It was the summer of 2011. Pinterest was just about to move from its founder’s small apartment to its first real office. Designers were already excited about the potential of this new, picture-oriented social media platform. Cheminne Taylor-Smith, then vice president of marketing for the High Point Market Authority had a thought, “Could we use Pinterest to show off the hottest trends of Fall Market?”
Unfortunately for Taylor-Smith, if “we” meant the Market Authority, we could not. “We had to be very careful not to favor one exhibitor over another, and even if we didn’t have to remain neutral, the Market Authority team just didn’t have the bandwidth to select all of the trend-defining products of the season. We were also trying to attract more interior designers and influencers to Market. Combining the two goals opened the possibility of asking design bloggers to be the neutral experts who could find and share the most gorgeous and cutting-edge products. That’s how the Style Spotters were born.”
"It was strategy mixed with a little serendipity. We had no idea that Pinterest would blow up the way it did just a few months later. That made us look much smarter than we were," Taylor-Smith laughs.
To find their experts, the Market Authority searched out the most popular design bloggers in America, the ones with the biggest social media followings. They also wanted to present home furnishings trends from a variety of perspectives, so they looked for people from different regions, who favored different styles, and wrote for different audiences.
The first team featured five designers: Tobi Fairly, Elaine Williamson, Julieann Covino, Wanda Horton and Lisa Mende. Meg Biram brought her unique contemporary artist’s perspective. Lifestyle blogger Heather Clawson added her Habitually Chic aesthetic. From Canada, Jennifer Brouwer and Lisa Ferguson added an international touch.
“Those early teams not only faced the challenges of finding 25 on-trend products,” said Ashley Grigg, the Market Authority’s current marketing director, “We also needed to make sure their finds got as much attention as possible. So, we set up a competition to see who could generate the most likes and shares.”
“The competition was cutthroat,” said 2013 Style Spotter Kelly Kole, partner in the Atlanta design firm Kandrac and Kole. “Some of us would get there early and race through the showrooms to get our 25 picks in before the others arrived.”
“Yeah,” said her partner Joann Kandrac with a laugh, “Kelly’s not real competitive.”