20 questions

20 Questions With Leura Fine

What is the name of your business?

Laurel & Wolf

Is this your first business?

I am a professional interior designer turned entrepreneur. After working as the senior designer for one of the world's top interior design firms (Architectural Digest Top 100, International Interior Designer of the Year, and as seen on Bravo's "Million Dollar Decorators"), I launched my own interior design business, Leura Fine Interiors (also featured on HGTV). Frustrated by the archaic business model of the interior design world, I decided it was time to democratize the industry by establishing a better way for clients and designers to get connected and work together.

Laurel & Wolf was born from this idea and makes interior design, easy and affordable to all. Through a marketplace platform, Laurel and Wolf offers customers multiple designs for their space from professional interior designers for a flat fee. Leura believes in the power of great design and how it can transform the way you work, live, and love.

What is the biggest reason for your success so far?

As an interior designer myself, working with a variety of budgets and spaces, I saw that technology had drastically shifted the way people were approaching designing their homes and businesses. Pinterest and Houzz were often used for inspiration and e-commerce had made better looking products accessible to customers at a wide array of price-points but it still wasn't solving the problem of putting it all together. Everything around interior design was moving into the future, except for design services. It also seemed crazy to me that I would meet people everyday who desperately wanted and needed professional design help but couldn't afford it or didn't understand how to access interior designers. Meanwhile, almost every designer I know was looking for ways of building their own businesses. Other opaque and offline industries have successfully leveraged technology to move into the future so why shouldn't interior design?

What were the earliest indications that you might have a good idea?

When we had our first group of designers working through a terrible email process with clients all over the country and people were still excited about the end result! We knew that if designers and clients were that excited with a very bare bones version of our product, then just imagine what we could create with a proper tech platform! 

Also, there were many macro trends that led to building Laurel & Wolf. Traditional interior design services, a $50B+ market in the US, require a lot of time and money, often still not resulting in satisfactory results for the <1% of people who can afford it. Historically only interior designers had access to premium inventory and it was a 1:1 relationship between designer and client. However, in the past few years furniture has outpaced all other categories to move online and today many major retailers already sell nearly 50% online. Search for a "leather couch" or "ikat rug" on Google, Pinterest, Houzz, or Wayfair and you will get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of results. The number of options is now paralyzing to consumers and having an accessible expert to guide them is invaluable. 

The creation of a marketplace easily bridges the gap between designers and customers. Not only does it allow for a way for our designers to reach new audiences, but it allows us the ability to control quality and price, ease for customers and tools necessary for everyone to have the opportunity to design the life they deserve.

Were there any rocky times when you were starting the business?

Of course! Every business goes through ups and downs. If you don't, then you probably aren't pushing hard enough!

What is working best for your marketing right now?

I think a combination of a couple of different things. For most companies, acquiring clients doesn't just come from one successful campaign or idea but rather from firing on all cylinders. You probably will continue to grow when you only have one or two verticals doing their job but when you get all of them working then you have the ability to scale at a much faster pace.

What is your biggest differentiator?

 First and foremost, we offer interior design services entirely online! Our talented interior designers from across the country leverage our proprietary easy to use platform which makes the Laurel & Wolf experience stand out from the crowd. Additionally, instead of paying per hour, as you would with a traditional interior design firm, you pay a one time flat fee to receive designs and design expertise from our Laurel & Wolf designers. The best part? We know you’re going to love your final design which gives you everything you need to execute your dream design and we stand behind that promise with our 100% Money Back Guarantee on all design projects.

Here is how it works! After taking our fun style quiz and providing some information about your space ( answering questions,uploading photos,etc) you’ll launch your design project and begin receiving preliminary style boards, also called "First Looks," from our designers. After all of your submissions are in (you’ll typically receive anywhere from 3-6 style boards) you’ll pick a winning designer. You’ll work one-on-one with your designer to complete the design for your space and at the end of the design period you’ll receive a Final Design Package which includes your final style board(s), floor plan, set up instructions and shopping list complete with links to all products.

We work with residential and commercial spaces and can do everything from suggesting new accessories for a bedroom to whole home design.

What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?

We've had to learn to say, "no" to working with certain companies or on certain projects in the last few months. As you scale, you have to become more selective about what you take on as opposed to in the earliest days where you just have to keep the ball moving forward! We are trying to be disciplined about what we take on to make sure we are not only able to successfully execute but also to measure success afterwards, learn from the data, and make smarter decisions about how to take next steps.

What is your morning routine?

Every morning is different these days. I'm trying to establish better routines but in start-up mode it can be quite challenging. When I'm home and have the time, I like to wake up, work out, dress, grab coffee and go! I don't eat breakfast usually although I should! Sometimes I don't get lunch until 4 pm.

Where is the best place to eat in West Hollywood?

That is a very difficult question because I LOVE to eat and I love to check out new restaurants. There are a few places right by our office that are incredible. The food at Ink, for example, is phenomenal and the decor is very cool. I'm also very infatuated with Terrine, a French bistro, at the moment.

What book do you recommend?

For work or for pleasure? Or I could read biographies of interesting people which I feel is a combination of both! I recently read a phenomenal biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. I absolutely adore reading about eccentric characters of all types.

Favorite place to travel to?

 In the US my favorite city to travel to is New Orleans. First of all, my brother is there and its close to where I grew up so that makes it the best. Secondly, New Orleans is an interesting city full of fun and flavor. Fabulous antiques, interesting architecture, decadent dining, and more! There is also an aura about the city that is unique. It almost feels a bit haunted but in the best way possible. If I head overseas, then Paris is my happy place. Parisians understand the world in a very different, and quite possibly, more beautiful, way. 

What business would you love for someone else to start?

I would love a business that combines Jetsetter with Food & Wine Magazine with TripAdvisor and Luxe guides. I LOVE to travel and when I travel I want to consume authentic and exquisite cuisine, see and stay in beautiful spaces, and experience the things that are authentic to a place. I do an unbelievable amount of research when I go anywhere because I want to make sure I maximize the time in a place and experience the best of the best. Travel is a hard space to compete in with all the companies out there but I believe most millennials wish there was a trip planning site that understood how we want to travel and experience new places as opposed to simply finding good rates on hotels and flights.

What is your favorite local business?

 Sugarfina! If you haven't had champagne gummy bears then you need to immediately. They have done an exceptional job of making candy cool for adults. Their stores are beautiful, their candies are top notch, and the packaging is to die for. They have stores in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. Beware though... you could easily pick up a candy habit.

How did you finance your business?

I personally invested money in getting the business off the ground to start and even paid our first few employees their salaries. Then, once we had put together a successful MVP and had been servicing paying clients through a simpler version of what we ultimately wanted to build, we went out and raised a seed round. Our seed round came primarily from angel investors. Then, when we raised our Series A, we went with a venture capital firm.

How long before you took a salary?

I worked on Laurel &Wolf for a little over 6 months before I took a salary. However, by month 6, we had revenue coming in the door and myself and my co-founder were paid very very little ( just enough to cover basic living expenses.)

Do you have any co-founders?

 Yes, my co-founder is our CMO. Early on, it was particularly helpful because he is far more tech savvy than I am so he worked on recruiting developers, managing the product, and digital marketing. I was able to focus on business ops/ strategy, hiring for non tech roles, customer service, designer acquisition, and partnerships. Our skill sets overlap in some ways but we definitely have brought different and complimentary things to the table.

What position did you hire first?

Our first hire was our Lead Engineer, Michael. Not only is he an incredibly talented developer but he cares about the brand, our customers, our designers, and everything in between! Hiring him was one of the best decisions we've made as a business and now he truly feels like family. I can't imagine running Laurel & Wolf without him and the rest of the Laurel & Wolf team. I wake up thrilled to get to the office everyday because of the truly incredible people I get to work side by side with.

Who is your ideal client?

Anyone who wants their home or their business to be better. The spaces we spend time in deeply affect us emotionally, physically, and psychologically wether we realize it or not. The reactions we get from our clients about how design has transformed their lives is truly moving and is what keeps me so excited to get up everyday and make the world aware that everyone deserves to live and work in spaces that make them happy.

What advice do you have for new founders?

Stay focused, stay strong, and expect to get things wrong. Building a business is not an easy task, but it is worth every second! Oh, and always ask for help! No one person can have all the answers so the best way to succeed is to find the people who can help you with the things you need help with.

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