It’s a great thing to love what you do for a living. But it takes a lot more than that to succeed.
“Interior design is my passion,” said Susie Hoffmann, who runs Envi Design.
She started the business in 2006, just in time to enjoy some growth before the recession settled in. That has forced her to work harder and take smaller projects that she may not have considered in the beginning. It also forced her to broaden her reach. She now has offices in Bozeman and Billings and keeps an apartment in New York City where she can stay ahead of trends.
Her effort is paying off. Envi Design has managed to thrive, with several large local projects in its portfolio, including the Stapleton Building, the Swift Building lofts and Sam’s Tap Room in Red Lodge.
“When I moved to Montana, I saw the need for a different viewpoint within the design community,” she said. In other words, a way to embrace Western design influences without all the antlers and timbers.
“My interiors focus on contemporary design without ignoring the local context and architecture,” she said. “If I am designing in Montana, there will be a reference to Montana whether it be through an artifact, the selection of a local material or a paint color that represents the natural surroundings.”
Hoffman graduated from Stanford University in California with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and fine arts, and got her interior design degree from the New School University: Parsons School of Design in New York City.
She may be reached at 406-585-1765 or 406-697-2075 or through the company’s website, www.Envidesign.com. Here’s what else Hoffman had to say about starting her business and keeping it moving forward in hard times:
Nature of the business
Envi Design offers contemporary interior design with an emphasis in environmentally friendly products and methodology. The firm provides services including space planning, construction documents, lighting and furniture design, material and fixture selections. It is our goal to provide a complete interior experience.
Where did startup funding come from?
I didn’t have any startup funding per se. I had a client who was willing to take a chance on me and the confidence to leap. The net appeared. At first, it was just me and I worked out of a little rental house in the northeast neighborhood in Bozeman.
How long have you been in business?
I founded Envi Design in 2006.
Your biggest challenge during the current recession?
Obviously, the construction world has been hurt by the recession. I have had to work hard to keep the projects coming. During the dry spells, we have taken jobs that we may have previously passed on. But I see the smaller projects as opportunities to create something wonderful on a dime. There are always lessons to be learned.
What was done to overcome those challenges?
I continue to try to run the business more efficiently. I also embrace the concept of creating projects rather than waiting for work. In this recession, it is critical to recognize an opportunity for growth and also take the initiative to actualize it. I hope to do more collaborations with brand developers, graphic designers, architects and artists in the future.
What is being done to expand the business?
We just doubled the physical size of the office. In addition, we use the Internet, Facebook and other networking media to increase brand exposure. The more press the better. We have a blog that tracks design trends as well as our project’s progress.
Your best business decisions?
Listen. Designers can sometimes force their vision on a client. I try hard not to do that. While I have a distinct design aesthetic, I am careful to listen to the client and to best fulfill their needs and ideas. It is important to nurture the relationship and to create loyalty, trust. The best business is return business.
Your worst business mistake?
Putting a cap on a design fee. Changes and construction delays are inevitable. It is important to make provisions in the contract that allow for change orders and unforeseen delays.
What advice do you have for someone running a business?
Be willing to work all the time. Whether you want to or not, you will be thinking about your business all the time. I dream about design! Conversely, be sure to give yourself time off. Come back to the office with fresh energy.
Number of workers?
What’s your five-year plan for the business?
I don’t know that I have one. My goal for the business is to be able to select the projects that we want to be a part of. I would rather maintain a small practice with a few great projects than to grow large and lose touch with our personality and brand.
A question you would ask other entrepreneurs?
Who is your accountant?
If you weren’t doing what you are now, what would be your dream job?
I would be a sailor.
“Entrepreneurs” appears regularly in the Sunday Business section. The feature will help readers become familiar with new businesses, as well as educate others in the challenges of starting a business. If you would like to tell your story, please contact: Chris Jorgensen
401 N. Broadway
Billings, MT, 59101