KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Business

Aug 08 2018

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Introducing Sweeten’s Design Trade Renovation Program

Sweeten, a service that matches renovators and the design trade with vetted general contractors, has recently launched a VIP program for designers. Sweeten is absolutely free to the renovator; its network of contractors pays a small fee when they are hired through Sweeten. The company has nearly $900 million in construction projects in the pipeline and has been called the “Renovation Game-Changer” by Domino and one of America’s Hottest Companies” by Inc. magazine. If you have a client looking to renovate their home or business and are in need of a general contractor, you can use Sweeten to find the best general contractor for the project, and you’ll be rewarded with a $500 Visa gift card if they use the service. KBB spoke with Sweeten’s Randi MacColl, chief marketing officer, and Tyler Miller, marketing manager, to find out more.

What are the benefits of joining Sweeten?
When a homeowner or designer posts a project on our site, they are matched with three to five vetted contractors based on scope, timeline, budget, location and style. They can then check reviews and photos of previous work, decide whom they’d like to meet and get estimates. A project advisor is available to evaluate the bids, if they’re interested, and then monitors the progress at key stages. When the project is finished, we photograph and tell the story of the transformation on our blog, crediting and linking to the designer, and post it on our Instagram to our 500k followers. We provide the photography to the designer free of charge and often get placements on design media, including DominoArchitectural Digest, The Nest and more.

Design by Andrea Brodfuehrer of New York City-based Von B Interiors

How does the referral program work?
Members of the design trade handling the general contractor bidding process on behalf of their clients receive a $500 Visa gift card for every client who signs a contract with a Sweeten general contractor. To get started with this new Design Trade VIP Program, simply register with Sweeten, select “Start a renovation project,” and post your client’s project. While filling out the project details, select “representing owner” so Sweeten can follow up and confirm your eligibility as a professional in the industry. Learn more about the program and how Sweeten helps the design trade at https://sweeten.com/architects-designers

How many people can a designer refer?
You can refer an unlimited number of people, and we encourage you to share with as many as you would like.

Design by Robin Rathmann- Noonan of New York City-based Robin R-N

Who is eligible to participate?
You must be a professional in the design space with a valid employer or business. Upon posting your project, you’ll be prompted to provide a few details to confirm your eligibility.

To earn a reward, your client referral must be a new customer to Sweeten and not previously a customer under another email address or alias in our system.

Where does Sweeten plan to go next?
We hope to someday open in every major city in the U.S. Right now, we are available in the New York City and Philadelphia areas, but the plan is to be in eight cities by 2020. We also are working to connect the Sweeten community with a regular series of local mixers, as well as offering educational resources. Designers and architects tell us they send our cost and process guides to their clients as proof of what things cost!

Jul 27 2018

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Photography for Designers

By Linda Holt

As a past professional photographer, I know that a big part of what makes a good image is what happens after the photo is taken. No matter how well exposed or composed the original is, I have rarely seen a photo that can’t be improved in some way with editing.

Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of lightening it up or boosting the contrast, but other times it’s more complicated and involves balancing the color, removing unwanted objects or straightening architectural lines. I know many designers struggle with photo editing, because I see images posted on social media daily that clearly could use some help.

If you are a designer, you know how important posting a great photo is. In our highly visual world, posting a bad photo can actually hurt your chance of getting new clients or selling a home. I understand that not everyone can take a stellar photo or know how to take a mediocre photo and turn it into a great photo. Learning Lightroom, Photoshop or any editing app is an option, but not everyone has the time or interest to do that.

So that you can see the value and difference that editing can do, here are a few before-and-after images I have recently edited for other designers.


Canadian designer and business coach Claire Jefford was on the Design Hounds LA Dwell on Design trip with me. Here is a photo Claire took of one of the homes during our drive around Los Angeles. Upon first sight it looks pretty good, right?

What my professional photography eye noticed were a few things that could make this exterior shot even better.
1. Straightened out the angle
2. Color corrected the image
3. Boosted the saturation ever so slightly on the two pink bushes in front of the home
4. Removed the antenna from the roof
5. Removed the two security signs from the left and right side of the garden
6. Lightened up the right side of the photo
7. Cropped out the partial tree trunk, which wasn’t adding anything to the photo

All these changes were very slight but elevated the photo from good to great. Now let’s look at another one, also taken by Claire during our Dwell on Design tour.


1. Straightened out perspective so it doesn’t appear that the dresser is sliding down hill
2. Lightened up the dresser to show off the beauty of the wood
3. Boosted contrast a bit
4. Removed some distracting items that were reflected in the mirror

Designer Adrienne Gerein of Cranbook, British Columbia-based Interior Designs by Adrienne reached out to me do some work on photos from a recently photographed project. Adrienne lives in a very small town, and there are no architectural photographers in her area. She hired a local photographer to shoot a recently completed project. Sadly, the photos were not quite to the level Adrienne wanted for her website or to attract clients, so she asked me if I could improve them.

One problem is that not specializing in interiors, the photographer used a very wide-angle lens, and there was way too much going on in many of the photos. Plus, when a wide-angle lens is used it causes all the lines to be way off. Look at the ceiling line. It runs down and to the left. Plus, seeing the back of the sofa adds nothing to the photo, since the entrance was the subject of the photo.

Adrienne gave me complete freedom to edit as I saw fit. I decided this image was really about the stunning entrance, gorgeous door and statement chandelier. The back of the sofa and the partial stair railings added nothing to the shot. The dog brings life to the image, so he needed to stay.


1. Cropped out the sofa and stair railings
2. Straightened lines and fixed perspective
3. Removed sun “hot spots” streaking across wall above the door.

Now this looks like an image worthy of her portfolio and one that will surely attract new clients.

In addition to her interior design business, Linda Holt of Boston-based Linda Holt Interiors offers photography services, including iPhone camera coaching and photo editing.

Jul 16 2018

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Stop Hiring People Who Disappoint You

A bad hire is more than just frustrating, it’s costly. Bringing in an employee who turns out to be a poor fit will cost your company in unnecessary payroll, wasted time and possibly even unhappy customers.

Success in hiring starts long before you interview a candidate, with a process that I call “Getting Clear.” Clarity is the effort you put in before you even post a job ad or start interviewing. By determining ahead of time why you need this role, what its responsibilities will be, what results you expect from the new hire in this role and what activity levels they will need to maintain to get those results, you can create a stronger job description that sets expectations and objectives clearly up front. This will guide not only those applying for the position but the way in which you recruit, interview and, ultimately, make your final decision.

Creating this clarity requires some deep thinking into both the position and the candidate. Before hiring anyone, you need to be able to answer “Yes” to each of these questions:

1. Is it worth it? Is it worth the time, cost and energy required to hire someone? Will the end result make it worth the effort? It’s exciting to think about hiring, but it’s so important to remember all the actual work that goes into turning a hire into a successful employee.

2. Can you clearly set expectations for the activities and results? Do you have clear activity and result expectations for the first 90 days, 180 days and first year? Are you prepared to communicate it with potential hires and make sure it’s reasonable?

3. Are you ready, willing and able to train and support them for at least the next three months? Even if they have years of industry experience, it will still take time for them to get to know your products, processes and philosophy.

4. How long can you “carry” this person before they need to start paying for themselves? The reality is, it takes most salespeople four to six months to start covering their payroll costs, and non-sales positions have a similar payback time. Can you afford to wait that long?

This process isn’t simple, and there are a lot of variables to consider. But it’s much easier to get clear before you hire someone than regret it when you have an underperforming employee you’re paying to disappoint you.

Rikka Brandon is the founder and chief executive recruiter of Building Gurus, a boutique executive search and consulting firm that works exclusively with kitchen and bath and building product companies across the U.S. Rikka is a member of NKBA’s Leadership Recruitment Committee. She is also the author of the Amazon bestseller Hire Power. This article was originally published on the NKBA website here.

Mar 30 2018

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Lessons from the Design Bloggers Conference

The Design Bloggers Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. this month drew hundreds of designers, entrepreneurs, journalists and others interested in unraveling the intricacies of what makes a blog a true business asset. They also covered how to create an effective social media marketing plan. Here’s some advice from the experts:

Be Serendipitous

Algorithms — those pieces of data that tell social media sites like Facebook an Instagram what you “like,” share and click on for more information — help expose us to more of the great things we love. The caveat, however, is that they also tend to weed out the posts that don’t fit into our “like” patterns. That in turn creates a narrow, highly-focused vision, eliminating exposure to different points of view and options for staying open-minded and well-rounded.

According to Adam Japko, founder of Esteem Media and the Design Bloggers Conference, this is why influencer marketing is taking off. Just let things be serendipitous and allow the unexpected to happen.

Build Collaborative Relationships

Build a network of professionals you can rely on, including photographers, trades, designers, trade associations, manufacturers and publishers. Provide each other recommendations and leads.

Chances are, if you are kind and easy to work with, you will be sought out by other professionals, thus creating a strong team in your design community.

Build Additional Income Streams

With technology at our fingertips, there are so many options for generating additional income streams. For instance, creating a blog provides opportunities to advertise manufacturers and brands, feature sponsored content, link to affiliate companies, provide advice columns and create eDesign for clients.

Stand Out

Find your unique story to stand out and capitalize on that as part of your branding efforts. Brands leveraging philanthropic initiatives are trusted, memorable and respected among all. Look at ways to connect your brand with something that gives back in a meaningful way.

At the conference, we learned about Savvy Designs, a company creating magical spaces for ill children enduring major challenges at a young age, and Save Iconic Architecture, a group that protects and preserves iconic architecture in California.

You can also look to create your own unique story promoting your specialty — what really makes you special. Do you have a story to tell with color? Are you specialized in small spaces, childproofing, yacht design or historic homes? Identify what differentiates you and play up these strengths.

Embrace the Evolution of Technology

Adapting to social strategies, algorithms and platforms is a way of the future — but remember, nothing is forever.

Be prepared for disruption. It is inevitable and will continue to happen. We’re all in this together, so ask for help!

Visit https://nkba.org/info/2018/03/5-tips-elevating-business for more information.