Jessica McRae and Kristen Yonson spent years unsuccessfully trying to decorate their own homes.
They would often go online to visit decorating websites, but struggled to find designs that would translate to their spaces, and hiring a designer was often too costly.
“Kristen and I are both people who enjoy decorating our homes, but there were times we'd find ourselves stuck,” McRae said. “We didn't necessarily need to make over our entire room, but we just wanted a little advice here and there.”
After talking with a fellow designer, McRae became inspired to start her own business, SwatchPop!
“I'd share photos and tell (the designer) where I was stuck, and she'd respond fairly quickly with great advice and product suggestions that were perfect for my style and budget. It was so simple,” McRae said. “And it inspired me to create a forum where anyone, anywhere, could get professional design advice for projects big and small in a simple, convenient and affordable way.”
McRae thought Yonson would make a good partner, as the two went to high school together and Yonson has over a decade of experience in digital advertising sales and marketing.
McRae kept up with Yonson through social media over the years, including reading Yonson’s home decorating blog.
“I knew she'd make a great partner because she shared my passion for interior design and she had the skill set and experience required to take this from an idea to an actual business,” McRae said. “I pitched my idea to her in a coffee shop in April of 2014 and the rest is history.”
They launched a basic prototype of their website in October 2014 and started pitching the company to people they knew. It took off immediately.
In January 2015, they launched SwatchPop! to a larger audience and have been growing ever since. They started with two designers and about 30 clients, and now they have 30 designers and over 1,500 clients in 46 states.
Customers start the process by filling out a style file and selecting which room to furnish. Then they upload pictures of the room and give details about the space and design goals. From there, SwatchPop! matches the customer to a designer, and a custom design is tailored to the home, style and budget.
Just last month, they launched a new version of the website that allows them to keep up with growing demand and introduced new features for their clients and designers.
“Our homes are really an extension of ourselves. It's where we spend most of our time, feel comfortable, raise our families and entertain our friends,” McRae said. “Our homes should be a reflection of our own personal style. We want to wow our friends, and we want to kick up our feet each night and feel that peace and comfort you get from your own personal sanctuary.”
But it was not always an easy process.
“We can all envision our dream space, or point to it in a magazine, but it's really difficult to execute,” McRae said. “We love bringing those Pinterest boards to life for our clients, and making it really simple and fun in the process.”
Figuring out a way to communicate their unique service model to clients was a bit of a challenge. They used a copy writer and web designer to help create the interactive visual process.
“We were bringing something brand new to the market,” McRae said. “People may have grasped the concept of online interior design. But having the flexibility to customize your project using an 'a la carte' style service menu is not easy to explain on your homepage.”
Even with that minor setback, the pair has enjoyed having their own business.
“Every day is truly different,” McRae said. “As an entrepreneur, you wear so many different hats, so you never get bored. You feel every little success. And you celebrate each minor victory. It's very satisfying to work for yourself.”
Learn more about SwatchPop! at swatchpop.com. ■