Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Only Partly by Design dress
When Sallie Siegal dreamed up a business selling pillows over the Internet, she wanted a company name that would give her the flexibility to add other home decor products to her line. "Todo Es"--Spanish for "It's Everything"--started as a joke, but Siegal quickly realized just how valuable the all-inclusive name was. Capitalizing on the instantaneous feedback she got from her Web site customers, Siegal took her company in a direction she had never anticipated, and discovered an unfilled market niche. Siegal was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.

I worked in marketing in the computer industry for 15 years, but before that I owned a junior boutique and designed a line of clothing. I've always made pillows, drapes and other home decor items for myself and friends--I'm handy that way. So when I decided to start my own company, selling my designs seemed to be the way to go.

I learned how to make a Web site by trial and error, looking up information anywhere I could find it. I had three or four designs for accent pillows, and I put pictures of them up on the Web site. I got a few responses--people asking what we were doing and what we could do for them--and I got some orders. But I realized that some of the products were so labor-intensive it was hard to charge enough to make any money. Then I saw some folding-chair slipcovers and thought it was a clever idea for Thanksgiving, when you have to get those ugly folding chairs out of the closet and put them at your gorgeously decorated holiday table. So I designed some slipcovers and added them to the Web site, where they sold very well.

Pretty soon, people searching the Web for slipcovers sent me e-mail, asking if I made slipcovers for regular dining-room chairs. My first response was no, because I felt I couldn't make a slipcover for a chair I couldn't see.

Well, the first lesson I learned was never be afraid to supply a product that the market is demanding. I got dozens of e-mails over the next six weeks, and I realized that there were so many people looking for covers for their dining-room chairs that if I didn't sell them, someone else would. Fitted slipcovers are a hot look featured in all the home decor magazines. They protect, upgrade and update your existing furniture, and they're washable and easy to maintain. But they have to be custom-made, so they're hard to find and very costly.