Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Barbara Karpf, founder and president of DecoratorsBest, located in New York City, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
DecoratorsBest sells designer fabric, wallpaper, and home decor products online. We have a wide range of customers, from first-time homeowners to baby boomers who are downsizing their homes.
Tell us about yourself
In 2004, when I founded DecoratorsBest. I was an interior designer. My husband gave me a laptop for my birthday, and when I started to explore the internet, I saw that no one was selling "To The Trade Only" products. The residential interior design business was perfect for the internet because I could send samples to customers and order in small quantities like one yard or one roll.
Being a part of the early stages of the internet was very exciting and challenging, and being an integral part of its e-commerce growth keeps me going every day. There are always exciting ways to apply new technology and software to our site. Marketing has been revolutionized by the internet, too, and I am continually fascinated by new concepts and approaches every single day. I love to learn, and the development of e-commerce keeps me invigorated every day.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being the first person to bring "To The Trade Only" designer fabrics and wallpapers online so that they are available to everyday people is my biggest accomplishment from a business point of view.
Providing top-notch customer service is vital to our success. We answer every call, text, chat, and email rapidly and follow up with whatever our customers need. This sounds like a basic requirement for a company, but everyone has experienced holding forever for a customer service rep or having your email go into cyberspace.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I am a workaholic and throw myself 100%+ into whatever I do. I don't check the time or think that because it's the weekend, I should stop working. It's my passion, but it does take a toll on my family and social life. In the beginning, I tried to do everything, but in recent years I've realized that things need to be prioritized. Vacations are never 100% relaxing time without work, and there are times that I've had to forego a lot of fun for my business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Starting a new business can be overwhelming and chaotic. In order to reduce this, I suggest doing things in smaller increments. The internet moves very quickly, and although I have a long-range vision for DecoratorsBest, I have very specific goals to accomplish quarterly. Once they are in place, I move on to new things. This keeps our company very focused and nimble so that if there are major changes, i.e., COVID-19 as the most extreme, we can readily adjust. We did not lose a nano-second moving our company to remote, and DecoratorsBest was one of the only companies advertising and bringing in sales for several months before our competitors could pivot.
Customer service is the most important aspect of our business. I recommend that a new company take on only what it can handle so that it, too, can provide the best customer service possible. I suggest selecting the appropriate technology for your company, not necessarily what's the newest. I recommend Shopify because it has hundreds of apps available, and this saves developers tremendous time. So often, we've had a need to fill and planned to develop it internally- and then we found an app that was already created.
I also suggest automating your company as much as possible. All of our ordering and almost all of our repetitive tasks are automated. This saves both times and needs a large staff. Our sales have grown exponentially, and we have reduced our staff size exponentially.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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