 9 of them are kitchen projects. The time it takes to finish a kitchen can vary due to the client. This is because some clients know exactly what they want their kitchen to look like and others might not have a clue. Amber is not always involved in the installation of cabinets unless she is supplying the cabinets, in which case, she will also do the cabinet installation drawings. She always stops in but, her contractors are the ones in charge of the timeline and getting the installation process complete. Amber does work try to work with the same contractor but has gotten to know a few different ones in the business. She also helps her clients pick the contractor that is right for them, and sometimes even feels like a dating service, because each client has a different preference!
Amber’s Marketing Strategy
Opening the showroom in Evanston helped attract Amber’s overhead. She did a few print ads and events but that didn’t rally enough revenue to sustain the showroom. Then she met Kyle, her marketing person. Kyle originally approached Amber through Houzz, doing marketing work for a contractor. Amber was so impressed with the way Kyle sold the contractor to her, that she hired him for herself! Kyle’s marketing strategy is very targeted. He knows about the client, targets their location and studies them prior to reaching out. Amber does make the phone calls though as that’s how she gets a feel for the people she’s potentially going to work with. It has been incredibly successful. So much so that Amber has put a pause on her found marketing expert’s magic. She’s happy with the amount of business she has and is now focused on branding. As of now, Kyle and Amber look at local opportunities for press that go hand in hand with their online strategies. The goal is to marry those two things to brand themselves as, “Living Your Luxury,” which will vary from client to client.
What’s New in the Business
Amber will be opening up a second showroom location in Roscoe Village, Illinois. It will be more soft goods and cabinetry BUT It will be ONLY Amber’s — she will not be in it with her partner. This location will be better for staffing too and since Evanston can be hard to get to sometimes, the new location will be great for her clients.
Porcelanosa not only offers free 3D renderings and porcelain tile, but they also do vanities, kitchen, furniture, soap dishes, towel bars, towel warmers and so MUCH MORE. ALL WE WANT YOU TO DO THIS WEEK is go have a cup of coffee with someone from the Porcelanosa showroom!!!! Talk, hang out, get to know them and then tell us about it!
- Upcoming Events
Casual Market Sept 12 – 15
ICFF Miami– Oct 3 – 4
IDS – Oct 13 – 16
High Point Market Oct 14 – 18
BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13
KBIS – Jan 9 – 11
- Wrap Up
If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com. Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!