In 2016 I decided I wanted to do kitchen design my way! – I wanted to treat clients as individuals and offer a personal, friendly service with patience, attention to detail, and credibility.
Working for someone else had its advantages; like regular income, office banter, established administration systems and processes, ACC & kiwi saver contributions sorted, and the odd morning tea shout! But I had ideas and visions about how things could work much better if I was running the show!
I wanted to start my own business as an independent designer for a long time, but becoming a single parent in 2003 and living in Lower Hutt, it was my job to provide a regular and stable income so I could pay my mortgage, feed the kids and keep up with bills.
Fast forward to 2015, I was now in a new relationship with an amazing man (now my hubby) who offered to support my dreams and encouraged me to take a giant step -“If you want to try it hun, what have you got to lose?, you won’t know until you try!”.
So, with those words of encouragement (and his stable income as a back-up) my brain started going into overdrive about how I could make my vision come true. What shall I name the business? Who do I know in the industry that I can possibly partner with? Where to even begin in the process of running a business?
After I plucked up the courage to leave my paid job as a kitchen designer, I started telling a few industry related people about my plans. Most of them sucked air in through their teeth and offered such comments as:
“I don’t like your chances”
“Have you really thought this through?”
“You won’t survive the competition from larger franchised companies”
“You won’t make a living doing that”
“Wow – that’s brave” (or stupid)
I handed in my notice in January 2016. I heard through the grapevine that my employer was not happy about it, which made me feel guilty & like I had done something wrong. Anyway, I tried to ignore the gossip and just kept busy planning for my new direction.
Perfect Order kitchen design was born on 1st April 2016. I spent days, weeks, and months planning, organising and thinking up processes. I was passionate and rearing to go………BUT I didn’t have the first clue about making a website, marketing, accounting, tax and GST, or any of the other things involved in running your own business!
Somehow, along the way I found the most amazing network group for women in business. Chrysalis for Women is a business development service in Wellington where I found remarkable, clever, skilled, professional, friendly, like-minded women willing to help and support me through my start-up.
At Chrysalis I met truly amazing women who have helped me with initial branding (Michele Courage) Re-branding new logo/cards and mail chimp template (Designer Bloom Graphic Design) website building and business support (Grow my Business) IT functions (All over IT) and professional photography (A Moment in Time photography) not to mention all the other helpful contacts I have found through this group.
All are small (and not so small) fish swimming in their own big pond and doing just fine on their own!!
Finding the right fit
Being self-employed means my clients choose me – they hand pick me from a very large pool of other kitchen designers. There is a lot of competition in the design industry.
It is important that the relationship between client and designer feels comfortable from the start and that we each feel like a good fit!
For me it’s about listening and building trust and credibility. I like clients to feel confident in my ability, relate to me personally, and understand my working style before we commence our design journey together.
Receiving testimonials and positive feedback builds credibility and motivates me to keep being the best small fish in the large competitive pond that is the kitchen design industry.
“We got in touch with Karen after some less than satisfactory attempts to seek advice/quotes from some other established kitchen renovation companies. From the first contact Karen was very responsive and attentive. She listened to our ideas, expanded on them and presented us with 5 different options that we could tweak. Our new kitchen has transformed our home and turned it into a true family hub, and everyone has enjoyed cooking up a storm in it. The relationship between Karen and David Ladd Joinery is unique which means they can deliver a bespoke designer kitchen at a reasonable price. We love our new kitchen !”
Pete & Janine Wenham – Whitby
Every day is a learning curve. I try hard to cover off every detail & offer the absolute best I can be for my clients. Every win is celebrated, and any negative is an opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve processes. So, in my big pond today, I go up for air, take a big breath, and keep swimming!