Interior designer, product designer and now e-commerce entrepreneur, Robin Baron is not one to shy away from a challenge. Rather, when faced with said challenge, she’s likely to find a creative solution and then ramp it up times ten. “I don’t see things in a small framework. I see the potential,” she says.
Her most recent endeavor this past year has been launching an e-commerce site as potential customers have embraced online connection and shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What was envisioned as a shop on her design site quickly became a full-on e-commerce venture where Baron sells her own home decor collections as well as white-labeled assortments from other home furnishings manufacturers. “I’m a big risk taker,” she says. “I decided to go big and do an e-commerce site. I would never have been able to do this before COVID because I couldn’t have stopped to launch such a big project.”
The site encompasses more than a shopping portal. It’s a combination of products, services and an abundance of free enrichments and design advice for the consumer. For example, Baron hosts “Ask Robin Live” on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. ET, and she also offers 15 minutes of free live consultation for potential clients. The goal, Baron notes, was to find a way to make more interior design information available to the consumer.
A POSITIVE INFLUENCE
Baron’s philosophy is to empower people to be happier and really step into their lives in a positive way. Interior design and product design have afforded Baron the opportunity to do just that. She began her career as a fashion designer with her own label after majoring in fashion and interior design in school. However, she realized early on that having to produce five to six collections a year didn’t allow her to help people the way she wanted. “I realized that interior design was much less fleeting,” Baron says. “I could make so much more of an impact on people in interior design. I become so animated when I can help make an impact on people’s lives. When I made that decision to switch careers, everything fell into place."
Within a year, Baron says, she had a “real business.” Her fashion colleagues procured her design services for their homes, and from there the business continued to grow. “It has always been my goal to open up the world of interior design and make it more accessible,” she notes. “It was a natural step for me to get into product design.” Her first — and still favorite — collections involved hardware for cabinets and more. “It’s like jewelry, and I love jewelry,” she said. From there, Baron has also launched rug, lighting and upholstery collections. While she considered licensing at first, Baron decided to create her own branded collections so the effort would provide more control and a strong upside. That said, Baron says she would not rule out the right licensing opportunity.
For now though, the interior and home furnishings product designer is putting the majority of her effort and time into building her online empire. While the site delivers product direct to consumers, Baron says, there is a “to the trade” section on the website for other designers because she “always wants to have that connection to the trade.”
In addition to taking on this all-consuming e-commerce endeavor, Baron has kept her full-service luxury interior design business moving forward too. “It keeps me excited,” she says of this side of her business and her client interactions. “Both keep me excited in different ways.”
THE POWER OF TEAMWORK
To manage her extensive workload, Baron admits, it takes more than just her. While she maintains a lead design role on all of her projects to deliver a consistent voice and message, she does have a staff for her interior design business as well as one for her e-commerce business. “You can’t do everything at one time,” she notes. “Something will give.” So she surrounds herself with smart, like-minded people. Baron says she is collaborative with her teams and her clients. Keeping her philosophy of empowering people through their homes, it is important to her that she build relationships. “You can’t affect people if you don’t have a relationship,” Baron notes. “What sets me apart is building that relationship rapport so I can help empower them, they feel good and know they have a friend. I’d rather be your friend and impact you rather than tell you what to do in your home.” Baron’s “Ask Robin” feature on her website is one way she begins building that rapport with potential clients.
Baron, who admits that she is ambitious, is already thinking ahead to what’s next with her e-commerce venture, even though it’s only recently launched. “The advantage of an online e-commerce business is that you get immediate feedback in real time,” she says. “I already see myself pivoting. You have to have your finger on the pulse of things and have a head where you can surf the wave.” She pays attention to the competitive landscape of e-commerce, noting that her competition is already different from what it was a year ago, so she’s already working on how she can make her site even more effective.
Having been an interior designer for three decades, Baron says that this industry is her calling. She stays true to herself, something she says every designer needs to be aware of. “You have to be driven to do this,” she continues.
Her authenticity comes through in her design work, her products and her speaking engagements. She works hard but she loves what she does. Baron jokes that the old adage, “If you love what you do you never work a day in your life,” isn’t quite accurate. “You have to do a lot of work to get there so it really has to be something you want to do because it’s right for you. It’s going to take much more time, energy and money than you might think so you have to be practical and not aspirational.” Her other advice to those considering this industry is that you need a team with people who have complementary skill sets.
“Whoever said we could have it all lied, Baron says. “You can’t have it all at the same time. You have to balance over a period of time.” That’s sage advice that she’s adhered to throughout her career, and while you might not be able to have it all at once, Baron has proven you can pretty much have it all — with vision, perseverance and the forethought to pivot from adversity to opportunity.