How do you test whether you have a great business concept? Focus groups, surveys, pilot projects? How about discovering that your friendly acquaintance and fellow designer has been mulling over the same bright idea for an interior design business? And for exactly the same length of time—six years?
“It was way too serendipitous,” says Carla Bond-Fisher, Inside + Out Design Co-Founder. “Jeni (Priest, Co-Founder) and I got together and compared our sketchbooks and they looked so similar.”
The bright idea that these two great minds hatched separately was this: create an e-commerce business allowing people to leverage the services of a professional designer in the most affordable way possible. They discovered that by combining their expertise with an algorithm automating the consultation process, they could extend the benefits of great interior design to more people.
“When your space is designed in a way that you love, you’re more productive and happier,” says Jeni. “We wanted more people to have that experience.”
By simply filling out a questionnaire, an Inside + Out customer can access a carefully curated box filled with design products and finishes that reflect their ideal style. Plus, they get specs, supplier info, and a budget worksheet. Basically, the box has everything they need to get started on a DIY renovation—or enlist the services of a capable builder. Essentially, the Inside + Out platform takes a process—design consultation—that can run into tens of thousands of dollars and delivers the same results in less than $800 – currently 40% off making it $449 for their winter sale.
It’s an amazing platform—but the lengths Carla and Jeni had to go to in order to build it were equally amazing.
Chief among these challenges was curating products by Canadian manufacturers that could be found anywhere Inside + Out customers happen to be. After all, if you get a box with samples of products you can only pick up in Toronto and you’re based in Saskatoon, what good is that?
Reflecting on that curation process makes Jeni and Carla break out into the kind of laughter a seasoned entrepreneur understands only too well. “It was a lot of work,” says Jeni. “We never would have guessed how much work it would be.”
Fortunately, the experience of creating their e-commerce boxes with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) involved a lot less work. “The team was amazing to deal with,” says Jeni. “They were so knowledgeable and helpful. I mean, the owner of the company was bringing us different kinds of boxes and explaining them to us!”
“We had so much fun when we got the finished product, I’m not going to lie,” says Carla. “It was the first real thing we got our hands on related to the business. We knew it was going to be the first real thing our clients were going to see from us too. We were so excited.”
And those clients, fortunately, have been just as excited by the boxes. Using the delightfully cheeky hashtag #ILoveMyBox, Inside + Out fans are posting unboxing videos on social media. That’s always an indicator of e-commerce success.
Of course, those fans aren’t just tickled by the boxes. They’re raving about what’s in them.
“We had one client tell us that planning renovations with her husband is usually a nightmare,” says Carla, “but this service took the decision-making process out of the equation and gave them an outcome that they both love.”
Creating affordable access to great interior design and saving marriages? Jeni and Carla really did have a brilliant idea. In the post-COVID future, these two “people people” are looking forward to getting this brilliant idea in front of more future fans. And in the meantime, we’re so happy that their #ILoveMyBox social media fans are sharing the work we were honoured to be part of.