Barbara – how did you get where you are today?
Barbara Town: I am originally from Southern California where I received my Bachelors Degree from UC Irvine. After graduating from UC Irvine, I was very lost in the career direction I wanted to take. I found myself unhappy and lacking passion during job interviews and was not willing to settle for just a ‘job’. So, I started doing some soul searching and circled back around to my love of architecture. After searching for some programs, I found the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles where I got my AA in Interior Design. During my 12 months at FIDM, I held an internship at a design firm in Orange County which later became a part-time job and on to a full-time job after graduation. I really believe it was this experience overlapping with my education that gave me the skills and experience I needed to be a successful designer and business owner.
After about 3 years with the company, I picked up everything and moved to San Antonio, TX. After working with a few short lived design firms, I bit the bullet and started Town Lifestyle and Design. I am a little shy of my 2-year anniversary and it has been quite the journey. I have tried many different avenues of the industry, all that lead me to where I am today, working with clients throughout Texas (San Antonio, Houston, Austin, etc.) and nationwide.
What’s the design scene like in San Antonio?
BT: Definitely up and coming. San Antonio is an old city and the design tends to be about 10 years behind the trends. However, I have found in the last 2+ years that I’ve been here that this is quickly changing. San Antonio is becoming a hot spot for young couples and families and with that comes a more modern and current view on design. There are a few of us younger creatives who have found each other via social media and are thinking of starting some type of monthly get together to network and encourage each other during this very visible change to the design scene in San Antonio.
Who are your favorite local vendors, installers, and people of the trade in San Antonio?
BT: I love KBK To The Trade here in San Antonio. They are great for fabrics, wallpaper, rugs, and carry a handful of to-the-trade-only vendors for furnishings, lighting, etc. I have an amazing rep over there who I couldn’t live without, but the whole KBK team is always so friendly and helpful when I walk in. They truly go above and beyond to help me find what I am looking for.
For installers, Tim from A Beautiful View is an amazing drapery installer. I love days where I get to meet with Tim, even just for 30 mins. There is such a great energy to him. Paper Moon Painting is my go-to for wallpaper install. I truly believe they are the best! There whole team is so welcoming and really professional on the job site and I love that they work with a lot of local designers and take priority in making sure the client is happy for our benefit.
Of course there are many more, but these vendors really make a difference in almost every project I am working on.
How does designing make you feel?
BT: Designing is like a drug I cant kick. I love getting up and working everyday (sometimes literally 7 days a week). It gives me a sense of purpose and at the end of each project reassurance that this is what I am meant to be doing. I feel like bringing joy to my clients is one of my purposes in life. I am honestly so grateful that I found interior design and I would be completely miserable without it.
What’s your business mantra?
BT: You learn at least one thing from every project. This typically comes around installation time. There is always at least one thing that goes wrong. But I’m constantly telling myself during these periods that it is all part of the process. If you aren’t learning or taking anything away from each and every project, you are probably doing it wrong. This industry is constantly changing and evolving, so our process and tactics have to change with it. I also think that having this saying in the back of my head at all times helps me stay calm and positive during a time of chaos.
You dabble in E-Design as well…what’s been your experience with this process so far? Do you use specific E-Design platforms?
BT: When I first quit my job from the design firm here in San Antonio, I had no real intention to start my own business. I didn’t really have the portfolio to show to get the clients. Considering I had bills to pay, I came across Homepolish and later Havenly. I was an E-Designer for both as I built up my own client list. I am doing less and less E-Design as my local clients continue to increase, but they are both very different but amazing platforms and companies to work with. I truly believe that starting with E-Design helped me work out the kinks in my own process as well as brush up on some of my Photoshop skills.
I love being able to connect with clients across the nation, however, there is something missing for me when it comes to E-Design. It’s not quite as fulfilling.
Your portfolio is stunning…who are your go-to photographers? Why do you think it’s important to invest in good photography?
BT: Laura Dominguez. She is amazing! In the beginning, I would photograph my projects myself and spent hours editing and struggling to get them to look like Laura’s do. I quickly realized that my time was better spent designing and I really needed to invest in proper photography. Since I’ve made the switch, I have noticed a total difference and a major increase in the feedback on my finished designs. It’s definitely worth it!
How much time do you allocate to content and social media marketing?
Is too much and not enough a possible answer? I probably spend too much time on social media, scrolling through my feeds and getting a ton of inspiration, however, I don’t feel like I use it enough for proper marketing and really need to focus on that a little more. I try to do somewhat regular Instagram posts and monthly blog posts, but even those seem to be on the back burner lately.
Do you attend markets? If so, what are you go-to-markets and what’s your market strategy?
I have attended Las Vegas Market and High Point Market in the past. I’d say that Las Vegas Market is more my speed and not quite so intimidating. Typically, as I prepare for market, I like to take the week prior to go through the vendor list and the market map as well as the list of events. I then make a list (starting with the vendors I know and love) and add a few new ones to add to my lineup or that may be interesting to see in person. To make the most of my time, I then break down the list by day so I have some sort of game plan for each day. For me, market is more about seeing the new product and go-to pieces in person, rather than attending the seminars, talks or events. I only make it to events if there’s time in my schedule.
Why did you join Ivy?
I joined Ivy because I was looking for a streamlined way to send invoices as well as give the clients the option of payment with a credit card or bank transfer. Prior to Ivy, I would have to request a check from the client which could take up to a week to receive, pushing our deadlines back and risking the chance that it could get lost in the mail. I was a bit weary in the beginning to sign up, but once I heard about the community behind Ivy, I knew it would be worth it based on that alone.
How does Ivy make your life as an interior designer a bit easier?
Ivy helps keep life organized! I love how easy it is to use and that I can quickly send a client pricing using the proposal feature rather than in an email which can quickly get lost in the mix. I get great feedback from the client in regards to the product image on each line item that helps them remember each piece and make decisions more easily.
What have you learned from the Ivy Designer Community?
Oh gosh, so much! Everything really, from credit card information to contract wording to sourcing help. I love that I can post a quick question or photo of just about anything, and within a few minutes, the Ivy Community seems to have the answer. Even just hearing other designer stories gives me a sense of relief that I’m not the only one out there going through some of these problems or dilemmas.
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
Proposals and invoicing. This was the initial reason I joined Ivy and something I don’t think I could live without. I love that I receive a notification when a client opens an invoice and pays. The reminders of due dates are also really helpful when it comes to staying on top of payments. There are a lot of Ivy benefits, and I admit, I probably don’t maximize all of them, but the invoicing tools are some of the best!
Here at Ivy, we’re more than just an interior design software. Our mission is to provide interior designers with the community, resources and tools needed to manage your business beautifully. Are you searching for a business management tool to help streamline your workflow as an interior designer?