Celebrating TWO YEARS
What We Learned in Our First Two Years, Starting our own Business
Today HON marks TWO years of business and to celebrate, HON communications manager, Bethany Starin, sat down with Kell and Berk to reminisce a bit. The goal is to give followers and the community an inside scoop into the lessons we learned, the obstacles we overcame in these first months and the path to where we are now.
Q: How do you feel looking back over two years as HON?
Berk: “I still can’t believe it! I couldn’t be happier with the how the last two years have gone! From starting the company in my living room to growing a team, getting a studio, having our first pop-up and traveling for the company — it’s been a dream.”
Kell: “Honestly, we were really lucky! We knew it was going to go somewhere but we didn’t have any idea how quickly. Berk and I worked really hard for this and everything has brought us to this point. Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined all of this happening and now I cannot imagine my life without HON.”
Q: What have you accomplished in the last two years?
Berk: “Back to when we first started, we had all these ideas of things we wanted to do and said someday we are going to do this and someday we are going to have a studio and someday we are going to be published and travel and source — and have a team. All these things we set as goals to work towards and we can’t believe we were able to pull them off in our first year!”
Q: When did it all start?
Berk: “We met in August 2015 in Restoration Hardware where Kell was designing at the time — and instantly hit it off talking about South Africa. Kell and Brad had just gotten back and Diek and I were about to leave. Before we knew it, we had plans to go to Good Food on Montford and Brad and Diek had to drag us out of the restaurant — we could have talked for hours more.”
Kell: “We were practically neighbors at the time and we started talking about our dream to start a company where we could travel and be creative. We were getting excited, brainstorming about what company we could start. And all the sudden it was actually happening! The reality was we took matters into our own hands. We wanted to do what we loved and be passionate about what we are doing. So we started HON.”
Q: How long was it until the House of Nomad LLC was yours?
Kell: “Berk and I met and two months later we were starting our LLC!”
Berk: “It was endless hours of research for us both, creating a business plan, designing a logo and website and saying could this really work? Could we quit our jobs?”
Q: Was it a nerve wracking to make the jump?
Kell: “Yes. There nights where I was really nervous about taking the leap. I made sure I felt like it was really going to happen. For me I knew it was the right thing! At the end of the day, we both stuck to our gut and I’m so happy that we did.”
Berk: “Absolutely but with the support of our husbands, friends and family we felt like we could really pull this off. It basically took two of us working off a strong connection that showed that this is what we are meant to do somehow. It was really scary and we did a lot of calculated risk taking but in the end it was something we just really went with!”
Q: What was the startup cost?
Berk: “From a monetary perspective, it had a low start up cost. It’s $300 for an LLC! Later on, we launched the website and HON branding and that cost us about $1,000.”
Kell: “But from the personal side, it was really all about the sweat equity.”
Q: What were those first few months like?
Kell: “The reality is when you first start any business you are it all. We were the marketing team, design team, customer service team, install team, social media team -- for a full year and a half we wore all the hats. While it may not have been the best idea, it was the only option for us financially. And by the time we were hiring people we had learned from our mistakes to teach them.”
Q: What type of rhythm do your work days have?
Kell: “There is one word — urgency.” Kell laughs.
Berk: “We truly love the hustle and get really energized by the design process. Kell and I are so similar that we are lock and step and run on all cylinders when we are together, working off each other’s energy.”
Q: What’s your relationship like?
Berk: “Sometimes best friends start a business and it doesnt work — but Kell and I became friends as we started the business and became best friends through that process, so somehow it just works! Our business coach had us a take personality tests and we tested identical in every aspect except one thing. The odds of that are one in a million!” Berk laughs.
Kell: “The friendship grew as the business grew. Our personalities are so similar. We spend all of all of our time together. We go to dinner on the weekends with our husbands and we still party together! We are friends and business owners.”
Q: What were some of your first risks after you launched HON?
Berk: “Things took off so quickly and so we started taking more risks. We signed the lease for this studio — and we bought tickets to Mexico — just several months we were hiring a team! We went to Mexico with a budget of a few hundred, just to see if sourcing works. We had a pop-up when we came back and instantly sold more than half of our sourced goods.”
Kell: “It was good to test the waters small — with lots of trial and error. One of our first trials was shipping back Thai fishing baskets and I will never forget this day. We showed up to the Thai post office with an actual refrigerator box full of baskets… lots of trial and error! After that, we felt like we could actually make this sourcing thing work and be another extention of HON. And we are headed to Bali and Morocco this summer!”
Q: What stand out as your main lessons from that first year?
Kell: “Mistakes are going to happen and they have to happen for us to grow -- but that was really hard. We would beat ourselves up and we would allow clients to set the rules because we did not have the processes in place.”
Berk: “A lot of it went back to establishing processes so we felt empowered and more confident. We were making it up as we went and a business has to evolve — but that was a bit painful at times. Once you put the stake in the ground and get your processes in place then you can treat it as a legit business.”
Kell: “There are so many learnings in that first year starting a business — even personal learnings that you find out about yourself that you didn’t even realize. For example, Berk and I had no idea how hard it is to build a team and to find the right people. We have been so lucky!”
Berk: “The first year is all about trial and error. We both had to get less hung up on things and let things go if it wasn’t working well. It is really not easy to say this isn’t working and we need to rework it from the beginning. Another personal learning is learning how to actually let go — especially when you are used to wearing all the hats. When you start a business it is really all encompassing but you have to learn how to turn it off.”
Q: What is the secret do your success?
Kell: “We are offering something different and we are finding that people are really drawn to an eclectic and global feel in their home that we feel really confident delivering. Berk and I work together on every project and we feel like that really sets us apart.”
Berk: “We are working really hard to make design approachable and to offer something very creative and unique to Charlotte are and beyond.”
Q: How does travel play into your business model?
Berk: “Travel is what really got our friendship going and bonded us in the first place! Now travel is part of our business model because we are incorporating our finds into our designs, we are selling them through local pop-ups, studio sales, our online shop and by appointment at our studio.”
Kell: “I think that’s one of the things that set us apart. It is definitely what makes us House of Nomad and the way we see the company growing is still applying that whole travel idea to whatever it is we are doing.”
Q: How do you keep your sanity day to day as entrepreneurs?
Kell: “For me, it’s yoga and treating ourselves. We love to celebrate after a big install.”
Berk: “It’s really hard — haha — having those trips planned ahead of time! It’s like the monkey bar where we know we are reaching out for the next thing. And also, lots of wine!”
Kell: “We are both innately driven but having those trips booked pushes us harder because we know we know we won’t be able to source anything once we get there if we don’t have the budget. That’s a motivator.”
Q: What are your goals for the next two years?
Berk: “A lot of our goals we met, which is a dream come true! I’m so excited for what next two years have in store! Let’s keep the business growing, pushing design boundaries creatively through global finds and hopefully one day traveling as a team!”
Kell: “I’m hoping HON becomes a go-to source for people who are building new homes. I’d love for people in Charlotte to come into our studio and learn what we are passionate about and for us to share that.”