In today’s podcast, you’ll get to know the driven and talented designer and entrepreneur Jennifer Wagner Schmidt. Nick interviews Jennifer at the Interior Design Society’s National Convention in Dallas, Texas. At the convention, Nick and Jennifer connected as co-panelists on a special event called “Building a Break-through Brand,” which is precisely what you can hear more about in today’s show!
Jennifer holds a degree in Public Relations, and after a successful career in corporate PR working with high-tech PR, Jennifer slowly and deliberately transitioned to a career in interior design. After 6 or 7 years in the corporate world, Jennifer was ready for a new lifestyle that included raising her children and an encore career in interior design, eventually starting her own firm, JWS Interiors, located in Washington D.C. Jennifer states the following when asked how it all began, “I distinctly remember my mom buying me a new bedspread and it was the best day of my life!” She spent hours rearranging her room and folding down the bedspread just so like she’d seen in the magazines. So looking back she feels “Interior design was in my DNA since I was a child.”
Interior Design 101
Believe it or not, Jennifer has taken just one single course in Interior Design, Interior Design 101. From there Jennifer started working with friends and neighbors, designing individual rooms. Starting up, she had 1-2 clients and made less than $1,000 in profit the first year. When first starting her design business, Jennifer was still working in her PR position. Eventually, her new business grew, with more clients and higher profits each year. Her advice to starting a new business is this, “You can do it, but you have to take your time and plan, do your research.” Jennifer knew she was taking a big risk leaving her corporate job, but it was a calculated risk. Any extra time she had was spent attending any and every free seminar she could find on small business development. JWS Interiors has now been in business for 10 years.
Order yourself a Box of Chic!
Not only is Jennifer a successful Interior Designer, she has recently launched a start-up business known as Box of Chic. Jennifer followed the rapid growth of the product-based startups like Birchbox and Stitchfix, that provide custom selected samples mailed directly to the consumer, and she thought “where is this in the Home Décor world?” With that thought, Jennifer started Box of Chic which sends customers 4-5 personally selected; value priced home décor items that come with custom styling advice from Jennifer. Within two weeks of the launch of Box of Chic, Jennifer received extremely exciting news from none other than The Today Show, who wanted to feature her business on air! Jennifer states that along with the influx of new orders, her presence on The Today Show gave her new business credibility and leverage as an entrepreneur to say, “Hey, The Today Show contacted me, not the other way around.”
Pick up the Phone and Tell your Story
With her background in PR, Jennifer has never been shy about making the call to promote herself and her business. Her advice to students and new professionals is this, “You have to get over the fear of calling people up and talking about your work, pick up the phone, have confidence and tell your story and the story of the space you’ve created”. Nick and Jennifer continue their talk with advice on photographing your work, creating a portfolio and utilizing social media and your web presence to showcase your work. Tune in to hear some great tips about when the best time of the day is to post to social media and get your name out there.
What’s next for Jennifer Wagner Schmidt
Looking to the future, Jennifer hopes to keep her business small to continue her ability to directly interact with each and every one of her clients. She is also excited about some new opportunities that she has been approached for as a brand ambassador to some of the best home décor companies out there. Through the use of Instagram and other social media platforms, Jennifer sees a true shift in the way home décor design and products will be marketed, and she wants to take full advantage of that change.
Updates from The Chaise Lounge
The Chaise lounge wants to give a shout out to two of our favorite sponsors, Benjamin Moore paint, which host Nick May has personally endorsed as a paint contractor for more than 25 years and to Design Manager, a fantastic cloud-based solution to run your very own small business.
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 designing a great design business and enjoy!