With a long-time passion for all things art and design, Dara Segal did what any mama with an entrepreneurial spirit would do: she started a business, Simply Framed. Dara found that friends and family were always looking for ways to surround themselves with things they love on their walls, but finding a custom framer was cost prohibitive and complicated. Wanting to bring good design to all, her online service has become the go-to for anyone looking to upgrade their walls. Now, after four years, Dara loves to share her knowledge with fellow business mamas and regularly hosts HEYMAMA meet-ups at her gorgeous Denver home as a HEYMAMA Ambassador.
Dara was the perfect mama to introduce to Birdies, the adorable slippers designed for the love of hosting at home. We caught up with Dara to learn more about her hiring advice, go-to hostess gift and the one skill she thinks everyone should have. Read on…
Dara, we love that your company Simply Framed “helps you put what you love on your walls”. It’s such a simple concept, yet you execute it so well. How did this business come to be?
While working for an art website, 20×200.com, I saw that more and more art buying was moving online but that custom framing hadn’t evolved with it. Sure, there were places to buy custom sized frames, but there wasn’t a full-service solution that helped you get something framed end to end in a way that wasn’t exhausting.
Our aim from the start has been to take the complication out of custom framing.
You’ve made it seriously so easy. Thank you! What has been your biggest hurdle in growing your online business? Have you overcome it?
Finding the right talent to join the team. We’re a small but mighty team so each hire matters a ton and can have a huge impact on our organization. I don’t think this challenge can ever be “overcome” but it starts with great job descriptions and a thorough interview process. I think where many businesses fail is that they try to “screen out” candidates instead of really interacting with them. Your hiring process should tell you with a high degree of certainty if the candidate “gets” the job, wants the job, and has the capacity to do the job.
In your HEYMAMA profile one bit of career advice you have is that people should learn to code. Why do you think this is so important?
So much of what occurs in business now is dependent on or the result of fantastic code. It’s like reading and writing in today’s business world; having even a small understanding for how databases and code work will help you at least vet and hire the right team to help you.
Did you have a mentor or someone who helped you during the early days of your career?
Whenever I’m facing a problem, I love talking it through with either a mentor or a friend or even a business colleague that has faced a similar issue or is a bit further along in their career. Different situations call for help from different kinds of thinkers with different experiences, so I value having a broad network of mentor-friends versus a few deeper relationships. With busy schedules, my diverse network allows me to get feedback quickly.
That’s a great approach! What advice do you have for someone looking to update their home? Art is such an easy thing to change and can have a tremendous impact!
To update your space, most of the time the best first move is to actually get rid of things or try rearranging what you already have. The more you have the less you actually see. Updating your space also means curating. My husband and I joke that when I ask him, “Do you like how this looks here?” his answers needs to be “Yes, but in about a month I think we should move it again.” We’re not afraid to put extra holes in our walls and are constantly re-hanging artwork in new combinations and vignettes.
You’ve been such a tremendous support to the HEYMAMA Community and you’ve brought so many wonderful women into our tribe. What advice do you have for women wanting to network with like-minded women?
Thank you! It’s all about putting the event on the calendar, coordinating with your spouse and or childcare, and actually showing up. It is so easy to tell yourself that you don’t have time. Pick an event that speaks to you and show up. For me, that started with attending the HEYMAMA event The Great Jane in Ojai. I was about 8 months postpartum and a holistic weekend retreat was perfect for me in that moment. Once I was there I knew that networking with other entrepreneurial moms was something I wanted to do more regularly, so I invited Katya here to host our first Denver event. I also knew that I didn’t have time to build the community locally or consistently organize events myself, so I helped HEYMAMA find other mamas who could. Delegate!
The HEYMAMA Denver events that you’ve hosted have been some of our faves. What lessons have you learned through hosting others?
I love hosting events! If serving cocktails, pre-mix whatever you can and have them out in pitchers. One great lesson I picked up from my sister-in-law is that if you are serving wine, uncork everything in advance and make it accessible so that guests can help themselves. Your time should be spent interacting, not serving, so plan ahead.
Do you have a favorite hosting hack? Like order take-out but serve on a fancy platter?
Serving take-out on a nice platter is one of my favorite moves, I do that all the time! I also love a freshly baked dessert, whether made from scratch or from a mix. During the summer, I often freeze cookies after they are baked and make ice cream sandwiches rolled in rainbow sprinkles, but at a mini size. No one ever says no to a mini ice cream sandwich rolled in sprinkles.
What are your go-to food and beverage choices for hosting?
My favorite cafe near me recently closed but the owner still does catering, and I love serving her homemade quiche for brunch with a simple greens salad. I can make a simple vinaigrette but also love the bottled dressings from Vert Kitchen in Denver. Ever since my best friend’s wedding in Italy, we’ve also been serving a lot Aperol Spritz and Negroni. I just follow the recipe on the bottles.
We heard you are hosting an upcoming Whiteboard and Wine event. Can you tell us what you are most excited about?
Yes! This will be my first Whiteboard and Wine event and I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to hearing about the business issues my fellow HEYMAMA Denver members are facing and learning from their experience.
What are your 3 “must-haves” for a successful get together at home?
Comfortable seating for many, even if that means pillows on the floor, plenty of bite-sized foods and something sweet to end on.
What aspect of bringing people together do you love the most? Anything you don’t like?
I love when friends make new friends from meeting at my home, that’s the whole point of hosting! The only thing I don’t like is that when I’m hosting I don’t end up getting a lot of quality time with everyone because I’m bouncing around so much.
Why do you think it is so important as a business leader to support other women in business?
Even though it was the 80s, I grew up in a very traditional household, neighborhood, and extended family environment where the men worked and the women typically did not, so I’m conditioned to think of men as business leaders and women as exceptions. That is definitely changing but it’s something you have to be conscious about. At Simply Framed we are always trying to diversify our team in all regards, and I work actively to remain mindful of that.
What do you see as the biggest hurdle for women looking to launch a business right now?
The biggest hurdle I see is that there is this highly pervasive “cult of startup” right now. It is so widespread that it’s actually really hard to find great people to hire for your own business because it feels like everyone wants to be a founder. If you are looking to launch a business from scratch, it has never been easier. The tools are out there and the opportunities have never been better.
Can you name a time your network or community has really come through for you?
Yes! When the company was just over one year old and I was about 4 months pregnant with my son, Simply Framed did our first on-site activation at the UNICEF Arty Party in LA. I flew out with a member of our team and she ended up becoming really sick the morning of the event and unable to help with setup or the event itself. The morning of the event my friends Aaron and Carter not only came to the rescue with a creative display for our table but ultimately informed a major website design change for Simply Framed. The day before the event, I also randomly made friends with an employee at Nickey Kehoe, a store I was checking out, and when he came to the party and saw I was flying solo he immediately volunteered to help. About 30 minutes later Aaron, Carter and another friend, Christine, were behind the table with me, measuring art and swiping credit cards. I recognize those that have helped me along the way and I enjoy the chance to pay it forward.
What is your “go-to” hostess gift?
I’m a big fan of bringing a good bottle of wine, a great book, or something delicious that can be consumed the next morning, like homemade granola or overnight chia oats from One Part Plant or The First Mess. I’ll only bring a non-consumable gift if I feel 110% confident the hosts will love it. I feel that most of our friends tend to not want gifts.
An edible gift is a great tip. Which Birdies slipper is your fave and why do you love them?
I love the Songbird in Blush and just gave a pair to both my Mom for her new apartment and my sister-in-law who recently gave birth. They are comfortable, chic, and unexpected for a slipper!