It took us a little while today, but we've finally got our act together and here is the Smart Woman Online for this week. Kim Kipfer is a local budding entrepreneur with a dynamite smile and an attitude that is going to take her to all the right places! She knows what she wants and she goes after it with a vengence! Well, she isn't shy, let's say that much. As with many of our readers, Kim is turning her life around and pursuing her dreams, despite any dark clouds that float into view. We think this interview is especially important because Kim brings a certain freshness and optimism to the table. And, she keeps a bed for her dog in her office! Let's learn more about being a budding entrepreneur in an economy that gives lip-service to women entrepreneurs, but little else...
Lip-sticking: It's our understanding that you're a fairly new entrepreneur. We congratulate you. What convinced you to take that 'entrepreneurial' leap? How warm are you finding the water?
Kim: At 40 years of age I finally found my passion in life as far as a career- contract office furniture! I love it! Unfortunately, I could see the writing on the wall with the company I had been with for a number of years. The other dealers in town were not really a viable option for me. I gave it a lot of thought, research, and input from Dad, and decided that I had enough knowledge of the business and business in general to go out on my own! There is a lot I know, a lot I do not know, but I am learning everyday and loving it very much. Definitely the right decision for me! I am finding the waters wonderfully warm. Most all of my customer base is still working with me.
Lip-sticking: Some of the office furniture on your website--Office by Design-- looks like it's right out of the Jetsons! (We're especially attracted to the conference room table and chairs). Do you have a favorite chair, or design that works for you, in your office? We don't see any cubicles. How do you feel about them?
Kim: I intended to build my business with 6 main manufacturers and stay very niche oriented. I have over 60 currently and am always open to new opportunities. I definitely have my favorites and yes some of them are on my website. There is some very cool and unique furniture out there. It is exciting to find clients that are willing to step up and do something not so everyday with their spaces. Cubicles are necessary in some situations. Panels have come a long way-they can be segmented with different fabrics or even perforated metals! They can be "stepped down" instead of all the same height and glass can be built in many interesting ways. As for my personal office, it is a mish-mash of many different manufacturers with a big dog bed in the center for Targa, my Weinreimer buddy. I would love to teach her to at least answer the phone to help with the business!
Lip-sticking: We see you offer 'services.' What does that mean? Isn't furniture just furniture? You put it where it fits and that's it. What kind of service comes with Office by Design?
Kim: Service is the name of the game. That is one of the only things that can set you apart from everyone else selling office furniture. Firstly, I meet with people to talk about their requirements and how their space needs to work for them, then I prepare 2-d and 3-d drawings and parts lists. I work with a client to choose colors and looks that fit. The installation is done by a first rate group of installers and most importantly, I am always available after the completion of the job for any follow-up that is necessary. I know this is hard to believe, but every once in a while there is an issue with furniture coming in damaged, the wrong color etc. That is going to happen. Taking care of it quickly is greatly appreciated by the end user.
Lip-sticking: Hmmm...no e-commerce on your site. Are you planning to offer this option later on? For that matter, are you an online shopper? If so, what things do you buy most often, and what things would you NEVER buy? If you're not an online shopper, tell us why and what would convince you to change your ways?
Kim: Never say never …however e-commerce seems to be a very big challenge in how I do business. Everything is very customized. Take a simple task chair for example. There are multiple back sizes, armrest options, and mechanisms for operation, not to mention the many grades of fabric. All of that affects the investment in that simple task chair. As for shopping – it’s not my favorite pastime at all. My boyfriend is a much better shopper that I am! What I do do online is register for seminars for the organizations that I belong to. I am the type of person that gets pulled kicking and screaming into the next century of technology. Would it be terrible to admit that I still use a Franklin Day Planner and have no desire for any of those electronic devices??
Lip-sticking: Do you find the Internet a useful business tool? Have you ever considered a blog?
Kim: The internet is a very useful tool for me in looking at my manufacturers’ websites and those of my competitors. It allows me to have visual access to thousands of fabric samples to then order for my clients. I am sure I do not use the internet as much or as well as I could, but I can not imagine life without it. BLOG - I have a very general idea of what it is, but here comes my second "terrible to admit" secret…I am not as computer saavy as I should be. However, I take the attitude that I probably know more than I think and what I don't know I can somehow, someday learn.
Lip-sticking: On those days the clouds hang low and you have sniggling little thoughts about, "Should I have done this?" how do you lift yourself out of that funk and motivate yourself to move beyond the clouds?
Kim: Next week marks my first anniversary as a business owner. I have not once had the thought "should I have done this?” That being said, what I do verbalize to people is that going into business for yourself is very exciting and very scary. I choose to focus on the very exciting and to ignore the very scary! Now as far as a funk and the days I need to motivate myself, those happen. Today I have a very bad sinus headache which tends to pull my spirit down. But, I have my Dad's work ethic and I push through to the best of my ability. When I can't push through for whatever reason, I have learned to take a few minutes for myself to re-group. The best way for me to do that is take Targa for a walk on the canal path. It clears the brain and lets you get a fresh start.
One of the biggest things my boyfriend says is that it is all P & A (perception and attitude). That is so very true!
Perception and attitude...two important things we all have in spades -- learning how to make them work for us instead of against us is key to entrepreneurial success. Didn't we tell you this was one terrific lady? Kim certainly has the right P&A for success. We do find it interesting that her boyfriend is the shopper in her house! Lip-sticking LOVES that! Men and women exchanging roles to better suit their own purposes. Men and women working together to achieve a positive result. WOW!
What's not to like about that?