Dennis Scully: From our headquarters in New York City, this is Business of Home. I'm your host, Dennis Scully. Every week I'll be talking to leaders and innovators from all corners of the home industry. I hope you'll join me.
Dennis Scully: We'd like to thank our friends at Fuigo for sponsoring this episode. In case, you're unfamiliar or have been living under a coffee table; hey, we don't blame you. Fuigo is the industry's most comprehensive project management software for design professionals. Meticulously developed alongside designers like you, Fuigo is tailored to the way you work and built to foster your success. Learn more at fuigo.com. That's F-U-I-G-O.com. And now, on with the show.
Dennis Scully: My guest this week are Timur Yumusaklar, CEO of Schumacher and Company, and Dara Caponigro, the creative director for Schumacher. Timur, Dara thank you so much for joining me.
Timur: Thank you Dennis.
Dennis Scully: It's a pleasure to be here with you both. Timur, tell us a little bit about your background? You're originally a German engineer by training, is that right?
Timur: Yeah. I'm a German engineer. I grew up there and then I started working for a consulting company helping mostly actually industrial companies on turn arounds and transformations. And then I came to New York to get my MBA here in the City. And that's where I met Stephen Puschel, he's one of the family members who owns our company. And so we started chatting, and we kept in touch. I went back to Berlin, worked there for several years for a fast growing fashion E-commerce company at the time. And then after this company IPO in 2014, Stephen asked me to come back to New York and to help him, and his father now to bring this company into the 21st century, to digitally transform the company, and then to eventually become part of the innovational force in the industry.
Dennis Scully: And so is that really how it was put to you that they really wanted to bring this company into the 21st century?
Timur: Yeah, they were very well aware of the needs, and I think they were also adventurous enough to hire a German engineer. For me at the fashion E-commerce company, when I started there we were 500 employees, when I left we were close to 10,000 employees. It was a [inaudible 00:02:30] I think the founders there allowed me to learn entrepreneurship, and I was really eager, and I [inaudible 00:02:41] very much agree on that is like that Schumacher was such a gem in 2014. Dara joined just right closely before me, and it was such a great entrepreneurial challenge and opportunity. So that's why from my perspective [inaudible 00:02:58] of course do that.
Dennis Scully: Sure. And did you really know the home world very well being a German engineer who had worked at a fashion start-up? I mean was this a world you understood or not?
Timur: I grew up in a world ... I think from my mom, she always collected antiques. I grew up in a world where home is very important. I think there was a lot of attention to that. I worked in the fashion just right before coming here. But I think it's very dear to my heart ... living is so key, you spend so much time at home that I think it was a very important experience for me. So I thought to have a chance to work at this high level of style in this industry was just very exciting.
Dennis Scully: Okay. So it was very appealing to you from that perspective?
Dennis Scully: And so for you Dara, so now you grew up in a household where interior design was very central; your mother was an interior designer, you grew up in an Eichler home and so you had a great appreciation for architecture and design. But you weren't originally if I recall into the industry, right? That's not what you thought you were gonna pursue initially?
Dara: Right. Well my dad was a doctor, my mom was an interior designer as you said, and I always had both interests. I loved science, and I was really good at science and math, and I also really loved art and design and all those kinds of things. I toyed with going to medical school, I really loved animals, I thought about going to vet school, and I landed on going to vet school. And my dad, who was very smart said, "You know maybe you should work with animals for a year before you decide to really give a go."
Dara: So, I got a job at the Bronx Zoo right after college, that was my first job. And it was funny because I had been interning in college at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and my boss was completely appalled. She actually offered me a job, and I said, "No, I'm going to work at the Bronx Zoo."
Dennis Scully: And what was the application process like there?
Dara: It was not complicated.
Dennis Scully: It wasn't?
Dara: I got a job at the children zoo, which is the department that teaches; it's the education department. My job was to get in one of those little electric wagons, pile it with exotic animals, and then go down to a little theater and talk to people about conservation, preservation, things like that.
Dara: And so I learned to handle snakes, I learned to monitor lizards, owls ... trying to think what else. I still have it on my resume because people love the fact that I worked the Bronx Zoo.
Dennis Scully: Absolutely, that's a door opener.
Dara: It is.
Dennis Scully: Yes, and you were a snake handler.
Dara: That's right. Well that's how I got my first job at House Beautiful, they said, "Well, if you can handle snakes, you can pack up boxes and learn how to use bubble wrap."
Dennis Scully: And at the time you were applying for the internship program or was a position there?
Dara: Well, it was an assistant position working for the decorating editors. And so that's how I got my job.
Dennis Scully: And so they loved your zoo experience, said come on in you can handle the mad house here?
Dara: That's right.
Dennis Scully: Okay. And how long were you there?
Dara: I was actually at House Beautiful for 14 years. I worked my way up from an assistant to an associate editor to an editor to a director. And then I left in 2000 to go to [inaudible 00:06:15]. I was there for four years and then Deborah Needleman brought me on to help launch Domino magazine, and I'm forever grateful for that.
Dennis Scully: And you were brought on sort of well before that was even really more than an idea, right?
Dara: Yeah. Well at that time we called it Lucky Home because it was kind of a spin off of Lucky, the fashion magazine that's no longer in circulation, and we were calling it Lucky Home for probably a year before it finally launched.
Dennis Scully: Right. And that was what Domino hoped to bring to the shelter?
Dara: Yeah. I mean it wasn't just about selling things, it was really about what would your best friend do, your friend who knew a lot about decorating would take you shopping and what could you learn from them if they were really good and knew about decorating, and you didn't. It was sort of like were the helping hand. It was a very positive spin on the decorating world, and every story that we produced we made sure it was appealing on a lot of levels. So, what could people learn from this, if they didn't like the style, what could they take away from it. We were always talking about take aways, that was a big part of it. I think that's why people loved it because so much thought went behind those stories.
Dennis Scully: So of course Domino became this runaway success in large part thanks to you and to Deborah Needleman, and Sara Ruffin Costello, and of course this incredible-
Dara: The whole team.
Dennis Scully: ... team of-
Dara: Yeah, it was all the right people at the right time, and the right place.
Dennis Scully: Yes. And in a way like we'll likely never see again, right? I mean it was a really-
Dara: It was a very unique moment.
Dennis Scully: ... an incredible group. And sadly, we didn't know it at the time, but the market was sort of already peaked and was already rolling over, and we were putting out this widely successful magazine, and we thought, what problems could there possibly be? And then the financial crisis came and Domino, one of many [inaudible 00:08:05] publications sort of went away during that period. And then where did you go shortly after that?
Dara: Then I took time off, which I really enjoyed, I have to say. And I got a call from Hearst and they said would you be interested in interviewing for the editor in chief position at Veranda. I went for the interview, and I went home, I spoke to my husband, I was like, "Well, that's a done deal." And then they called me back and said, "You know, we'd like to meet with you again." And I thought, "okay, well I'm gonna really put some effort behind this." And I created my own Veranda. So basically, I worked with an Art director and we put a lot of time into doing a prototype for the new Veranda. And I sent it over and they loved and lo and behold I became the new editor in chief of Veranda.
Dennis Scully: And the first editor in chief after the founder, right?
Dara: Yes, the first editor in chief after Lisa Newsom.
Dennis Scully: Right. So that was a very big role to step into?
Dara: It was. I mean Lisa had ... she was still an advisor on the magazine, and they were very clear that they wanted to keep the DNA of veranda but bring it into the next phase. I was challenged with making it a national brand. At that time, Veranda was really pegged as a southern brand. And so I was challenged with increasing the circulation, increasing advertising, all those things that editors in chief want to do. I had an incredible publisher, Jennifer Levene Bruno, who's now publisher of Town and Country. And in the middle of a recession, we grew the business by almost 10%. It was really an exciting time.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. And the transformation that you made at that magazine I think was something that everybody recognized and spoke of and sort of still point to; the changes that you made. And that was a magazine that was already much beloved, but as you say, it had a perception of having perhaps a limited southern based audience at the time, and you really significantly raised the bar and obviously the audience. And then what about three into that, you had decided enough?
Dara: It was about three and a half years.
Dennis Scully: Three and a half years?
Dennis Scully: Okay. And so you wanted to sort of move on and do [crosstalk 00:10:24] thing?
Dara: Yeah, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish. The brand was doing really well. I felt like we grew it without alienating the existing reader. We also grew the advertising ... Veranda always had a lot of jewelry advertisers and home advertisers but nothing in between, so we were able to get beauty and travel and all those kinds of segments. I don't know, I felt like it was time, the magazine world was changing, and I felt like it wasn't something that was growing, and I wanted to take a break. So, I didn't plan it, I resigned. One day I went downstairs and called my husband and said I just quit my job, and he was like, "What!"
Dennis Scully: You did what?
Dara: He was like, “Don't you think you should have talked to me about it beforehand?”
Dennis Scully: Exactly.
Dara: But I did it thinking that I would take some time off to get my life in order because when you have a job that has a lot of demands, it's hard to keep your personal life together. And then three weeks later, I got a call from Schumacher and they offered me this job. And I thought, well, this is an amazing brand, and very much like Veranda, it needed somebody to help it along, kind of taKe the best of it and bring it to the next level. And then Timur came along and I think he was just the icing on the cake. I mean, he really had a vision and we've been able to take the brand to great places.
Dennis Scully: So Timur came along and what was the vision that you had at the time, Timur?
Timur: Well to credit where credit is due, I think was very happy and very lucky to find that Dara was here because I think we have the very same spirit in terms of the same interests in transformations in terms of the curiosity even though I now miss that I never worked at a zoo I have to say, I'm a little jealous of that.
Dennis Scully: Yes, I'm with you.
Timur: I think our vision is and I think that ... you Dara like you said, like it's to be more of a style like ... to style authority or like to really care about how people live at home. And I think to shift the focus more on what we stand for and our values rather than being just okay, how do I sell the next 10 yards of velvet. And so I think that really core value to us, I think has unlocked a lot of positive energy and excitement. I think that's part of the reason why I think the bulletin came around, that's why I think our designer and I when we started our design team we were like two people, now we have like five designers and growing.
Timur: I think more actually going back what Schumacher always was about in the Roaring Twenties, I think the company was very involved in high fashion and high ... like designing homes and always on the forefront of making living experience fun. And I think that's why we'd say everything almost ... I don't want to say we work backwards, but I think we kind of looked a little bit more into who we really are and I think we found a lot of energy there.
Dennis Scully: And for listeners that might not be as familiar as we all are with Schumacher, tell me a little bit about ... I mean obviously it's a 129 year old brand. Tell us a little bit of the history of Schumacher and why it's always been such an extraordinary company?
Dara: Well, it was founded in 1889 by Frederic Schumacher, who was a Prussian who came over to the United States and opened his doors on Lower Fifth Avenue. And he was really responsible for bringing French decorative arts in terms of fabric; mostly fabrics back then to the United States. His clients were the Vanderbilt's, the Carnegie's, and the carried incredibly beautiful European textiles.
Dara: And then over time, he started designing his own textiles. At the beginning he was more of an importer but then he started designing his own textiles. He had a nephew who inherited the business, and his name was Paul [inaudible 00:14:36], who had been a fashion designer; he designed the line for us. And then that led to other design collaborations like Dorothy Draper, Frank Loyd Wright, Cecile [Beeten 00:14:46]; I mean the list is long.
Dara: We also did other things. We engineered fiber glass fabrics, we were the first ones to do ... I think it was rayon fabrics. We were always ahead of the time, both from a technical standpoint and also from a fashion standpoint.
Dara: One of the things that I loved about Schumacher and one of the reasons I came to Schumacher was that we are a household name, like you can't say that about many companies in our space. Everyone says, "Oh, I know Schumacher." Even if they're not in the decorating world, and I'm very proud to say that I work here.
Dennis Scully: That's so interesting. We found in many studies both at [inaudible 00:15:27] and elsewhere that Schumacher was always one of the top brands as far as consumer recognition, to your point. Any time we did focus groups, it was just a name that readers knew even if they didn't necessarily know the history or the story or even what the product offering was; they knew that brand. And I guess so to your point, what is the opportunity there for Schumacher? You've got 200,000 followers on Instagram for example, obviously much of that must be consumer-driven. What can you do with that, how do you take advantage of that following to grow the business?
Timur: I think like Schumacher is a brand, and I think ... actually everybody who works here is like the great combination of ... we're really interested in the very high-end home products, fabrics, wallpaper, trims et cetera on one hand. But on the other hand also like to make them accessible, relatable like [inaudible 00:16:31] fun to live with. So it's not necessary only made for your dining room; you only open up on Thanksgiving and Christmas or any other holidays.
Timur: I think in terms of taking advantage of ... I think the biggest advantage for us is to open a two channel communication with all of our followers, design enthusiasts. One to yes obviously share with them our perspective but also to get their feedback with them, and through that just engage in a community that where I think like I said, the center of it the living is so important. I think we do believe that interior decorators was like for the foreseeable future be our top client group. I think for a lot of people who use our product, I think interior decorators is the best way to go because it's actually not that easy to decorate a several bedroom house or a several bedroom apartment. And we don't want to do too many of this apartment rescue projects, as we call them.
Timur: But I do think this consumer engagement or home owner engagement is very important for us to get everybody excited around that idea that living doesn't have to be in several shades of gray, several shades of brown, but actually can be really nice, can be brave, and can be also confident. I think that's our biggest opportunity I would say.
Dennis Scully: So part of then your content creation effort is around helping consumers to understand a way to live with color and with pattern?
Dara: Yeah, but it's not just color and pattern. I was gonna interject. I think it's really about personal expression, so you can have gray and you can brown if that's what you love.
Dennis Scully: If that's who you are?
Dara: Yeah. And we have plenty of gray and brown in our portfolio. I think when Timur talks about gray and brown, he just means like dull. So it's just about being excited about design in general. And as he said, everybody on staff is really excited about design. We're here because we're a design house, it's not because we're just doing our job; we've chosen to be at Schumacher.
Dennis Scully: We're not really widgets, we're doing something that we're really passionate about, right?
Timur: So that's why I think for us the reach we have is more for us like actually the idea of a community, and I think it's like not so ... how did phrase it? Like to help to decorate. I think it's more like people to encourage people to really be aware how they live at home and to be really thoughtful and happy about their life at home, and to spend the necessary energy and time and effort to really build a very happy home.
Dara: Yeah. I mean anyone knows, you wallpaper a room, or you paint a wall, whatever it is, it does elevate your mood. So, we really champion that.
Timur: One description I like to make because my past career was partially in fashion, I something feel like fashion, you can change your wardrobe on a day to day basis; it's a little bit like your daily billboard of your emotion of who want to be. I think that in comparison to that, sometimes I do like to scrap your home like a little bit [inaudible 00:20:08] your soul. It builds over time, it's actually probably possible but actually not that easy to change all of your home in one night if you wanted to. I think there are so much ... they're a lot of memories that go into your home that you associate with like your couch et cetera. I think that's what's driving us.
Dennis Scully: So that's sort of when you talked earlier about the values and the mindset of the company, that's how you approach it?
Dennis Scully: So Dara, you got here about a year before Timur if I remember correctly, a year and a half. You wanted to come in and as you said earlier sort of take the best of Schumacher, so what did that mean for you initially? Was that going back into the archives and sort of ...
Dara: My first concrete task was to introduce our 125th anniversary collection. That meant going back into the archives and it's an incredible treasure trove, and figuring out what we wanted to bring back, not just what we could bring back but what we wanted to bring back.
Dara: I was very careful in terms of spanning the entire history of the company, so some things were from 1920, some things were from 1950. It was very funny because when I was at Veranda, one of our projects, one of our marketing projects was to go back into company's archives and bring something back that was a Veranda co-branded thing with the company. I had gone into the Schumacher archives and at that time, I had seen a pattern that Josef Frank had designed for us, it's called Citrus garden that I fell in love with. I just couldn't believe that Josef Frank designed for Schumacher in 1947, it was mind boggling.
Dara: At that time when I was at Veranda, the Schumacher team didn't want me to bring that back, but it was the first thing that I went to when I came to Schumacher.
Dennis Scully: And explain for us a little bit just so that people understand, when you say going back into the archives, so tell me what the Schumacher archive is, where it lives, what actually physically is?
Dara: It's largest privately held archive in the United States. It's currently located in Delaware but we're gonna be moving it up to New York in a few months so that it's more accessible. And it's filled with our history, thousands and thousands and thousands of fabrics and wall coverings and trims and it consists of things from Schumacher and then over the years we bought smaller companies, so it has their archives as well, and it is a treasure trove.
Dennis Scully: It sounds like a treasure trove.
Dara: It is.
Dennis Scully: So you go there and you literally sort of unpack boxes and you lay things out on tables and-
Dara: Yeah, we unpack boxes. I just want to be clear that Schumacher is just not about going into our archives, we also have this design studio that's amazing and it's filled with super talented textile and wall covering designers. So we try to keep up with we've been doing for the last 100 years, which is really to stay on top of ... we're not only staying on top of trends, but to be in advance on trends; really be on the [inaudible 00:23:21].
Dennis Scully: That's a great point. So Timur, to go back to something that you said earlier about you were being brought on to help bring Schumacher into the 21st century and to pull this company forward, what did that mean you needed to do? Were there technological changes you need to make to the company, were there ... I'm guessing there was quite a bit to do, to modernize an organization like this, so tell us?
Timur: Yeah. I think it was definitely a fun and-
Dennis Scully: In retrospect, it was fun.
Timur: I was about to say, and sometimes a rollercoaster, kind of like a [inaudible 00:24:00]. I think that's a fair description, right?
Dennis Scully: Sure.
Timur: The reason I think it was fun because all of the leadership team I started out with is still here. We all really have grown together like this really strong team and I think we all share the same vision. And it's not a vision I brought over from Europe, it's kind of like a vision I already found here. I think Dara was an important part of that and I think we just we all rallied around the same idea.
Timur: I think it definitely has something to do with focusing more on the direct to consumer, direct to interior decorator, how to reach E-Plus or news that are ... but also like the Instagram. I think Dara already had started before I joined was like very important for us, I think we were one of the first ones to do that in our market. I think that we relaunched our website. I think all of that is important just to account for what other companies are already been doing.
Dennis Scully: So initially you felt you needed to catch up to where the market perhaps already was, but then you sort of went beyond that, you created an app for the brand that was very popular.
Timur: Right. I do truly believe, I think it's very, very important that we don't do any shenanigans, if that's the right American word for that for doing [crosstalk 00:25:21].
Dennis Scully: Definitely don't want to do any shenanigans.
Timur: Right. I think it's more important to really understand what helps our client, the interior decorators to win with their clients. We thought for example the idea behind the app, it's actually quite focused on just ordering memos and searching our products, when interior decorators are pressed for time because we want them to win with their clients. I think we do well if they feel with our help they can build a successful business. I think that's what driving us, so I think that's led us to the app. I think what Dara just described that led us to the fact of having a balance between archival pieces but also like really modern pieces but also really more technical innovational. One of them for example as we launched earlier, stain resistant silk velvet. Silk velvet is very precious and a lot of people are really concerned about stains and it's technically very difficult to have it sort of [plush 00:26:22] if you treat it for stain resistance. So we teamed up with someone to do that.
Timur: Yeah, I think that's [inaudible 00:26:31] all these little things. I think we try and found how almost every [stone 00:26:35]. Probably the key of all of that is ... one, I already talked about the values, I don't have to go back there but I think the other part is I think that we're all really forward leaning. It's very important for us to be thinking about what's coming, how can we improve our services, how we can ... I think to also create that internal culture, forward leaning culture is super, super exciting, but it's also one of the key things to succeed in a fast moving world.
Dennis Scully: That's actually a great segue, forward leaning and thinking about the future, to talk about where is this industry going. So much has changed in recent years, for example the app is a great way for designers to order samples or to check inventory levels, which is a tool that they didn't use to have and now designers want that everywhere they go; they want to be able to check inventory levels, they don't want to place a fabric order and then found out you're actually out of stock or what have you.
Dennis Scully: There's more conversation going on today about the digital part of our business. I notice that Schumacher is on Perigold for example, the sort of [inaudible 00:27:52] luxury brand. Is that something that's gotten meaningful traction for you? It's probably early days, but has that been something that's been a relative success?
Timur: Yeah, I think it's somewhat successful. I don't think it's our core focus. You have to remember that we do not design and do not produce finished goods for the most part, we don't. We do wallpaper, which someone has to put up on a wall, we do fabrics, someone has to upholster it, we do trims. We do really feel like interior decorators and people who know what to do with our product are the core of our customers.
Timur: I'm also not 100% ... I do think Perigold and [inaudible 00:28:37] and all of these other places, I think they are important and I think the internet is not going on. I do think that there are several homeowners who have the expectation of a brand like us that they can buy our product at higher price than an interior decorator can get it significantly higher price, but they can get it themselves if they want-
Dennis Scully: But they want it to be accessible; the consumer wants that brand to be accessible?
Timur: Correct. Even though I do come from a tech start-up before, I'm not 100% sure if this industry is going to go all tech. I think actually less than the fashion world will. At least for us what we do [inaudible 00:29:22]. The reasons are that it's easier sometimes to buy a belt if it's an expensive belt or it's even an expensive handbag online and to send back than to buy 10 yards of Venetian silk velvet and to send it back. I think you want see, Venetian silk velvet, you want to feel it first, you want to get the color first. It's really still like a tangible business.
Timur: I really think that ... I think everybody probably can testify to that, if you have a house or a big apartment, decorating is really challenging and I think it's good if you have an expert. So because if you buy like a sofa somehow, the dimensions look differently than they look in your apartment. And also like a lot of people who then are lucky enough to have several homes, I think their life pressures don't go work; it's also a lot of work to decorate. I'm not sure that decorating and this very important trade is gonna go anywhere.
Dara: I think anyone who's decorated their own home, knows how easy it is to make mistakes, how expensive it is to make mistakes. I make mistakes. I've been in this business for over 30 years-
Timur: And you're really good at it.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, you're really good at it.
Dara: Thank you. But I think that's why designers often go ... people will say, "Oh, their work always looks the same." They've learned what works. And so they've learned what works and it helps them avoid mistakes. I mean it's not an easy business.
Dennis Scully: It's a very complex industry. And to your point Timur, one of the challenges, particularly for fabric and wallpaper companies, is the fact that you don't make finished goods, so you're not making a chair or a table that you can just throw in a box and ship out easily. So the question is for the United States, what is the model that we can look to bring the industry forward a little bit? The European model, there are street level locations for a fabric house like yours and people come in and either they have an upholster or they have a decorator there who is gonna help them to some extent. Is that more of a model that the States can move towards or do we continue to have these big design centers that are experiencing less traffic than they were a few years ago?
Timur: Well, who knows, right? I don't know.
Dennis Scully: No, exactly.
Timur: As far as my engineering part of my mind tells me, is that-
Dennis Scully: Tell me about that.
Timur: Anybody in this industry, also our competitors as well have a hard time to open up roadside locations. I think you have to keep in mind that if you open up like a showroom or like a roadside showroom in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin maybe; the Germans are not ... are into decorating but not to the same extent. You already cover a lot of ground, whereas in the United States, the country is significantly bigger, the travel times between locations are much bigger, you would have to cover significantly more doors in order to get to the same amount of people.
Timur: Real estate is not that cheap in the United States in terms of door fronts, I'm not sure if the math checks out that we all are gonna like roadside. I think that's how design centers came about in the first place. I guess the design centers will stay, I think we are rather extending our presence in design centers in terms of presence, we just opened last year in San Francisco and I think we're looking into others to open. I think that your footprint in the design center might go smaller, and I think some of the design centers are getting even more engaged and even more integrated into the community.
Timur: I think some design centers like I think Boston for example is wondering if they're gonna open their doors to homeowners. My decision, let's see what happens if they do it or not, but I think that could be interesting what happens there. I don't know. That's how I think like more what's gonna happen is that design centers will change a little bit their format. I think here [inaudible 00:33:45] for example, I think is already experimenting with all kinds of different ways of engaging with end consumers, they're opening on Saturdays, so I think there's some movement on that. But I think that's ... I guess is more the way it's gonna go rather than ... as much as I would like, I don't think we're gonna go back to Fifth Avenue and open our shop there.
Dennis Scully: Okay. So you don't think that it's really gonna be street level stores, so as far as you're concerned, it's design centers for the foreseeable future. I think back when we were at Domino, Dara, I think we sort of ... and I'll speak for myself, sort of smugly thought that design centers surely they were not gonna last much longer when we saw the response that people had to Domino and sort of wanting to do more things themselves and with sort of Domino's help and guidance they could be empowered to do more things themselves. But it is a very complex process even for the best in the business.
Dara: Yeah. I think when working with a decorator, people are more vocal, they're more knowledgeable, so that relationship has changed. It used to be that the decorator knew everything, and now people are more informed and they are bringing more to the table. So it's a combination I think of the different sides bringing different things to the table and listening to each other, and so there are more avenues to explore.
Timur: If I may. The one challenge I see for example like companies like ours like for example in the D&D building in New york, I can only guess, but I guess they're like several thousands, ten thousands of different fabrics, wallpapers, furniture pieces, right? So how you make that accessible in a nice way, and how can online help make that accessible? Hence that's why we did it and it's why we spent a lot of time thinking about how to make our website more searchable.
Timur: I guess for the interior decorators, I think they have a very important role, I think they have a lot of value in that. I think some of them will have to also market a little bit more the project management part of that. And I think what's also very important that they get like ... particularly for fabrics, wallpapers, like to get the product at a discount from a homeowner's perspective; you're almost getting the service somewhat for free because if you would buy the product yourself, you'd have to pay the full price.
Timur: I think that's a little bit more how the decorators find the best way to compete against some of the online design or so called design.
Dennis Scully: So you think designers will need to stress the project management part of what they do more to add value for the consumer?
Timur: And their price advantage. I think it's three things, I think it's definitely the design value I would say absolutely. And I think just remind people if they buy the sofa in a big store, it looks differently in their home. Second thing is, I think their project management skills because I think in an average house you have 2,000, 3,000 items that go in there, and they all should match. And third, I think it's the price discount they're offering to their homeowners.
Dennis Scully: Right. We gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsor, but we'll be right back.
Dennis Scully: To stand out in this crowded industry, you need more than a love of design, you need strategy, sales, marketing, and other things they don't teach you in design school. This episode is brought to you by Fuigo, whose mission is to empower the design trade. Fuigo believes that business and art can and must co-exist, and they've built a platform to make that happen. Learn more at fuigo.com. And now back to the show.
Dennis Scully: You raised an interesting point about the fact that there is so much product in the D&D building just for example or any design center. There is an awful lot of fabric out there already and yet at some point ... and you can tell me when you made this decision, you decided to start introducing new product monthly at Schumacher, right? Tell me a little bit about what the thinking was there and what that was about and what you wanted to generate from doing that?
Timur: I think the amount of product we put out per year in comparison to the overall D&D building is still [inaudible 00:38:16] it's not thousands or whatever. I think the idea was two-fold. On one hand, I think it helps us to inspire and to engage clients on a monthly basis. There's always something you can talk about, it's fun for decorators to come in and just explore the newest things. I think it's really cool and you don't have to wait six months for the next big collection and then you get several hundred [skews 00:38:49] all at once and you're overwhelmed and then you have to [inaudible 00:38:52].
Timur: The same thing is I think it allowed us and I think it really liberated our internal introduction process, where we could say, huh, we entered in this topic, I mean [crosstalk 00:39:03].
Dara: Yeah, it made it so much more nimble.
Dennis Scully: So you felt you could be sort of more timely and more nimble and agile?
Dara: Yeah, more timely; we didn't have to wait a year to introduce whatever we were excited about. And it also allowed us to not invest. If we were excited about one small idea, you could introduce a small collection and not feel like, oh my god, we don't want to do this because we don't want to invest that much into this idea, but you could still explore it and have fun with it without such a big undertaking and a big investment.
Dennis Scully: So it freed you up a little bit internally and allowed you to be a little bit more creative and-
Dara: Definitely, so much more fun.
Dennis Scully: Okay, so much more fun. So that was really the thinking behind it and you recognized there was a lot of products out there already, but this was your way of creating newness and freshness on a regular basis.
Timur: Yeah. Two examples, I think you know of ... in the first year, Dara and I worked together, the team found this amazing gray cashmere on one side and had a silver on top of it on the other side; gorgeous, very expensive, didn't fit into any collection at the time. But we said, that is so amazing, we kind of love this thing so much and we were like ... the designers started running around like a [inaudible 00:40:21] and whatever like I think it was [crosstalk 00:40:22]-
Dennis Scully: All right, people were running around in the office.
Timur: We had the opportunity to launch it without waiting another year or two to find like, you know. Yeah, but there were like three or four parent at the same time, and we didn't want to wait for a whole collection because we were so excited about these pieces.
Dennis Scully: But at the same time you still take the time to partner with some designers on collections like Miles Redd or other designers, so that's still something that's important to you?
Dara: Yeah. We've decided to pretty much stick with our stable of designers that we have and also partner with some exciting brands, like we partnered with Vogue, we partnered with these incredible artists/interior designers recently Adam [inaudible 00:41:05] and David [Kihii 00:41:07], who are both fine artists as well as interior designers. They've created some very out there interesting fun things. So, we are doing collaborations, but when I arrived at Schumacher, I felt like all we were doing were collaborations and people had forgotten who Schumacher was, and I was like, maybe this brand from 1889 that has an incredible history and a lot of validity, and I love our designer collections, we all did, but we can't just be known for designer collections because I would go out and people would say, "What's your next designer collection?" And we had lost way of who were as a brand.
Dara: And so that was something that we decided to take ... not step away from completely because as I said, designers are very important to me, but I felt like we needed to pay attention also to the Schumacher brand.
Dennis Scully: To the Schumacher brand and what that meant separate and apart from-
Timur: Yeah, our own voice.
Dara: Designers have always had a part in Schumacher, but they've been a part, they haven't been just a brand. And so we needed to create more of a balance.
Dennis Scully: Right. I did want to ask you, you mentioned, Timur, the bulletin earlier, and so Dara explain to people what the bulletin is and how that first came to light?
Timur: It's the best.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, it's pretty impressive.
Dara: Well, it's how I keep my toe in the publishing business.
Dennis Scully: Once a magazine editor, always a magazine editor.
Dara: I guess so. It's our in-house magazine, and we're in the throes of producing volume seven. It's a magazine in its own right, you can subscribe to it. It has paid advertising. It is a lifestyle magazine, mostly home. It has a lot of Schumacher products in it, but not just Schumacher product. I mean it's really meant to support the design business as a whole and to make people feel excited about design. And I think each issue is getting better and better and I'm super excited about the one coming up. It keeps getting bigger, it keeps getting better. We're thinking about changing the title, so we'll see.
Dennis Scully: Okay. Now, was this an idea that you brought to Timur or was this something that I mean ... tell me how this come to be?
Dara: I don't remember.
Timur: Well I think you said you were just gonna do it like with Miles Redd. I think it was like the first collection, and I think it was your first designer collaboration and you had brought on Miles as a new partner of ours, and you wanted to give him like a good introduction, and I think that's how the first bulletin was created. There was actually no plans for a second one necessarily. The first one was actually purely dedicated to Miles Redd almost purely. So yeah. But we saw it and we loved it.
Dara: And people loved it.
Dennis Scully: And people loved it? It got an incredible feedback and people were fighting over copies and I can't remember how many there were initially that were produced but-
Timur: Yeah, we have to increase every time since because for that what you've just said. Just one thing I loved so much about it like in the last one we had this designer challenges where we gave a very talented interior decorators the challenge to work with one of our collections and to do something exciting with it. And it's so exciting to see what they come up with. And it's like first also this great way to engage with them and see what they do with it.
Dennis Scully: So there are a lot of wonderful things that come out of the process, and it seemed to me so interesting Dara, that you a long time and widely regarded editor, created her own magazine in-house at Schumacher at a time it's a very shifting landscape for shelter publications but obviously the print industry in general. I would love to hear sort of your thoughts about where the whole shelter world is going and what you think. I mean ...oh, okay.
Dara: Well, what do I think? I think we're very lucky at Schumacher because we produce the bulletin with the staff that we already have, you know what I mean? So that helps with our cost immediately.
Dennis Scully: Right. So you didn't have to staff up to produce the bulletin?
Dara: No, we didn't. And so we have a lot of late nights when we are producing the bulletin, but it is produced in house, and that helps a lot. I think I know it's a challenging time for magazines. If I were to give anyone any advice, it would be to up the ante and make them more special instead of less special. I think that's the most important thing. I think people are willing to pay for value and things that stand for something and that have something, and that's the most important thing.
Dennis Scully: Okay. So what could magazines do to make themselves more special do you think? What would raise the bar for some of them? So the bulletin, let's just take that as an example, what were the elements that you brought to the bulletin that made it so special to people?
Dara: I think we take a lot of time with our content, everything is really thought out. I like to think of the bulletin as being somewhere between Domino and Veranda, and so there's an intelligence behind it, there's a lot of thought that goes into it. I mean we're lucky because we're only producing it at the moment two times a year. I don't know, I think there are a lot of smart people at a lot of magazines but they've been challenged because their staffs have been depleted, and so they can't necessarily take the time that they'd like to take to create them.
Timur: If I may add one thing to it. I think just to speak about ourselves, I think that's also part of the success of the bulletin is to make no compromise on the quality because I think like if you ... we are a leading design house, and I think like that's same for wallpaper, fabric, or anything. But I think it's important you don't compromise on quality. I think that maybe going back to one of your very earlier question to think of it. Now, I think that was a change because I think what's very clear for me that if you want to sell very premium luxury product and really great way of living, yeah, you have to invest the right money. I think you can't expect like two designers to come up with amazing product every month. I think the same with magazines, I think you just you know ... and I think that's kind of what's driving us and we just don't make any compromises on that.
Dennis Scully: And that's a decision that you've made about where you want to stay as a company, right? That you're a high-end luxury company, that you're not trying to be all things to all people. You've got your position where it is and it's very high in the marketplace and that's where you're going to stay and you're working to keep everything at that level. Would you say that?
Dennis Scully: It seems like the two of you have a very collaborative way of working together despite very different background, which I think is great that you found a way to sort of work together so well. I wonder if each of you could tell me something that you've learned from the other that you've brought into your work and even just how you think about things?
Dara: I've learned a lot about KPIs.
Dennis Scully: Explain for our listeners KPIs, I'm so sorry. Yes, oh, he got that darn MBA and ... yes.
Dara: I think you should explain to the listeners [crosstalk 00:48:55].
Dennis Scully: Yes Timur, explain to our listeners about KPIs because I know they're an important metric and ... yes.
Timur: Yeah, I think they are. Key Performance Indicators, as they're called.
Dennis Scully: Key Performance Indicators.
Timur: Yeah, it's very important. Now I feel really bad about MBA and whatever.
Dennis Scully: [crosstalk 00:49:12] and your oppressed workers who are-
Timur: No. I think it's more transparency about where we're heading and if what we do is actually successful. And yes I do possibly even ... yes, it might be my engineering background that ... not everything, but a good amount can be measured and made transparent, and I think that takes a lot of emotions out of a lot of discussions and I think it kind of like gives a lot of focus. So that's why I do it, it helps me to just kind of manage the company but I also think it provides a lot of transparency across all department.
Dara: Yeah, and there are great ways to measure what you're doing whether it's successful or not successful. I tend to be more instinctual, but I do think they are a good barometer.
Dennis Scully: It's important to have metrics at the end of the day. So, Dara has learned about KPIs from you, and what have you learned from working with Dara?
Timur: I would say real beauty. I think I never to think much about it, but like now you know and Dara knows that like now I'm [inaudible 00:50:21] like I saw this pattern and that pattern, and I like this room. And then when kind of like Dara explain to me her perspective on it, I really see this like next level of when things come together, and that beauty doesn't mean necessarily it has to be loud and screaming, but it's actually more on the thoughtfulness of it. I would say that.
Dennis Scully: There's a perception in marketplace that ... and obviously it's not just the two of you, but your teams and what you've done, but there's a perception that you have revitalized Schumacher in a way that is sort of the envy of some other companies who are perhaps in a similar position and trying to sort of figure out maybe how to sort of reinvent themselves or revitalize themselves. What do you think has really been the key to what you've been able to do, to sort of breathe this new life into Schumacher?
Dara: I think it's really about passion, love of the decorative worlds and love for Schumacher and love for beauty as you said. I love projects, I drive my husband crazy because I'm only happy when I'm accomplishing something, so all of that combined I think it's just this drive to make things better and make things more beautiful.
Timur: I agree with that. And I think that's a very long kind of belief of myself is I think if you put out a product you fully believe in, I think there are customers for it. I think for us it's not important what's important what's happening left and right, I think it's only important ... the only thing that's really for us is the judgment of our customers. It sounds a little bit cheezy almost, but I think that's all it is about. And that actually takes a lot of discipline, which I think we have created for ourselves to focus on the better of our customers and try to do that every day. I think that gives you so much energy but also so much positivity that drives you forward.
Dennis Scully: What's really been ... I mean, we talked a little bit earlier about you coming in and sort of having to make changes, but what was really the biggest challenge for you in all of this Timur, as you really had to perhaps change the culture a little bit but also change a lot of the processes of how things were being done?
Timur: I think orchestrating maybe, maybe working together. I think Schumacher always had, definitely even more so today, had a lot of talented and very passionate employees and team members. Before I came I think not everybody was just really working together as everybody could, and I do think that some of my key performance indicators helped to create some transparency to that. Maybe lastly, but I think Dara already had started that ... I was just jumping on a running train, was to give the company some more confidence. Maybe that last note on that is that I think a lot of companies these days could have a little bit more confidence in themselves, and I think confidence already carries quite far; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy to a certain extent. And more confident companies would help our industry to stand against some big furniture chains or some B2C or like homeworker engaging brands.
Dennis Scully: Yes. So you think if the industry was a little bit more confident in general, we could stand up to the restoration hardware's of the world, which I mean it is really an issue or a challenge?
Dara: Yeah, and get the message out that we're creating special things that other companies might not be creating. It's important. I've always loved our industry because I think it's made up of really cool, talented people who are a lot of fun and smart, and we just have to get that excitement out there, and it's contagious.
Timur: Dennis, I think you are part of a team, that's a good example. Editor At Large as it was used to call, now it's Business of Home.
Dennis Scully: Business of Home, right, yes. Thank you.
Timur: I think you saw an opportunity, you really pursued it, I think you started online, now you have a magazine, now you have podcast. I think you guys are ... you're excited, you kind of help the whole industry to come together. And there are like lot of other people in the industry who do that. And I think actually I think even more so lately, which I think is super exciting. But I think yeah, the more, the better of that, and I think the more we create that spirit, the less I'm worried about restoration hardware or anybody else.
Dennis Scully: And that's a great point. And you spoke about community earlier, and I think it really is all about community. Dara, I know that you recently wrote a book, The Authentics, and part of the idea behind it was sharing the stories of some of these very original thinking people who are highly creative and highly inspiring, and we've lost some of that in our industry today.
Dara: I know. There's too much looking at what other people are doing. These people really follow their hearts, they trust their instincts and it goes a long, long way.
Dennis Scully: Yeah. I think people have always looked to this industry for inspiration as well as for guidance of how to do all of these, but really to be inspired. And I think that if more companies as you were saying Timur sort of took the lead and showed confidence and created more inspiration around their brand and their product, more people would recognize how special the products that get created in this industry really are because that's I think is going to be the biggest obstacle for this industry to move forward is educating consumers about what is so special about whether it's Schumacher or fabrics and wallpapers and custom furniture and whatever else is really teaching people how to live well and how to appreciate fine and beautiful things.
Timur: For me it's about the more people ... as you said, Dennis, I think you're exactly right, the more people I think are interested in it, the more of their spend goes into our industry and everybody does better. I think it's much to focus on that rather than what is my next door neighbor doing and how can I compete. I do think like companies like I think the other companies like Philip Jeffries, Romo are doing super exciting things-
Dennis Scully: Absolutely.
Timur: I do believe that a healthy challenge and a healthy competition, yeah, I think that's exciting and that's gonna drive us forward.
Dennis Scully: Yeah, I completely agree. And as you think about the next few years for Schumacher, what do you think is ... what are you working on now that you're most excited about that you're gonna be doing in the future?
Timur: You're asking me all of these crystal ball questions-
Dennis Scully: I feel like in so many ways our industry is at a little bit of a tipping point, so for the fabric world just for example, there seems to have been a lot of consolidation, people are trying to get really big and I think part of why they're trying to get really big is they want to be a big enough player to have a say in perhaps where all of this is going and whether, as we talked about earlier, it's becoming more consumer facing or maybe changing the locations of where some of this product is available. But with a company like yours that has been through so many changes throughout our history, where do you see yourself?
Timur: That is a good questions, particularly for like a company that has been around for 130 years, probably like one of the oldest one [crosstalk 00:58:43].
Dennis Scully: Exactly.
Timur: Almost there, not 130. Luckily, I do think that the home industry is not as fast paced as other consumer electronics for example just because of like our product cycles are slower, so it's not all gonna happen by tomorrow, which is great.
Timur: I do think that ... yes, we talked about it earlier, I think there will be more and more product like just available through all kinds of channels. I think there has been startups who tried to enable printing and other things. I think that's definitely one. I think the second one is I think augmented reality will still take a couple of years but I think eventually that will be interesting to watch what happens with that.
Timur: Yes, I think you have to be interested in that and see what happens. I do think it has a very interesting innovation along like fibers and fabrics and finishes, which I think we kind of have to see and be engaged in. But on the other hand, I still think actually like ... and it's not so much of an innovation, I do think it's getting more and more important to produce and communicate the best product. I think it's actually rather going back saying, okay, I do design in house, I produce, I choose my suppliers very well, I don't make any compromises on my product. I think that's gonna be a key because in an ocean of product, in the end people want to have really reliable product and want to buy it from an engaging brand.
Dara: And special product.
Timur: Yeah, and special product. That's why I think sometimes we find it like Josef Frank in our archives and sometimes we design it now ourselves and sometimes a collaborator like Mary McDonald does it for us. I'm not one person who says, oh god, we're gonna break-up tomorrow and it's all gonna be a different world, I think yes you have to be open-minded, you have to be forward leaning, I think yes, more digitalization I think is definitely happening. But I do think in the core of hearts, I think we have to be excellent at selling, excellent at customer service, and invest in all of that more and more money, and passion. I think that's the ... because-
Dennis Scully: The passion?
Timur: Yeah, because I think like ... the good thing is about we're not like mobile phones who come and go and eventually they're going to be on our watches or something, people have been using fabrics, furniture for several thousand years, so I think we would be all very unlucky if we were the last generation to experience that. So our product is not necessarily in danger. I think it's more about going with the time, I think like high performance products that everybody currently is doing now, things like that. I think that's important, but I don't think it's ... we don't have someone, I hope not at least, someone like Apple who gonna come around and bring out the iPhone and all of a sudden Nokia sits there and thinks what do I do with all my cellphones now.
Dennis Scully: Yes. So there isn't a category killer from that perspective, and we think this industry goes on, it evolves in time. And the industry has changed for designers as we talked about earlier, their clients are becoming better informed about resources and ways of doing things, so designers are having to adapt. But they still as far as you're concerned, like to come to a design center and see product, and touch fabric, and they still request samples, perhaps more than you would like from a quantity standpoint.
Timur: That's fine. I think maybe they come back to designs, and they're not like every week, but every two weeks or every three weeks. I think it's also ... decorating, it's a profession. I think you do it every day for ... most of your listeners, probably for more than eight hours a day, so I think it's fun for them actually to come to design centers.
Dennis Scully: I agree, and I hope that the physical aspects of our business never goes away. I think digital tools can be just that, a great tool and they can help, and it's fun to look at things on your computer late at night, but it's equally if not more fun to actually go and see them in person and to be able to get samples and bring them to your client and show them color and pattern and ... or gray and brown if that's what they like.
Timur: Fair enough, I will never use that phrase again.
Dennis Scully: No, no. Dara, last question for you, what are you most proud of that you've done so far in your time here at Schumacher?
Dara: I think build my team here. I have an incredible team, so the design studio is fantastic, the marketing team is amazing, our visual merchandising team consist of one person and she's a dynamo. We created an energy here and it's throughout the whole company that it's just upbeat, it's supportive, it's filled with smart people who are creative and team players. It's a nice place to go to work every day.
Dennis Scully: It's a nice place to go to work. And the two of you have built good teams, you feel like?
Timur: Definitely, yeah.
Dennis Scully: Well, that is a great to stop. Timur, Dara thank you so much for joining me.
Dara: Thank you Dennis.
Dennis Scully: Such a pleasure, really appreciate it.
Dennis Scully: Thank you again for joining us, this show is Business of Home and I'm Dennis Scully. If you like what you hear, please feel free to subscribe, tell a friend about the show, and most of all leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you again to our sponsors and our producers. You can find us at businessofhome.com or on Facebook or Instagram. We'll see you next week.