Listening, Learning, and Leveraging

How a young designer turned advice from industry superstars into winning business strategies

“With world-class designers Sheila Bridges, Young Huh, and Lauren Rottet all in one room sharing advice from their incomparable career perspectives, I took a lot of notes,” said Salem Scholten, 25-year old owner of Simply Salem Design, in Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina, “In a half-day at Market I gathered more knowledge to drive my business success than in any MBA class.”

Scholten left the IFDA’s first High Point DesignEDGE Summit with three distinct business initiatives, each of which she has implemented to the benefit of her bottom line. “Sheila discussed ‘blurring boundaries,’ the theme of the session. She said, ‘Design is limitless – interiors, fashion, art, technology, these are independent disciplines that are now connected. Lines are hazy. Find the intersection of all that you love for new revenue streams.’ It’s hard to support yourself as a designer. I love to paint. She gave me the push I needed to start sharing my art with my clients. I have sold two pieces! I also love to sew; next, I’m going to create a line of throw pillows.”

Photo credit: Sheila Bridges

Photo credit: Sheila Bridges

Although Scholten had a social media presence, she gave Young Huh credit for transforming it. “Young has 55.6K followers, and I have 378. Of course, I’m going to take her advice! She recommended that designers feature posts in five distinct categories. Inspiration – travel, food, whatever inspires me, so that people can follow my aesthetic. Work – jobs in progress. Shout-outs – congratulating friends. Social – engaging in the lives of other people. Personal insights – sharing family news. Young said that Instagram got her the attention that won her the project at the Point Grace Hotel at Turks and Caicos. I believe this strategy will land me a big, glamourous client too!”

Photo credit: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Photo credit: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Lauren Rottet inspired confidence in Scholten to compete for the restaurant and hotel projects that crop up regularly in nearby Myrtle Beach. “She said most of the desired features of today’s offices transfer directly as priorities for new hotel and restaurant spaces. I’ve designed offices that integrated many of those she identified – a social hub, reception area technology, focus on food and beverage, coworking spaces, wellness, a fun and casual vibe, outdoor areas, more boutique, space fusion, and LEED details. I didn’t realize until she detailed the transitions in office and hospitality spaces through the last four decades, how similar they have all become. I’m ready to step up and submit my office portfolio for the next new restaurant coming to the beach!”

Photo credit: Eric Lagnel

Photo credit: Eric Lagnel

Scholten highlighted other helpful tips. “Sheila validated my decision to start my own firm last year when she said, ‘If you work for someone else, you help them achieve their dreams.” She also said, “Ideal clients mirror our values, beliefs, and structures” and “How you treat people now will impact your success in five years.” Young told me to hire a good photographer with good press connections. Lauren said that when her clients don’t like something, she tells them, ‘That’s all you can afford on this budget.” What a great way to get them to loosen the purse strings!

Scholten advised her design colleagues, “Invest in your business by taking advantage of the free advice available at every Market seminar. Commit at least a half-day to continuing education. Yes, it will cut into your buying time. But the opportunity to sit in the same room while industry rock stars share their truth is an experience you can’t afford to miss!”