There are about 500 professionals in the Naples area who call themselves interior designers.
Where do you start picking the right one? You could troll for hours on the internet or you can call Lynn Pitochelli. She recently launched a service called Design Match that connects people who need an interior designer who fits their style.
After running an art gallery in Naples, Pitochelli realized no one was providing that match-making service. “I developed a lot of relationships with interior designers,” she says.
Pitochelli provides free consultations to homebuyers building a new home or homeowners who are renovating an existing home. The consultation is personal: Pitochelli will visit with the homeowner in person and spend an hour interviewing them.
There are other online services that will provide referrals to design professionals, but Pitochelli says none offers the in-person interviews and consultation that she provides to homeowners. “I am the design concierge, so I'm in person with you,” she says. “There isn't a service like mine.”
During a visit, Pitochelli will interview the homeowner or homebuyer about his or her tastes and activities he or she enjoys, and together they develop a budget. They review examples of the work from the interior designers in the Design Match stable. Then, they select designers to interview: “Usually we bring the designer to the client,” says Pitochelli, who sits in on the conversation.
Pitochelli makes money by charging designers an annual fee and an undisclosed percentage of each project. The annual fee costs less than an advertisement in a glossy Naples magazine, she notes.
In just a few months, about a dozen designers and showrooms have signed up, and she's aiming for a stable of 25 designers, painters and landscape architects. “A whole team is coming together,” says Pitochelli, who vets each designer carefully.
Interior designers are a creative bunch. They'd rather be designing interiors than selling and marketing, Pitochelli says. “This is another way for them to build their business without having to market,” she says.
Karl Gibbons, president of Third Eye Management in Naples, says signing up interior designers won't be as big a challenge as finding people who need their services. “You don't know where these people are,” says Gibbons, who is helping Pitochelli grow the recently launched business. “She needs to get her name and get her concept out there as broadly and quickly as possible.”
To find people who are seeking an interior designer, Pitochelli plans to network in person at the numerous charity and arts events in the Naples area. Good thing Pitochelli is an outgoing person: “I really love to do that,” she says.
In addition, Pitochelli is promoting Design Match using well-established social media channels such as Facebook. “I'm starting to do video on Facebook,” she says.
“Social media is probably going to be a huge driver for her,” says Gibbons. He says once several people have had a positive experience with Design Match, word of mouth in tight-knit Naples will help drive the business.
Pitochelli says builders and Realtors could refer clients who are looking for an interior designer. That's because they can refer their customers to Design Match without having to build their own referral list.
Fact is, finding and working with the right interior designers is an intensely personal experience that can be stressful. An architect or a neighbor might refer a homeowner or homebuyer to an interior designer whose personality and taste may not match. “I can take the stress away,” Pitochelli says. “I want it to be fun.”
If the company can be successful in Naples, Gibbons says the business can be replicated in other locations such as Sarasota. “Long term, it's a licensable model,” he says.