For the third season of Trade Tales, the show will feature stories of business pivots—large or small—that fundamentally transformed a firm. This week, the show covers two designers who decided to take their business beyond design services, expanding into e-commerce and product development, and led with a focus on brand building.
It was pure chance that brought Leigh Lincoln and Aly Morford together. The two were randomly assigned as roommates their freshman year of college, where they became best friends and discovered a shared passion for improving their spaces. During the four years that followed, they could often be found scavenging local yard sales together or repainting their furniture finds on the campus green.
Though graduation took them separate ways—Lincoln climbed the ranks in the advertising world; Morford launched a floral business before pivoting into event design and interiors—the pair remained close friends over the years. When Morford’s husband landed a job in Saudi Arabia, the relocation gave her a chance to pause and consider the next phase of her career. Envisioning the launch of a design business, she knew exactly who she wanted by her side.
In 2015, the pair launched Pure Salt Interiors, which found its footing even as Morford finished up her remaining months in Saudi Arabia and Lincoln worked nights and weekends while juggling a corporate job. Without a formal design background, the duo took any projects they could get their hands on—their own homes, their parents’ places and a few pro bono projects for friends—in order to build the portfolio that would net their first paid clients.
Throughout it all, they kept an eye on grounding their early designs in a signature aesthetic—the first step in a journey that meant not just building a design firm, but also crafting a brand that could extend beyond design services. Along the way, they also tapped a partnership coach to help aid in the transition from friends to business partners. “Aly and I created the business with the understanding that building a business with your best friend is not going to be easy,” Lincoln tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “We knew that we had to have these hard, difficult conversations—not conversations you traditionally have with your best friend—in an effort to make this work for both of us.”
In the years that followed, Pure Salt has continued to expand into e-commerce and product development, moves that paved the way for the creation of a team that’s now 30 people strong. In this episode, they share how relationships cultivated on their first trip to High Point Market led to a trade-only product line and a new Pottery Barn collaboration, the partnership coach they hired to bridge a gap in work styles, and how they’re reorienting their roles to get back to creativity.
Homepage image: Aly Morford and Leigh Lincoln of Pure Salt | Vanessa Lentine