The business of interior design
We’re honored to welcome back Barbara Viteri, AKA @ViteriStyle to SocialNorth. Barbara provides practical business management solutions to the modern day working interior designer.
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Dana Helms: You’ve come a long way since your last interview. What was the moment that changed for you in 2013 that helped define this new chapter in your journey?
Barbara Viteri: Last year I became great friends with bestselling author, Suzanne Corso. She’s religious and I’m not, which makes for a funny friendship. She’ll say things like “That’s the blessed mother’s work. That’s a sign!” when I share news of unexplainable business opportunities. I have to admit I am blessed she came into my life. Suzanne did get me to believe in signs or at least take notice of them. The defining moment to embrace a new chapter in my life and career was base on a collaboration of signs I learned to pay close attention to. No pun intended, but thank God I met her!
DD: What do you love most about what you do now verses how you started?
BV: I started Viteri Style Management in March of 2012. I had always worn the Business Manager hat when I worked for interior design firms. But I soon discovered other personal talents. My public relations skills, a direct style of motivational speaking and creative design industry concepts caught the attention of TV producers, bloggers, magazine publishers and celebrity icons, like Ivanka Trump and Barbara Corcoran. In less than two years I took my business from four figures monthly to five. I love helping design firms learn to grow and manage their business in VSM style, but now I’m seeing signs for expansion. I decided to put a halt of my fast growing company to focus on making more of a difference for designers, especially the ones that are trying to make their mark in a crowed industry. The design industry can be like getting accepted into an elite country club and at times it can be all about who you know.
DD: The saying is the harder you work, the luckier you get. How has luck come into your life?
BV: I’m passionate about many things. I ride my brain like a bike with so many ideas that I just may ride it till the wheels fall off. I turned down two TV pilot pitches for filming as I stuck with my gut not to put my family on camera. I’ve seen what reality TV does to people and won’t subject my family to that for any price. This is why I tell my clients not all money is good money and you better have your big girl Spanx on to believe in this. When you’re starting out it’s tough to look a gift horse in the mouth and say “No thank you”. Be patient, smart and wait for the trophy projects to dive into and hopefully one if not all will define you in a light that is true to who you truly are.
DD: Who/What has helped inspire you to bring this new journey into the light and help you make it a reality?
BV: There’ is something to be said about having a great support group cheering you on with invisible pom-poms. It may surprise people that some of the biggest cheerleaders in my court happen to be virtual mentors and my very own clients. For some time I was on my own with no supporters but a few self help books, YouTube videos and occasional seminars to turn to for guidance. That turned into magical relationships with virtual mentors I was able to meet and get inspired directly from like Ivanka Trump and Wendy Williams. (Not bad huh?) Of course, now I have amazing relationships with my clients. A few I can actually break bread with, brainstorm and get honest feedback to enhance my own growth. I cherish their opinions and value their friendship. It’s a loyalty that is very difficult to obtain and I’m honored to have that sort of inspiration in my life now.
DD: Clearly social media changed how you do business. Do you think it has helped grow us closer or create a divide in our industry?
BV: Social media is a vital tool for business. Just like any tool, how you use it is what you will get out of it. I don’t pay to sponsor posts and farm for likes. It is an organic platform and I use it to I share my business and my personal story on. I don’t judge a company based on its followers and likes alone either. I’m pretty unfiltered so it’s also been a great way to filter the right attention to my company and grow my business much faster. I could not stay relevant without social media.
DD: What advice do you have for others struggling with social media?
BV: I’m going to tell you straight, social media can become just as addictive as your favorite dessert. If you are already on social media investing too much time and not seeing any ROI (Return on Investment) base on a business stand point, you will be obese with unproductiveness.
Learn to schedule your social media with an action plan. Have an event, promo or blog you want to share? Schedule the post and block time to answer back comments and interest other people have taken time out of their schedule for you. You also want to go where your market is and what you can manage. Think about your business and your target client. If your client was to use social media, which platform will they be on? If they are on Facebook and Twitter, then you need to be on Facebook and Twitter. Simplify things by knowing what you are capable of managing and understanding.
Keep it simple, know where your market is and present your business authentically.
DD: What’s the best advice you can give someone to follow their dream when it does not match what they are currently doing?
BV: There’s a line in Jay Z’s rap song that says; “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business man”. If you have a dream and want to make it your business, you MUST understand the difference of a hobby and a viable business. Dreams will not pay the bills, but your dream business possibly can. There is nothing wrong with fulfilling your dreams while working with someone who is fulfilling theirs. But if you want to focus on your dreams alone, you have to test yourself to see if you’re cutout to be a business person. Know your strengths and weaknesses before starting a business. Be confident in your choices and own it. Don’t rule out being an entrepreneur while working with another entrepreneur. I know some amazing designers doing incredible work in partnership with a fantastic design firm. They’re living their dream while simultaneously building someone else’s and still feeling fulfilled. It is possible.
PS: If you are in New York on May 15th for the Design and Decoration Building Spring Market extravaganza, please join me and my two phenomenal designer friends, Michel Boyd and Ashlina Kaposta at the Robert Allen Showroom. Come experience how we design our hustle to build our brands and how you can do the same to grow yours in your own authentic way. See you there!
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About Dana Helms
When someone says social butterfly, they’re likely referring to Dana Helms. With her ability to wander through conversations online as if she’s hosting a cocktail party, Dana brings awareness and excitement to the social media party. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.