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I’ve been such a fan of DwellStudio first for our apartment and then for our kids, I jumped at the chance to sit down and chat with Christiane Lemieux. She’s not only  a totally inspiring designer but a smart self-made business woman and we can’t wait for you to read all the advice she shared with us on everything from bootstrapping her business, to being acquired, to quick and easy decorating ideas for you!

 

You started out in fashion, how did you find you way into the world of interiors and start DwellStudio?

I graduated from Parson’s and went to work for a year at Portico. A VC friend bought the company and asked me to take a stab at designing textiles and interiors and I fell in love with it and saw things how my designs resonated in the market place. It gave me a tiny insight into the world of home and I decided to start my own company.

 

You spoke to us about how you started your business out of your apartment with 15k. How did you scale the business?

I had no business background, no business plan. I funded the growth Dwell with money I was making designing private label for other companies. I did private label for Crate and Barrel and started sourcing in China. This was 10 years ago and I was able to establish really important manufacturing relationships that even some of the bigger brands I was working with did not have at the time. This was a really important first step on the path.

 Christiane Lemieux of DwellStudio

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting out?

There are some mistakes that I made and things that could have made my path more of straight line, a direct path to where I am, rather than the zigzag route that I took. Staying focused is one of the hardest and most important things as an entrepreneur. You have to be very disciplined. There are so many shiny objects out there to distract you. So many opportunities come your way that seem so exciting, things that can make you money in the short term. It’s important to decide what your goal is and keep working towards that. It’s the difference between the two is what will make you a good company or a great company.

Learning to say no is also a big thing. There is actually more power in saying no than saying yes. I always wanted to say yes to everything and take on more but now as a bit of a seasoned entrepreneur I’m saying no and realizing the difference between business yes and personal yes.

Staying focused is one of the hardest and most important things as an entrepreneur. You have to be very disciplined.There are so many shiny objects out there to distract you.

 

Christiane Lemieux of DwellStudio

How do you find balance between work and home life?

There really isn’t one and don’t be so hard on yourself, your (hopefully) life is very long and there are so many incarnations in your career. My entrepreneurial journey has shrunk and expanded depending on my family needs. I had my children 21 months apart and when they were really small and I was breastfeeding I put the brakes on a little bit and then there came a period where when everyone was safely in school that I was able to hit the gas again a little. Now my kids are a bit older and they really need me to be there for other things. It’s a real molding time where values are established, so I try to limit my travel, which kills me, as I love to travel. There is a certain time of day when the kids get home and they are open to taking about their day and thoughts and it’s a short window. It’s important for me not to miss that, so I do my best to be there everyday the magic moment at dinner. One of my mentors Heidi Packer who worked for me is an amazing mother and business woman, smart, got incredible results, and always negotiated to leave work everyday to pick up her kids at 3pm and that really stuck with me, making time where you feel you need to.

I’ve learned a lot from my kids. I make a point of putting my phone away everyday when I get home. My oldest at one point complained that I was always on the phone and it really hit home to me, if he can see that. I want to be present.

I’ve learned a lot from my kids. I make a point of putting my phone away everyday when I get home. My oldest at one point complained that I was always on the phone and it really hit home to me, if he can see that. I want to be present.

 

Where do you draw your inspiration?

New York, travel, hunting in antique stores, looking at old books and documents, …Paris- I love the flea markets at Clingancourt, sketching, pretty much everywhere even the wallpaper in a seedy bathroom.  I have my sketchbook and IPhone handy at all times.

Dwell Studio

Dwell Studio

What are some quick and inexpensive things people can do to make their spaces more beautiful?

1.Switch up your rug-the rug market is saturated so they have so many options all different price points. You can find really great things for not so much money.

2.Painting is also really easy and inexpensive. Adding color to your room can create a big impact.

3.Move your furniture around.- this is free and can completely alter the space.

4.Take things away- sometimes less is more; put things in the closet or basement for while.

5.Lighting-add dimmer switches. You’ll be able to alter the mood so quickly, Lighting can make such a big difference is often overlooked.

 Dwell Studio

 

How important is community for entrepreneurs?

Mentors and like-minded woman have been really important along the way. When you are building a business from the ground up raising money and creating a business takes a lot of time and, it imperative to have women who understand the journey and where you are can share their experiences.

 

What is your philosophy on the right time to raise money?

Wait until not having money is inhibiting your growth. It’s more of an interesting journey to boot strap it and be in charge of your own decisions. Once you raise money and invite people in your role changes, you really become an employee for your investors and there are high stakes and people to answer to.

 Wait until not having money is inhibiting your growth.

 

Tell us a little more about your involvement with Every Mother Counts.

I met Christy Turlington at pre-natal yoga, we had our kids around the same time. I sit on the board with some amazing other women like Mariam Nacify – Founder of Minted, Leslie Blodgett Founder of Bare Minerals and Heather Armstrong – the mother of all bloggers among others – an incredible group of women who are friends and supporters of each other even outside of the work with do with Every Mother counts.

I source and manufacture for DwellStudio in a lot of the countries that Every Mother counts is working on the ground in and it feels really authentic and responsible to be there. I’ve just been working in Haiti, where it is not only a place of incredible poverty but really hard to get thing accomplished and get supplies. I’ve helped set up a clinic and filled a shipping container with the amazing help of Wayfair. We shipped from the United States filled with supplies donated by the amazing people that supply Wayfair. My French has come in quite handy, it’s been culmination of years of travel and knowledge of sourcing, giving of time and material to be able to contribute to something like this.

I source and manufacture for DwellStudio in a lot of the countries that Every Mother counts is in and it feels really authentic and responsible to be there.

 

What’s next for you and Dwell?

I’m in the middle of what’s right now! Wayfair acquired Dwell company about a year and half ago and it’s opened up a whole new world for me. The fusion of design, creative, and marketing and I’m so intrigued about where media and digital and commerce intersect. It’s the 2.0 of the way we look at ecommerce, moving beyond the catalog into a new space. Wayfair is leading the way in the home space.

 

Talk to us l little about what it’s been like to be acquired and your journey to get there?

The last 2 years have been insane. When you get a certain scale, you need to raise large amounts of money to grow, build stores and really get out in the market. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the coffee table is if you can’t get it into people’s living rooms without a scratch, then it just doesn’t matter.

I couldn’t find one similar business to mine that had really grown successfully and organically. By raising money you are beholding to your investors. I did not want raise money and loose it. I didn’t want to run a warehouse business, and have lived through 2 financial crises in the economy during my career; I didn’t want to go through that again. So I hired an investment bank and gave them list of 15 companies I wanted to work with.

 

When you get a certain scale, you need to raise large amounts of money to grow, build stores and really get out in the market. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the coffee table is if you can’t get it into people’s living rooms without a scratch, then it just doesn’t matter.

 

How has your role changed since being acquired by Wayfair?

It’s freed me up on so many things from HR to IT and beyond. Wayfair has so many true experts, they are constantly teaching me so many things and getting me out the weeds – so I can think strategy big picture. They help me to focus. If you not an expert get at a certain level, someone else should probably do it. This has allowed me to think about so many other things. Mostly, about what the next thing I want to do is… It’s only after a year and a half I can start thinking about the future.

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