Tag Archives: business

Stark Presentation at Luxury Retail Summit NYC

I had the privilege of representing Stark at the Luxury Retail Summit in NYC yesterday and was able to inform attendees of what I am doing at Stark to protect our relationships with designs while expanding our business to include retail as well. Check out the below post from Luxury Daily‘s blog summarizing my presentation. Also, check out a quick video clip at the end on me speaking about how Ecommerce will help our business!

Stark Carpet Room Setting

NEW YORK – A Stark Carpet executive at the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 yesterday discussed the lessons that the company learned while transitioning from trade-only to a retail trade combination.

During the “Stark: Evolving a Luxury Floor Coverings Brand from Trade-only Business to Retail” session, the executive discussed the challenges the company faced and how Stark readjusted its business model to accommodate both trade and retail without compromising its brand DNA and relations with interior designers. Exploring various methods can allow a brand to better adapt to a new market sector.

“Understanding the role of interior designers is vital to Stark,” said Chad Stark, vice president of operations and technology at Stark Carpet, New York.

“Interior designers are responsible for the growth and success of our business,” he said. “They understand the value of our products and translate this to consumers.”

“Designers are valuable consumers based on the frequency of projects compared to the average retail consumer.”

Luxury Daily organized the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013.

Technological, generational and economic challenges
Mr. Stark shared the brand’s challenges and lessons learned subsequently.

The Internet created design enthusiasts who had wide access to free design materials when previously this was left to a knowledgeable interior designer.

Between Web sites and design magazines, retail consumers are more informed than ever and many circumvent the advice and assistance of interior designers.

For Stark it was important not to tarnish its relationship with interior designers who had helped to elevate the brand to its standing as the leader in luxury floor coverings.

The new generation of consumers is less about touch and feel and is less inclined to travel far distances to experience a product first hand before making a purchase.

With a willingness to purchase online rather than in bricks-and-mortar locations, the new generation of Stark consumers prefer the accessibility of ecommerce.

Stark discovered that this new generation is much more price-sensitive than previous groups of consumers. The Internet and their increased knowledge led to consumers visiting showrooms without a designer in an attempt to buy products directly.

Stark Carpet Room Setting Elipse

Adaptations

To accommodate the growing number of informed and price conscious consumers, Stark held warehouse clearance sales every two years in different markets to sell its overstocked products.

Stark discovered that although the warehouse was successful from a consumer standpoint, interior designers pushed back at first. Overtime, interior designers began to bring clients to the warehouse sales.

Next, Stark developed retail outlets with a trade showroom within the same bricks-and-mortar location. The trade showroom was closed off to retail consumers, but the rest of the location was designed with a scaled-down warehouse format.

This concept damaged Stark because the brand featured its high-end exclusive products next to closeout items. From this model, Stark was able to re-envision its retail outposts in the form of Stark Home.

The Stark Home model replicated the exclusive nature of its trade showrooms but created a retail atmosphere as well. In theory, the Norwalk, CT, location was meant to amplify the New York showroom, but designers felt consumers were able to obtain Stark products without their assistance after visiting the showroom.

Stark, valuing the continued support of interior designers, sought out designers circumvented by consumers and compensated their time.

Ecommerce gave Stark significant exposure through flash sales with Web sites such as One Kings Lane, Gilt and Rue La La. Although sales and exposure were successful, the flash sales ruined the exclusive nature of its products while confusing design industry.

In 2014, Stark plans to re-launch its ecommerce site to increase convenience for trade and retail consumers.

Lessons learned
Today, Stark showrooms are rooted in experience. The showrooms carry carpets and fabrics, as well as “cash & carry” area rugs in a combined trade and retail space. To inform retail consumers about Stark, products are accompanied by relevant information allowing for more engagement.

Although the trade area is only shoppable by interior designers, retail consumers are welcome to browse the area. If a product strikes them, Stark suggests a local designer to assist with the project.

The “to-the-trade” program highlights interior designers as partners since their continued patronage has ensured the integrity of Stark. The program includes signature exclusive products for trade professionals such as Stark’s collaboration with fashion label Missoni, additional discounts online and in-store, and special services such a custom product development and home consultation.

Starks trials and tribulations during its adaptations from trade-only to retail is bound to affect the industry as a whole.

“Stark is the only luxury flooring brand and we take risks for the benefit of the industry,” Mr. Stark said.

“It is a scary and thrilling position to be in,” he said. “The industry is changing and the way interior designers work with clients is changing.

“The world is transparent and information is widely found online so our sales will likely to continue to be based on designers.”

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Houzz Expands Its Pro+ Service For Remodeling And Design Professionals To 425 Markets, Launches New Analytics Tool

houzz logo

Houzz is mostly known for the pretty pictures of homes on its website and mobile app that will stir up house envy in even the happiest of home owners, but the service also offers a wide range of tools that aim to help design and remodeling professionals find new clients. Late last year, Houzz launched its Pro+ platform that allows professionals to market their services on the site in 12 markets after raising a $35 million Series C round. Today, it is expanding this platform for professionals with its new Pro+ Dashboard analytics tools and opening it up to contractors, architects, designers, landscapers and other professionals in 425 new markets in the U.S. and Canada.

The importance of Houzz in the home remodeling market continues to increase. At the end of last year, the company reported that about 168,000 home professionals were using the service actively and today, Houzz says this number has now increased to 190,000. Overall, the service currently sees over 14 million unique visitors every month.

Houzz quickly sold out of spots in the original Pro+ program when it first launched. For an annual subscription, the Pro+ program gives professionals additional visibility in their local area and allows them to highlight their work to attract new customers. The new metrics dashboard gives professionals additional insight into how their photos are doing on the site and includes real-time data about the total number of photo impressions, the number of clicks on them, click-through rates and add rates (how many people saved a photo to their Houzz ‘ideabooks’). This data, Houzz says, will help professionals “to optimize their marketing and brand-building efforts.”

“With this powerful new analytics tool, remodeling professionals will be armed with real-time insights on how their profile and portfolio are resonating with the homeowner community, enabling them to make adjustments and craft the most effective brand presence possible to attract the right clients,” said Houzz CEO Adi Tatarko in a statement today. “Our goal with Pro+ is to deliver a service that helps professionals build their brands and increase their exposure to homeowners in their local area the way they want.”

Pro+ Dashboard - Full dashboard

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Elle Decor: “When Design is the Family Business”

 

Elle Decor March 2013 Cover

Elle Decor, a top tier shelter magazine published by Hearst Magazines, wrote an article this month featuring young entrepreneurs who have joined their family businesses.  The article features A. RudinStarkHorchow, and Phillip Jeffries. I was fortunate enough to be quoted in their Facebook post announcing the article online! Thank you Elle Decor (and thanks for the “like” dad)!

Elle Decor Facebook Post

The article is right on point. Check out the first paragraph below:

Jobs like “app designer” and “video game producer” may be trendy career paths, but not every recent graduate is determined to live in the cloud. Young designers are devoting themselves to carrying on their families’ established brands, creating artisanal and luxurious home furnishings. Armed with tablets and iPhones, these tech- and fashion-savvy entrepreneurs are preserving tradition while pushing it forward.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

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How Sandy-Related PR Nightmare Cost Startup Uber $100,000 In A Day

Taxis are hard to get in NYC right now.

Uber, a company that makes an app you can use to summon a private cab, had to deal with an extremely messy situation in New York yesterday. Now it’s having to deal with obnoxious punditry. Let’s hit yesterday first.

Because the subways were (and basically still are) out, Uber’s black car drivers were in huge demand. To get the drivers to pick up Uber customers, Uber had to start paying them 2X their normal rate. At first, Uber passed this rate increase onto its customers through a program it calls “surge pricing.” But then customers and reporters started complaining, saying that Uber was “price gouging” in the middle of a disaster.

So, while continuing to pay drivers 2X their normal rate, Uber started charging customers 1X the normal rate. This act of generosity (and, let’s be honest, PR damage control) cost Uber about $100,000. 

So what did Uber get for its expensive pains? A nasty column from PandoDaily’s Paul Carr is what. About 12 hours ago he wrote: “As NY floods, “Robin Hood” Uber robs from the rich and… Nope, that’s about it.”  The URL for his column is: “http://pandodaily.com/2012/10/31/assholes-shrug/” It’s unfortunate.  $100,000 is a lot of money for a still young startup trying to gain its footing. (A week ago, Carr wrote a column about how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has a reckless fascination with disrupting government regulation. Carr mocked Kalanick’s alleged obsession with Ayn Rand. That’s all fair and a separate issue. Kalanick should be more respectful of some government regulation. Rand is terrible.)

Unless Carr is mailing a check, Uber obviously can’t afford to keep losing so much money. So today, Uber announced that it will return to surge pricing, but will not keep any of its normal fees. In a candid blog post, co-signed by the entire Uber New York team, he company said: “For those needing a ride this week, it’s going to be expensive.”

Kudos for the honesty despite certain backlash from critics a thousand miles away.

Here’s the whole blog post:

First and foremost, we hope that you and your family and friends are safe. The Uber NYC office is currently closed and some of our team members are without water and power.

With limited public transportation, demand for Uber rides is astronomically high. That means we’re working to get as many drivers out as possible to help New Yorkers get around the city. So, in order to maximize the number of drivers on the system yesterday, we started paying drivers 2x the fare on all trips – and in the meantime charging riders the standard 1x fare avoiding surge pricing for most of the day after Sandy. Doubling drivers’ fares tripled the number of cars on the road and kept them out there far longer. However, footing the bill for higher driver costs came at a significant expense to Uber with over $100,000 in additional payments to drivers in a single day – something we can’t continue indefinitely without breaking the bank.

So while we were mostly able to avoid higher prices the day after Sandy, the reality is that under this week’s extreme conditions, raising the price is the only sustainable way to maximize the number of rides and minimize the number of people stranded – by providing a meaningful incentive for drivers to come out in undesirable conditions.

Later this morning we will be reverting back to standard Surge Pricing for riders. It is a hard decision, but one we feel strongly about. Without raising the price, there will be less than ½ the number of drivers on the system with several times more demand on far fewer drivers. Without Surge Pricing, Uber would become essentially unusable this week. For those needing a ride this week, it’s going to be expensive; there will be a clear pricing notification in the app at the time of request. During this emergency price increase, Uber will waive all of its own fees with 100% of the fare going directly to the drivers helping New Yorkers move around the city.

You can read more about Surge Pricing on our blog: http://blog.uber.com/2012/03/14/clear-and-straight-forward-surge-pricing/

Our thoughts and prayers are with all New Yorkers in this time of crisis. We’re going to do everything we can to continue to provide the most reliable, efficient transportation option for NYC. Be safe, and stay Uber. 

The Uber NYC Team

Josh, Andrew, Ed, Kyle and Nicole in Manhattan,

Jeremy in Brooklyn,

Betty in Queens

and Cait in The Bronx

 

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My 1st International Business Trip

INDIA!!

I hope I’ll have time to see the Taj Mahal!

I have dreamed of going to India ever since I missed my high school sponsored ‘educational’ trip over New Years 2008…now this dream is finally coming true.

I leave for India tomorrow, October 6th 2012, for what promises to be an incredible learning experience. Stark manufactures and buys many handmade rugs in India, so my 10-day trip will be packed with business activities 24/7. I fly into New Delhi for a night, but am spending the majority of my time in Varanasi where I will be visiting different Rug vendors on Stark’s behalf. The pictures I take of all the beautiful rug samples will be incredible! Good thing I just bought this camera

I might be heading to China for 2 days from Varanasi to meet with a carpet mill but I’m having some issues with my Visa right now…That’s what I get for waiting until the last minute! #idiot

I’ll try to post an update on my blog during the trip with some cool pictures of the culture and maybe some new products. Can’t wait to learn more about the rug business in India and how different the culture is there!

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Home Furnishings And Design Site LuxeYard Bets on Social Media for Changing Industry

Banner Image

LuxeYard, a luxury home furnishings and decor site, launched an interesting e-commerce platform this past January that added a twist to the flash sales model.

Similar to sites line One Kings Lane and Gilt, LuxeYard offers up to 70 percent discounts on furniture, home decor and other accessories in daily sales. However, LuxeYard also offers what it calls ‘concierge buying,’ which allows members to request items they would like to purchase at a discounted price by posting photos to LuxeYard’s Facebook page. The most popular product will be voted up by members, and the startup’s experts will attempt to source either the exact product, or a similar product and offer this on sale to members.

LuxeYard members also have the ability to push product prices down for certain items by using Facebook and Twitter to encourage others to purchase a product, which will drive the price down. For example, members may purchase an item for $100; share the information on Facebook encouraging others to buy the same product; and two days later find out that customer demand, which they helped drive, dropped the price to $50. Everyone who purchased the Group Buy Item will pay the final lowest price.

The site also includes a set of featured design professionals and influencers provide design curation and offers aesthetic insights, product recommendations and special events exclusively for LuxeYard members. Consumers can also enter room dimensions and/or upload a photo of the room in which they’d place the piece to get a sense for how it fits with the current décor and layout before they buy.

LuxeYard has raised $3.5 million in funding from a group of undisclosed investors.

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Steve Jobs’ Opinion of Mark Zuckerberg

Walter Isaacson, author of “Steve Jobs” talks to Bloomberg’s Betty Liu about what Steve Jobs thought of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. They speak on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Click here to watch the video

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I love LA

I just got back from a 10 day trip in sunny California and if you follow me on social media, you already know what i’m going to say: I love LA.

I was there on a business trip for Stark where I spent time visiting our LA, Costa Mesa, and SF showrooms. Big shout out to my homies Neil Jacobson and Zach Wanerman for letting me crash on their couches. I was also given the opportunity to DJ at the Beverly Nightclub, Tru Nightclub in Hollywood, and a banging 4th of July party at my friend Dan’s house. What a trip.

I really want to make the west coast a priority for Stark because there are a lot of exciting thing going on in California. Here’s a glimpse of what we’re doing:

Los Angeles

Not only are we moving the Stark Fabric showroom into a larger space in the building, but we are also moving our carpet and rug showroom out of the Pacific Design Center into our own 10,000 sq ft space at 805 La Cienega in Los Angeles. This new location is prime time in the heart of the LCDQ. The windows are HUGE, our street signage is SICK and parking isn’t an issue because we have 26 valet parking spots on the roof. I’m most excited about this new venture because it is our first real high street location for Stark Home. I’ve already gotten involved working closely with partners like Missoni Home to ensure this location’s success. We are having an enormous launch party in the fall, and I will be back on California a lot this year to set it up and make sure it runs smoothly. The more I get involved, the more it will make sense for me to move to LA…

Costa Mesa

We opened one of our largest Stark Home locations as a main tenant in the SouthCoast Collection shopping center a few years ago. The center has been flourishing and we are now surrounded by many other great high-end design companies like Fixture’s Living and Scalamandre. It’s time for us to update the appearance of the showroom. This opportunity gets my juices flowing because it is an opportunity for us to create a template showroom that, if it works, we can roll out to all of our Stark Home locations nationwide.

San Francisco

We are moving our showroom from the 4th floor of the San Francisco Design Center into a bigger space on the 1st floor with street access. This gives us a chance to renovate the showroom there and essentially start from scratch. We are not converting this location into a Stark Home facility, but it is exciting nonetheless. Can’t wait to get back out there again.

________

It’s a little difficult focusing on business that is 3000 miles away from our corporate offices in NY. so it’s probably best if I move to West Hollywood. To help out, I will be heading back to LA for a week in August and then again for a week around the time of the La Ciénaga and SF launch parties in October. I like to think I’m on the 2 year plan: NY for 2 years then off to LA. Now that I have my goal in writing, let’s see if I can stick to it.

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All Hail the Generalist

*this is a post from Vikram Mansharamani  from the HBR blog. It’s not worth my trying to make my own post about this when it is said so perfectly here.

We have become a society of specialists. Business thinkers point to “domain expertise” as an enduring source of advantage in today’s competitive environment. The logic is straightforward: learn more about your function, acquire “expert” status, and you’ll go further in your career.

But what if this approach is no longer valid? Corporations around the world have come to value expertise, and in so doing, have created a collection of individuals studying bark. There are many who have deeply studied its nooks, grooves, coloration, and texture. Few have developed the understanding that the bark is merely the outermost layer of a tree. Fewer still understand the tree is embedded in a forest.

Approximately 2,700 years ago, the Greek poet Archilochus wrote that “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 essay “The Fox and the Hedgehog” contrasts hedgehogs that “relate everything to a single, central vision” with foxes who “pursue many ends connected…if at all, only in some de facto way.” It’s really a story of specialists vs. generalists.

In the six decades since Berlin’s essay was published, hedgehogs have come to dominate academia, medicine, finance, law, and many other professional domains. Specialists with deep expertise have ruled the roost, climbing to higher and higher positions. To advance in one’s career, it was most efficient to specialize.

For various reasons, though, the specialist era is waning. The future may belong to the generalist. Why’s that? To begin, our highly interconnected and global economy means that seemingly unrelated developments can affect each other. Consider the Miami condo market, which has rebounded quite nicely since 2008 on the back of strong demand from Latin American buyers. But perhaps a slowdown in China, which can take away the “bid” for certain industrial commodities, might adversely affect many of the Latin American extraction-based companies, countries, and economies. How many real estate professionals in Miami are closely watching Chinese economic developments?

Secondly, specialists toil within a singular tradition and apply formulaic solutions to situations that are rarely well-defined. This often results in intellectual acrobatics to justify one’s perspective in the face of conflicting data. Think about Alan Greenspan’s public admission of “finding a flaw” in his worldview. Academics and serious economists were dogmatically dedicated to the efficient market hypothesis — contributing to the inflation of an unprecedented credit bubble between 2001 and 2007.

Finally, there appears to be reasonable and robust data suggesting that generalists are better at navigating uncertainty. Professor Phillip Tetlock conducted a 20+ year study of 284 professional forecasters. He asked them to predict the probability of various occurrences both within and outside of their areas of expertise. Analysis of the 80,000+ forecasts found that experts are less accurate predictors than non-experts in their area of expertise. Tetlock’s conclusion: when seeking accuracy of predictions, it is better to turn to those like “Berlin’s prototypical fox, those who know many little things, draw from an eclectic array of traditions, and accept ambiguity and contradictions.” Ideological reliance on a single perspective appears detrimental to one’s ability to successfully navigate vague or poorly-defined situations (which are more prevalent today than ever before).

The future has always been uncertain, but our ability to navigate it has been impaired by an increasing focus on studying bark. The closer you are to the material, the more likely you are to believe it. In psychology jargon, you anchor on your own beliefs and insufficiently adjust from them. In more straightforward language, a man with a hammer is more likely to see nails than one without a hammer. Expertise means being closer to the bark, and less likely to see ways in which your perspective may warrant adjustment. In today’s uncertain environment, breadth of perspective trumps depth of knowledge.

The declining returns to expertise have implications at the national, company, and even individual level. A collection of specialists creates a less flexible labor force, one that requires “retraining” with technological developments creating constantly shifting human resource needs. In this regard, the recent emphasis in American education on “job-specific” skills is disturbing. Within a company, employees skilled in numerous functions are more valuable as management can dynamically adjust their roles. Many forward-looking companies are specifically mandating multi-functional experience as a requirement for career progress. Finally, individuals should manage their careers around obtaining a diversity of geographic and functional experiences. Professionals armed with the analytical capabilities (e.g. basic statistical skills, critical reasoning, etc.) developed via these experiences will fare particularly well when competing against others more focused on domain-specific skill development.

The time has come to acknowledge expertise as overvalued. There is no question that expertise and hedgehog logic are appropriate in certain domains (i.e. hard sciences), but they certainly appear less fitting for domains plagued with uncertainty, ambiguity, and poorly-defined dynamics (i.e. social sciences, business, etc.). The time has come for leaders to embrace the power of foxy thinking (click here to watch a TEDx presentation about this.

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Benefits of an Entrepreneurial Education

My concentration (B-school buzzword for “major“) in the undergraduate business program at UM (Ross) was Entrepreneurship. Many people have asked me what that means and what I learned. Unlike finance or accounting, there is no real definition of what an entrepreneurial education is. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to learn going into it. Now that I’m in the real world, it all makes sense.

Entrepreneurship is not learned in the classroom or from a textbook. You have to get out the door and experience things firsthand. As a student of entrepreneurship, I started many different ventures while in school that ranged from a music blog to a social fundraising platform. I’m proud to say that most of them failed and are no longer in existence. Why am I proud to say that you ask? Failure is the greatest way to learn. It teaches you how to take ownership of something real, look at and approach real world problems and analyze your actions after the fact so you can improve your efforts next time. Real world experiences teach you that things usually don’t work out as planned. For entrepreneurs, there is always a next time. Whether your ventures fail after 5 years or IPO in 10 months, that ever-so-persistant entrepreneurial bug will start to itch again very soon. How you constantly improve yourself is what we entrepreneurs like to measure.

My greatest takeaway from B-school came from all my previous ventures. Startup events like Techarb’s Student Startup Showcase and Detroit Venture Partners’ and Ludlow Ventures‘ Funded by Night forced me to present my ideas in an organized, easy-to-follow fashion to avoid embarrassment infront of rooms full of people. I used to emphasize and explain a technology that only techies would understand instead of a simple concept that even grandparents would understand. Giving powerpoint presentations at these events and to venture capitalists taught me how to clearly translate what’s speeding around in my head into a concise, confident presentation. After my “Strategy and Implementation Plan” presentation last week to the board here at Stark, I now realize how valuable a skill articulating clear and organized thoughts is. That is the most valuable skill I acquired from a B-school entrepreneurial education.

As a mentor of mine once said, Every time an entrepreneur opens his mouth, he is pitching.” My friends all know how much I like to talk. Thank you B-school for teaching me how to actually say something instead of just blabber.

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