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Custom Tech for Luxury Design | Erinn Valencich at StyleRow

One of the great appeals of information technology is its adaptability to wide applications—any given database software system can be implemented in anything from massive infrastructure projects to selling homemade candles. But some industries have needs so specific, the general offerings don’t cut it, forcing businesses to piece together numerous disjointed solutions.

This is what Erinn Valencich realized about her own interior design firm and luxury furnishings brand. She needed a system that integrated the unique project management and sales relationship of her business while reflecting the beauty so integral to her mission.

So she started StyleRow, a software platform tailored to meet the needs of luxury designers. On this episode of UpTech Report, Erinn discusses the genesis of her startup, developing the business model, and where they plan to go next.

More information: https://www.stylerow.com/


Erinn Valencich is an entrepreneur, who started her entrepreneurial career at an early age.  Graduating from high school early, she skipped college and went straight to work, garnering an incredible professional resume in the lifestyle design space with brands such as eBay, Maxwell House, Oprah, The Today Show, The View, HGTV and Simon & Schuster all before the age of 24.  She then founded her eponymous design firm, ERINN V. Design Group, later a furniture brand, ERINN V., and most recently turned software visionary, building an operating platform to power the luxury furnishings industry, StyleRow. 

As an interior designer and real estate developer, Erinn has a keen understanding of the classic California lifestyle. The granddaughter of a fine cabinetmaker and daughter of an architect, Valencich’s approach to design underscores the importance of craftsmanship and celebrates luxe, livable furnishings.  Her real estate projects include a record-breaking estate in the Sunset Strip with Belzberg Architects, featured in Architectural Digest, and a Cadillac Commercial, which The New York Times touted “Home As a Scene-stealer” and The Hollywood Reporter.  Her designs have garnered a ‘Best of Houzz’ award for design five years in a row. 

As the lead designer of her firm, Valencich has spent the last 15 years designing for a discerning international roster of clients. Her portfolio boasts a number of high-end designs, from New York lofts and ocean front estates in Mexico, to Las Vegas hotels and chic Los Angeles restaurants.  Her work has been featured in Architectural Digest Mexico, Elle Décor, Veranda, Traditional Home, Town & Country, House Beautiful, Luxe, Interiors, CA Home + Design, Robb Report, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and on the covers of Architectural Digest, Modern Luxury Interiors, Interiors California, OBJEKT, Spaces and Florida Design.  

Her custom furniture line, ERINN V, is handcrafted in California and has evolved into a 90-piece collection available at fine to-the-trade showrooms around the country.  In addition to designing her namesake brand, she has several signature collaborations including a collection of hardware with Baldwin, Hollywood Hills by Erinn V., along with collections with Fine Art Lamps, rugs with Mehraban and Creative Touch, Accessories with A&B Home and two new furniture collections in the works which will be available at retail in 2020.

Valencich was one of 12 designers chosen to compete on NBC’s American Dream Builders, hosted by Nate Berkus, and has appeared on a variety of shows, including The View, HGTV among others. She is the 2016 and 2018 recipient of the ARTS award for Interior Designer Of The Year and a contributor to GIO Journal, a luxury digital publication with over 5MM impressions.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Erinn Valencich 0:00
As an interior designer, you get quotes from all these different vendors and you have to retype all the order data into your own invoicing platform and your own Excel spreadsheets. And it’s just ridiculous.

Alexander Ferguson 0:17
One of the great appeals of Information Technology is its adaptability to wide applications. Any given database software system can be implemented in anything from massive infrastructure projects to selling homemade candles. But some industries have need so specific, the general offerings don’t cut it, forcing businesses to piece together numerous disjointed solutions. This is what Erinn Valencich realized about her own interior design firm, and luxury furnishings brand. She needed a system that integrated the unique project management and sales relationship of her business, while reflecting the beauty so integral to her mission. So she started style row, a software platform tailored to meet the needs of luxury designers.

On this episode of UpTech Report, Erinn discusses the genesis of her startup, developing the business model and where they plan to go next. Erinn, I’m excited to talk with you today and hear more about Stylerow. First off, tell me what was if you could just had to describe it in a short amount of time, five seconds, what would you say? What is it?

Erinn Valencich 1:20
So Stylerow is a complete solution for the interior design industry. So one part is a marketplace for luxury furnishings, so they can source products. And the other side is workflow tools.

Alexander Ferguson 1:30
Nicely, it’s almost to two different places, combining two different individuals and marketplaces. I saw in your LinkedIn curate, create and communicate. Yep, interesting. I like that terminology, what was then the the initial problem that you saw there, like I need to solve this.

Erinn Valencich 1:49
So um, there’s, there’s multiple in the industry, I have an interior design firm, I’ve run that for over 16 years, and I have a luxury furnishings brand, where we make custom furniture in Los Angeles. And we sell to designers through showrooms around the country. So really, I had probably the same pain points for both businesses, which was just a lack of streamline technology to be able to do our basic workflow. There’s a lot of manual data entry. As an interior designer, you get quotes from all these different vendors, and you have to retype all the order data into your own invoicing platform and your own Excel spreadsheets. And it’s just ridiculous and time consuming. And then on the other side as a furniture brand, I’m receiving orders from my showrooms, and my team is reordering that same or re typing that same order data just to send them back an order confirmation. So it’s really like a constant regurgitation of the same data between every office and I thought why don’t we just have one central platform where everybody communicates around orders, and what the products are and the lead time and the tracking number and the balance due and all the very unsexy but very important back end. And that’s where stylo came from.

Alexander Ferguson 2:59
It’s often the best type of business is the unsexy ones that need to be. He saw the inefficiency from from designers working with showrooms to the end brands and that entire workflow. Yeah, you try, then your game plan was to create a platform that would help solve it and make it easier for everyone at home. Okay, so tell me then from that initial idea, how did it How was it started? And tell me how was the technology developed to solve that solution?

Erinn Valencich 3:32
Yeah, so like I said, we have two sides of the business, the marketplace and the subscription tools for design professionals. First, we built the the beginnings of our marketplace, and it’s got a Custom Configurator. So much like you’d find if you go to an auto car website, and you configure your vehicle, you can configure furnishings, and that’s one of the main reasons that the high end furnishings industry has remained completely offline. There is no e commerce in in luxury furnishings, because it’s customizable, and everything is changeable. You can select the wood for the top and the metal for the base and change the size and all these things. So it’s remained a very kind of dusty offline b2b business. So we build a marketplace that could actually ingest all those custom catalogs, all those specification changes, and let the end user who’s our designer, log on look at the table and be like, oh, I want this finish and this color and this size and get a price and then communicate with their reps directly. So we’re not building kind of a third party middleman type of a platform, which some lower end marketplaces in the home, core side do. designers don’t want to middleman they want to they’re already dealing with the showroom sales team. Like why do they need a fourth party in between? There’s already three parties involved so we let them communicate directly. And then the next step is we started building out our projects tools, so we have a really beautiful visual, aesthetic clean, easy to use project management solution. Which not only lets designers work, you know, in a beautiful place, because we get into this industry to be creative and are very visually oriented. And yet, we don’t want to stare at an Excel spreadsheet all day, you know, and Excel doesn’t connect, you can’t communicate in there. So there’s a constant need to communicate around the products we’re doing. So our project management, software wraps and Communication Tools, Notifications. With one click, you can share your project with your client track that feedback and communication and approvals, you can communicate with your vendors and your show rooms from the platform as well. So we’re giving them that one centralized, like mission control for their project. And then we allow them to export to Excel when they need to share schedules with the contractor, or the plumber, or the electrician. Because again, all that data around the products that designers specify, needs to be shared broadly amongst the team, the architect, the contractor, the client, and the vendors. And so that’s really our focus is to streamline that process. So it’s a meaty, immediate solution. And we’ll be building, you know, new features for quite a while. But we’ve got a really good start and chunk of that done already.

Alexander Ferguson 6:09
What’s the business model? Is everyone paying a little bit for it for you? What’s your business model?

Erinn Valencich 6:13
How’s it work? Yeah, so brands pay a listing fee, like a marketing, you know, fee to be in the marketplace. And then when we build the transactional side of our marketplace later this year, there’ll be a commission structure for them on any orders that go through the platform. But it’s still a lower cost solution than other platforms that are out there that are charging huge commissions, again, because they don’t really understand and weren’t built for the b2b kind of custom furniture world, that they don’t take into consideration showrooms as sales teams who are already getting commissioned, and are very valuable part of the industry that need to remain there. They’re like retail consumer facing platforms that try to come into our side of the world, and the brands are like, I can’t pay you 30%, what are you talking about. And then right now, it’s free. For designers, it will be free for designers to continue with our project management and our digital library where they can save anything they love to one central library that their entire design office can access. So not only products from our marketplace, but their own images they take, we have a clipper that allows them to import product from any website around the web. So it’s a true solution for them, that’s free, but they will start paying for our invoicing software. So if they want to use style row to invoice their clients, there’ll be a subscription model there. And then ultimately, I mean, we want to get them in and capture a piece of their purchasing, which the brands would give a commission on wouldn’t cost the designer anything additional to, to order through style RO, than it would to go direct to the brand. So that’s our model.

Alexander Ferguson 7:42
Have you thought about any other types of partnerships or API’s or integrations with other technologies out there other platforms or marketplaces that will make it easier for them in the future?

Erinn Valencich 7:55
I mean, perhaps ultimately, you know, the workflow tools around the products that our designers use and sell is what we’re optimizing for. So if I can help a design firm, the 20% or 50%, more efficient, they’re going to take on more projects, that means they’re going to do more jobs, and they’re gonna sell more product, right as a result. So it’s, it’s sales tools for the frontline of our industry, which are the design professionals. So and those don’t exist other places. Buy that can even touch what we’re building. So the more products that we get in our marketplace that then with one click, those designers can share it with their client track approval, then one click order it, it’s just going to make that streamline process for our designers so much more effective. So integrating with other marketplaces probably wouldn’t have that we wouldn’t be able to have the type of product data in the way we need it in order to facilitate that speed. And having the system like have our Connected order portal for all parties, the showrooms can log in and update order status and data that they need to manage and have transparency and view and to so can the brands they can update the order data. So instead of leapfrogging information in email, which is what everyone does now, we’re building it where it’s again that central brain so the designers plug in the showrooms plug in and the brand’s plugin and they can share order data together. And then off of that, it’s just continued workflow tools for designers that you know there are our other invoicing systems out there. They’re terribly clunky and unpleasant to work with. So I don’t want to you know, kind of build the same thing that already exists but with a little bit of a shiny or interface because at the end of the day, we’re not truly solving the design professionals problems right and giving their client a better way to interact with their project. I think you can you can kind of like an our marketplace to more of like a net a port A and what they did for you know couture fashion started with the big couture brands and then slowly moved down market you can now buy J Crew on Netta forte so we’ve brought on the Gucci Prada Dior of home decor into Our marketplace and then we’ll continue to add that kind of mid tier brands. But we’re going to keep them in a separate marketplace so that the luxury kosher brands don’t feel like they’re showing up in search next to the the knockoff version of themselves, let’s call it what it is right. But yet designers need access to both levels of product, they need to be able to shop anything and everything for their projects and mix it themselves. So when it comes to marketplace competition, you know, because we are a b2b platform, we right there have kind of a gate around us that other marketplaces don’t in the luxury space, I’d say first dibs would probably be like the closest type of competitor, but they’re a an antique and vintage business predominantly. So it’s one of a kind items, you know, you buy it, you sell it, that’s it, they have new product. But again, we’re just looking at it for a very different way and with a different business model that most of the brands that they have, we are going after a set a segment that would not go on first dibs.

Alexander Ferguson 11:02
So looking forward from here, where do you see your company in, in five in the near future, maybe the next one, two years and the long term 510 years.

Erinn Valencich 11:11
I see us being you know, the place that business is getting done for the design professional industry. So architects and designers, we have clients already around the world. We have brands, international brands from around the world. And, you know, I think that the more we can penetrate the market and help these professionals speed up their old dusty paper heavy process, the industry is just going to scale. So I really see us as being that kind of, you know, helping hand to really bring a lot of productivity, and in turn a lot of profit to our business for the industry globally.

Alexander Ferguson 11:48
Be sure to check out part two of my conversation with Aaron, in which he discusses her unlikely journey from grooming horses to running the business for a lifestyle expert to starting our own interior design company all by the age of 24.

PART 2

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