Upstart Design Firm Turns Experience Into Future Profits

For Gregg and Tracey Kunz, necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

After all, consider that the husband-and-wife team established their kitchen and bath design firm when Gregg resigned from his previous job in 2003, leaving him with an important decision to make: Get a different job or start his own business.

Despite having no formal kitchen and bath design training, he opened a niche building company focused on the bathroom. He explains: “We’d moved 11 times, renovating the homes [that we were living in], so we knew what works and what doesn’t work.”

He adds: “That’s how I learned about the trade and the materials [that people in this industry work with].” Hence, their company – Renaissance Bath Design & Renovation – was born.

According to Tracey Kunz, the firm caters to two types of clients: Two-income couples who want to upgrade a builder-grade bathroom and need someone to oversee the project, and older customers who are nearing retirement and want to pamper themselves for the “golden years.”

As a result, the pair has created every type of design – from ultra contemporary to very traditional – in its brief history, with kitchen and other room renovation now part of the firm’s services.

Setting the lofty goal of becoming the top kitchen and bath firm in the area, Gregg Kunz notes: “We take extreme steps to be known as the problem solvers in our market.”

Growth spurt
According to Gregg Kunz, there is a very simple explanation for the company’s success. “Both Tracey and I come from the corporate world and value client satisfaction,” he says. Tracey Kunz adds: “We’ve grown to over $2,000,000 in business without any debt, so something is working!”

In fact, the firm’s success has enabled it to have one CKD on a long-term retainer, with plans to add more in 2006.

To that end, Gregg Kunz notes that the firm has established a long-term plan.

He explains: “Within five years, I would expect that we would have a couple of satellite locations within North Carolina to serve our growing population. But, we do not intend to grow just for the sake of growth.”

He concludes: “Our 10-year plan is straightforward: Allow the employees who’ve helped us grow to take over the business and realize their dreams, just like we have.”

communication keys
The firm communicates daily with its clients,” according to Tracey Kunz. “If the clients agree that the finished product is ‘top of the list,’ they willingly allow us to spend more time to take extra steps.”

She notes that those extra steps include offering a great deal of dialogue to answer questions for customers who may, or may not, be making a purchase.

“[Our belief is that] when it is time for those people to do their project, our name will come up,” she explains.

Having a personal relationship with clients also serves another purpose, the pair believes.

“We have a keen desire to work closely with each client in the pre-planning stage to investigate all costs and provide a guaranteed project price to suit their budget,” Tracey Kunz says.

“We go through all of the selections – from the cabinets, mirrors and shower – so we all know what the costs will be,” she adds.

The company presents the homeowner with a line item budget as well, she points out.

“Since materials are such a large part of a renovation project, we are able to give clients a fixed cost,” she says. However, the company does charge a retainer fee of $375 for a bathroom and $775 for a kitchen before offering an estimate.

“[The project development fee] covers our time, and it’s deducted from project management,” she says. “We honor the prices that we quote for materials and labor. If we underestimate, it’s our cost.”

Studio tricks
According to Gregg Kunz, the firm relies heavily on its 1,075-square-foot design studio.

“Our studio was created to enable the client to have a one-on-one experience with our staff,” he explains. “We want our clients to know that if a product exists, we will track it down and get it for them – even traveling to Europe if it’s [needed].”

To that end, the firm showcases a variety of products, including offerings from Hansgrohe, Grohe, Oceania Spas and Lefroy Brooks, among others.

Tracey Kunz adds: “We’ve invested a lot into higher-end fixtures and working full-size showers with [upscale] glass, tile and fixtures. We create art, and we need to showcase it.”

The firm’s location plays a key role in its success as well, Gregg Kunz adds.

“A central location within our market, as well as being less than two miles from our home, has helped us draw clients from the triangle,” he says.

In fact the location has been so beneficial for the firm that plans are in the works to expand the studio to 4,000 square feet in the next year.

Projected impact
Although the company averages five jobs under construction at any given time, there is one recent project that Tracey Kunz cites as a true indicator of the firm’s approach.

“It was a conversion of a small, 1940s bathroom into a wheelchair-accessible space,” she describes. “There were major space constraints, so we had to devise a creative layout to make everything accessible.”

The result was a safe and secure, highly accessible space that functioned flawlessly and fit comfortably into the 1940s-style bungalow theme, she states.

“The clients loved it and we gained a great deal of satisfaction from the effort,” she says.

She concludes: “We always encourage our older clients to anticipate their mobility concerns in the future. Some of the things done today will make life easier in the future.”

Word association
She adds that the company utilizes a variety of vehicles to attract new clientele.

For instance, the firm advertises in the Yellow Pages as well as in magazines and newspapers. The firm also solicits through direct mailings, radio spots and yard signs.

“We also host a monthly artist’s opening with other local shops,” she states.

While conceding that this approach is costly, Gregg Kunz notes that it also helps drive repeat business.

“We set high standards for ourselves and [strive] to make every client a solid reference,” he says.

Tracey Kunz concludes: “We’re looking five to 10 years down the road, [and not thinking about] how much we can make today.”