While it can be a challenge to find added profits in a tough economy, sometimes all it takes is finding the right niche.
Indeed, many kitchen and bath designers have found that they can increase their profitability merely by finding a strong specialty area, developing an expertise in that area and marketing it appropriately.
That might be green design, unique powder rooms, high-end, one-of-a-kind kitchens or designs that promote wellness.
While the right niche can vary based on locale and the designer’s strengths and clientele, the one commonality, they agree, is having a unique point of differentiation that takes them from merely “product provider” to renowned expert and purveyor of dreams.
Chris Donaghy believes it takes green to make green. Donaghy, managing owner of Kitchen Brokers LLC in Lorton, VA, believes in the power of green design, both ideologically and for its profit potential. Donaghy explains: “Instead of doing the ‘price versus value’ discussion, we determine the issues of passion for the client.”
He continues: “The trick to selling profitable ‘green’ kitchens is having a variable line up of products to meet every customer’s taste and price point.”
Donaghy believes that successfully selling green kitchens is much like selling any project, in that customers are interested in “selection, value and knowledgeable service.” However, since there are fewer design professionals who are truly schooled in the intricacies of green design, this can become a strong way for designers to differentiate themselves – especially if they can effectively market this expertise.
He suggests that kitchen and bath designers consider promoting lyptus, which imbues a project “with distinction, and gives the client a feeling of being super ‘green,’ unique and value conscious.”
Of course lyptus isn’t the only product that can help differentiate a project. For instance, he notes: “LED lighting has also become our standard and allows us to stand out over our competition, which still views LED as ‘too expensive.’
“Being green is multi-faceted,” he suggests. “We want to save the earth…and we want clean air in our homes. And we want to be efficient. We now focus our attention on seeking out manufacturers, builders and creators within 500 miles” [who can help us do this].
For Cynthia Leibrock, ASID, Hon. IIDA, of www.agingbeautifully.org in Livermore, CO, healthy living is the inspiration for her firm. She not only creates spaces that inspire clients to live healthier lives, she also helps others in the industry do the same.
Leibrock believes health is wealth, and perhaps that’s why she is able to stay profitable even during tough times. After all, who can put a price tag on good health?
Focusing primarily on design education, she addresses both existing health and mobility issues and promoting healthier lifestyles.
She explains: “We eliminate disability through design, we don’t accommodate it. You’re only disabled when you can’t do what you want to do, [so] we show people how to do what they want to do so they are no longer disabled by their environment.”
She and her husband believe so strongly in this idea, they took almost their entire life savings and turned a home in Colorado into “Green Mountain Ranch,” a retreat and demonstration home designed to help inhabitants develop wellness-based lifestyles.
She invites kitchen and bath designers – at her own expense – to a week-long ‘Training for Trainers,” where they spend time earning continuing education units (CEUs) through 20 hours of training.
So, how does she profit from such an altruistic endeavor?
“If you’re a designer and have a great understanding of how to help people maintain their health, that is a very marketable product. That’s how you make a profit in this business – marketing.”