Erinn Valencich’s recently launched StyleRow project management and marketplace tool is turning heads in the design community.
As an interior designer, the act of designing a space is only half the battle, if that much. There are the tasks of sourcing products, client interaction, sharing ideas with team members and clients, hiring professionals to do the work, invoicing, payments, communicating with numerous entities, and so much more.
Until now, these tasks have all been done through email and separate systems that don’t necessarily talk to each other. Rather than making the process smoother, there is constant re-entry of details, confusion, mistakes and frustration on all fronts.
Enter interior design veteran and product designer Valencich, who had the determination to streamline all of these tasks not only for herself but for the entire design community. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” she says. “We needed an operating system for the design industry, someplace we can all communicate in one place.” Her desire to streamline her business was the inspiration for StyleRow, but that inspiration has led to an industry tool that launched the first part of its platform just this past month with a waiting list of 1,300 designers already on board.
The platform for designers starts with a library and project management tool that allows entire teams and even customers to see the progress of a job when warranted, a way to keep track of invoicing and payment, and most importantly, an effortless way to communicate all aspects of a design project in real time. As StyleRow is new, designers who signed up this year will be able to use the program for free for the remainder of 2019. The library functionality will continue to be free with a scaled cost-per-project fee for designers down the road, with a free trial period, says Valencich.
In addition, the next phase of StyleRow is underway, creating a marketplace where designers can purchase home furnishings right through the software. The marketplace functionality can currently price custom furniture, with the ability to buy still in development. “This will be the first e-commerce for the trade platform,” says Valencich, adding that 120 luxury home furnishings suppliers have already signed on as of press time.
At first, Valencich set out to find the perfect platform to simplify her design business operations. She has been at the helm of her interior design firm for 16 years and has had a furniture brand for 12 years, along with product licenses in lighting and other categories. “We started using different purchasing platforms and I had to hire a bookkeeper who knew how to use the accounting software,” she says. “We found it was easier to use and order out of Quickbooks and Excel.” She searched for a lightweight CRM system as well to help with her furniture business.
Not one to give up easily, Valencich knew there had to be a solution that could offer a central platform, so she set out to create it. “For the last 10 years, I’d been thinking about my digital evolution,” she says. “I knew I wanted to get into software and technology in some way. How could I help more than designing one beautiful house at a time?”
Building a dream tool
Building a platform that streamlines a designer’s business was no small task. Valencich has spent the past three years fleshing out the concept, meeting with companies that could develop the technology and meeting with investors who could fund this all-encompassing design project platform.
It was a chance meeting with a company called CREXi that finally helped StyleRow turn a corner two years ago. CREXi is a commercial real estate company with a platform designed for much the same purpose as Valencich envisioned for StyleRow. “When we met the company that built their technology [TulaCo], it was an instant leap forward. They had some of the best working on the platform in that industry,” she says. She was so impressed with TulaCo that Steve Lackenby, TulaCo’s founder, is now the CTO of StyleRow.
While StyleRow has been launched for just a few weeks, Valencich has been out ahead of the launch at events such as What’s New, What’s Next in New York, Design Chicago and markets across the country to give designers a first look at what’s in store. The positive reaction has been palpable, with designers excited about a platform designed to streamline workflow.
As designers and manufacturers come on board, we’re watching to see what’s next. In this initial rollout, new features are being tested and added on a regular schedule to enhance the already robust platform.
“We have the same disease when it comes to the pain points,” says Valencich. “One solution can really ease the repetitive back-end work that we’re doing.”