Sharon, you've created Decology, an interior design first. Tell us about yourself.
I am bit of a citizen of the world. I was born in Israel but grew up in Venezuela then spent a few years in the US (Palo Alto and then New York) before settling in London 15 years ago. I am lucky enough to share my life with my wonderful husband and three children – family is the most important part of my life. If I had to define myself in one word it would most certainly be passionate - the pivotal decisions in my life have all been driven by passion and self-belief - my choice of graduate school, relocating to London from NYC, leaving the corporate world, spending a year of my life at cookery school and ultimately starting Decology.
How did you come up with the idea for Decology?
Like many entrepreneurs, I was scratching my own itch. Just after I had my third child, we bought a large house that was a real project – we spent over year completely refurbishing it. Our budget for the interiors was minimal, and all went on the boring structural stuff that no one ever sees. We had an architect, and I really wanted to work with a designer but every quote I got was horrendously expensive - we just didn’t have the budget. I ended up turning to some designer friends for advice. I realised then that there was an opportunity in helping people get help with styling and design, and it could be affordable as well.
I was then invited by a friend to attend Web Summit in Ireland and the ‘Sharing Economy’ was a hot topic in all the talks. This forms a fundamental part of the Decology platform. Three weeks later, we started coding the Decology site.
So how does it all work?
It’s very easy and straightforward:
First - you brief us. The brief consists of a style quiz, a short online questionnaire where you tell us about your budget, room, lifestyle and upload pictures of your room and a floor plan – if you are in the London area we can send someone to do this for you.
Second – We send your brief to a number of designers that fit your requirements. Depending on the design package you purchase you will get 3-5 initial concepts from different designers for you to choose from. Our design packages are flat fee per room and start at £250.
Third – Once you been paired with or chosen your designer, you collaborate with them on our design-board technology, addressing the layout, design elements and key pieces. Once you are happy with your room, your designer will prepare your design kit – everything you need to implement your design, a floor plan, visualisation board and styling instructions.
Last (but certainly not least) – You will have access to your shopping list where you can use our free concierge service to purchase the pieces in your design. We do all the ordering for you and you get everything at the retail price – what’s more you get 10% of your product purchases up to the value of the design fee, meaning that in the end, the professional design service could be free!
Your designers are very talented, how did your partnership come about?
We worked very hard to engage with our designers – we recruit them at top design schools and through our network. Although the Decology secret is out so we get more and more designers reaching out to us proactively. Every designer is carefully vetted and trained before being allowed on the platform.
What difficulties did you encounter on the way to launch?
The biggest difficulty in launching any product is making the decision to launch it – you can always add one more feature meaning your final product is never done! – but at some point you need to draw a line in the sand and put it in front of customers. For us, that was The House Fair in Olympia. When we launched it wasn’t perfect, but we then got our first dozen sales to real customers and proved our concept.
How did you go about funding Decology? Any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Decology is currently FF&F funded, and now that we have proven the concept we are looking to raise our first large seed or small series A. I’m putting off raising external capital for as long as I can - I believe that bootstrapping a business brings the best out of the people running it - and sometimes having too much cash limits your creativity. My advice? Bootstrap as long as you can and never think of raising capital as a success KPI - it’s not. It’s what you do with your resources that makes you successful.
What's the feedback been like from your customers?
The feedback has been amazing. Clients really love the idea of getting a professional to bring new ideas they might have not thought about – yet still retain that sense of collaboration, so you don’t feel as if someone has taken over your home. We have had invaluable feedback to help us iterate the product as well, which is a real learning – if you are serious about getting feedback get feedback from real customers not from your mates.
You have an amazing portfolio, what's been your most memorable project?
A project we did in Ireland – it was our first international project (outside the UK) and it proved we can think bigger. It had its own challenges, but our ops manager worked hard with the designer and client to make it happen – we transformed the client’s space from a dark spare room into the coolest guest room you can imagine. As a result, we have now two follow-on projects in Ireland!
You're obviously very creative, what are some of your hobbies?
I never think of myself as creative - maybe because I am hopeless at anything artistic! I am a mathematician, more of a complex problem solver – which I suppose can be seen as creative. I love travelling, cooking, I collect rare Rum and am a keen tennis player and skier (neither of which I do very well.).
How have you been enjoying the success of Decology?
It has been great to be able to set up Decology and see my vision realised and add value to people’s lives, and I enjoy the process. But there is so much work and so many things that I still want to do that I don’t feel I have sat back to enjoy yet.
Where do you see Decology in the next couple of years?
I hope that more people realise that getting a professional to help with your home design and styling can be for everyone and recognise Decology as the place to come for that advice. We have big plans to increase and expand both geographically as well as the range of services we offer – but you will have to wait and see for that!
Click here to find out more about Decology and start redesigning your home in time for the holidays.