A few years ago, designer Oriana Cyprus, founder of OJC Designs, had a problem. On the hunt for a small bookcase for one of her jobs, she exhausted her own resource base and Google (“a disaster” of big-box-store suggestions). As she puts it, “I actually said out loud, ‘Ugh, I just wish someone would put all the good trade vendors in one place!’ My husband was in the room and said, ‘That’s a good idea. You should do it.’ That was the light bulb moment.” This past October, Oriana’s Design Finder, a digital search tool for such trade vendors, including Kravet, Bunny Williams Home and Oomph, launched at High Point Market. Today, Cyprus sits down with EAL to give designers a glimpse behind the site and its tools.
How did you get started?
It was a real journey and a huge learning curve to get there. I am not a computer scientist. But I have learned the lingo now! Honestly, I had so many divine interventions that connected me to the right people from branding help to Web designers to Web developers that it has been miraculous. I also had some wonderful support from early adopting brands that helped me build the site. Oomph, Red Egg, Bungalow 5, Oggetti and Palecek all signed on when I was still a concept, and that allowed me to build the site with some product on it.
Walk us through the website, from a designer’s perspective. How does the typical visitor use the site?
Oriana’s Design Finder is a trade-only site, so the typical user would be an interior designer or decorator. Designers must show credentials to sign up. Our main mission is to help the designer save time and find great product through a curated search engine. We are a sort of Google or a virtual showroom of the “good stuff” for designers. Once logged on the site, designers initially see the “latest” page, which shows the newly added or updated product on the site. Designers can use the “by category/vendor” tab to search by specific category or by a participating vendor and they can refine the search further if needed.
ODF is not an e-commerce site. We do not sell any product on the site. We see ourselves as a sort of matchmaker, linking the designers to the vendors for a direct transaction between themselves. We merely help the designer find what they need and point them in the right direction to purchase it.
Our notebook feature allows designers to save and categorize their finds. Notebooks can be shared across the platform by making them public or they can be kept private for the designer’s own use. Items can also be “favorited” for unspecified finds—each designer’s own favorite notebook is always kept private.
Designers can share what they find with their clients if they choose. Product pages can be emailed to clients with the price being automatically removed. Depending on how designers charge, they can use the site on a tablet or cell phone to show clients products from the site while they are in the field or at a client’s home (the site is mobile responsive). The site can act as a mobile showroom rather than taking clients to design centers that may not be local or convenient.
The blog, Oriana’s Findings, is another aspect of the site that delivers information to the designers. It is actually the only area of the site that is public. You don’t have to have an account to see it. I write the blog and report on all kinds of topics, from market highlights to hotels in Italy.
How does Oriana’s Design Finder differ from competitors like Steelyard?
ODF differs in several ways from Steelyard. Primarily, ODF is not nearly as vast, nor do we aspire to be. Steelyard caters to a wide audience and is suited to finding everything from tassels to HVAC equipment. We do not. Ours is a site that really caters to the residential design professional and their specific needs. We are focused on mid- to high-end product from brands that we invite to participate.
We vet each vendor for ease of use (non stocking or designer pricing, ease of shipping and delivery to the client; if they don’t white-glove, they will help you arrange it), quality of product and level of design, no or very low minimums. As a busy residential designer (I own OJC Designs, Inc.), I am sensitive to the value of time. When sites are too vast or not selective, it wastes time.
We are very discerning about what vendors are invited on the site. We don’t charge them to participate and this is why we can be so selective. Eventually, we will develop some advertising opportunities for invited vendors as a means of revenue, but it is against our philosophy to charge for participation. It might sound crazy, but we don’t want to get to the point that we will just take someone because they are willing to pay. That is not what ODF is about, and it corrupts the level of product and vendor that is on the site, which would defeat our mission.
What has response been like so far?
The response so far has been great. Our main issue has been getting the word out. We have close to 60 vendors on the site, from large to small: Lee Jofa, Kravet, Bunny Williams Home, M3LD, Pekota, Red Egg, Oomph, to name a few. This past October, we took a booth at High Point in Market Square. The designers we spoke with loved the idea of the site and all said that they felt we were filling a need in the design world. At that time, our revenue model had us charging them a subscription fee with a free first month, which I think was confusing for them. We have removed that and the site is now free to designers.
What is your vision for the site?
My vision or hope for Oriana’s Design Finder is that it becomes the first place a designer looks when searching for product. I would love this site to become a valued and respected designer tool: a trusted place where a designer knows they will find great products and information. We see ourselves as working for the designer above all else. It would be wonderful if those designers came to rely on our service and commitment to that aim.
How will you expand or develop it further?
The most immediate aim in terms of our growth is to bring more vendors to the site, and of course, more designers. I would also like it to go global. Currently, ODF is set up only for the USA and vendors who ship to the USA. In time, we could open the site up to international designers and vendors.