Betsy Burnham: California Interior Design on a Mission
On Today’s show of The Chaise Lounge, Nick interviews Betsy Burnham, with a former career in Fashion that turned into a lucrative career in Interior Design. Be sure to check out the end of our show notes for how you can connect with The Chaise Lounge, Enjoy!
We start off today’s show by getting to know Betsy; what’s her favorite fashion accessory and where is her favorite place to vacation? Tune in to hear Betsy’s answers, especially her description of her recent trip to India. Oh her background Betsy says, “It (Interior Design) was my second career in a sense, a lot of people find their second career kind of later in life, I found mine kind of early in my working life. I studied Fine Art in college and I went on to work in the fashion industry, I lived in New York City, and I was working at the time for the design part of the Gap, so I was in product development in New York doing Men’s design, travelling all over the world, right out of college. It was such a remarkable opportunity to travel and to learn so much about the process of fashion in the mass market.” After moving to Los Angeles in the late 80’s, Betsy had a hard time finding the same kind of opportunities in fashion that she was privileged to have in New York and found herself disenchanted with that career. After having two kids, Betsy decided to go back to school, and attended UCLA to study Interior Design. “Interior Design was something that I could do on my own time, it was creative, it was relative to fashion in that I was already sort of skilled with color and fabric and I understood my own personal taste and style and I was confident in that.” Betsy talked about the struggle she had with a formal interior design education, and how she found herself drawn toward residential rather than commercial design. After a job with a large hotel design firm, Betsy focused her talents on smaller projects and personal client interactions. “Practical experience in interior design is so important, I can’t stress that enough,” Betsy says of her first job after school and what it taught her.
“The day that I got the phone call from someone I didn’t know in any way, was the day I knew I was really in business,” Betsy describes the moment she knew that a career in interior design was where she wanted to be. Burnham design today is “a residential design firm, right now we are three people, I have two women working for me and are junior designers, one is on the architectural side and the other is on the fabric and furniture side, and we also have a part time office manager and a part time bookkeeper.” Betsy talks about the ebbs and flow of the business of interior design, and how difficult it can be to foresee the jobs that are or are not going to come.
When Betsy is looking to hire someone new for her firm, she looks for “some interpersonal skills, I look for confidence in an aesthetic, I don’t want any wallflowers that don’t have an opinion. I challenge people who work for me to say ‘I hate it Betsy, let’s do something else,’ I want a studio of people who are contributing.” Nick and Betsy talk about how she finds new employees, and the vetting process for a team member.
Nick describes how he actually connected with Betsy, which came about when Nick was scrolling through Facebook and saw a Wayfair ad that was featuring Betsy for their to the trade program. Betsy became connected with Wayfair while working on a show house, and as one of the sponsors of the show house, Wayfair and Betsy continued a professional relationship that later led to the advertisement that she was featured in.
Nick brings up the topic of marketing with Betsy, “Honestly, and I can honestly tell you, it has all been word of mouth, and I have been fortunate enough over the years to get a fair amount of press and press generates more press.” Betsy talks about the show house that brought attention, and how just saying yes to things and networking more can bring in clients. Nick asks Betsy about her social media presence, and how she likes to have total control of that part of her business. “I have a long-time friend who is a database builder and coder, and he made Burnham Design our very own software, I’ve been doing this longer than most of these software companies existed, and this is something that we’ve built over the years since 2002.”
Betsy talks about another business venture she’s launched, called ‘Instant Space,’ “It’s design for a flat fee, one room at a time, and we do everything online. So you can come from all over the country, with a room that you want designed, give us a lot of information about yourself, fill out a questionnaire, do some drawing, just basic drawing and measuring and tell us your likes and dislikes, and then in 6 weeks we send you a complete room design.” Tune in to hear how Betsy came up with the idea for Instant Space and the great feedback she’s received on the concept and function of it.
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