Diana Greenhalgh founded My Bespoke Room back in 2014 with her friend and former colleague Laura Simpson.
They started the business, after successful careers with brands including L’Oreal, Apple and Liz Earle, when they were both frustrated with the process of renovating and furnishing their homes. To shake up the interior design industry, they launched an easy-to-use online service, at the fraction of the cost of traditional services.
My Bespoke Room currently ranks the UK No.1 Interior Designer (out of 9500+ interior designers) and is the most reviewed professional on the Houzz UK platform. She pioneered flat-fee room packages and employs over 50 interior designers across the UK.
Diana is passionate about supporting designers in setting up and growing a meaningful business and career. She has now launched the UK’s first comprehensive design tool (Design Pal Pro) for any interior designer to set-up, grow and run their own business in a more productive way, get online, and earn more money. She champions flexible employment and giving designers the tools to be the best they possibly can be. To find out more visit: www.designpalpro.com
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m Diana Greenhalgh, and I co-founded the online interior design platform My Bespoke Room back in 2014.
I’d been working in operational marketing at L’Oréal for ten years when I was inspired to start a business with my long-time colleague and friend, Laura Simpson.
We’d both been overwhelmed and frustrated by our own experiences of home renovations and that’s when the penny dropped. We found there was a gap in the design market for something affordable, unpretentious and easy to use, and so My Bespoke Room was born!
We saw this as an opportunity to shake up the industry. Now in our eighth year, we have grown to a team of over 50 designer consultants across the UK and are the number one rated interior design service on Houzz.
We’re extremely passionate about supporting designers and we have also created a unique tech (SaaS) platform called Design Pal Pro. This provides independent interior designers with access to the tools and admin support they need to run their business flexibly and profitably – as well as providing a community for designers to share and support one another.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I’ve always been ambitious, but I never imagined that I’d start my own business. This only happened because I really believed in the idea, and I felt I had the right partner to make it a reality with, which is so important. It also helped that I went to business school, and it was a chance to put my degree to good use.
This isn’t something I would have done earlier in my career. Working in the corporate world before starting the company, gave me the confidence to give it a go. I learnt to be braver, bolder, and now take a more strategic approach to planning the future of the business.
Have you faced any challenges along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Only 12% of start-up funding goes to female-led firms. It has always been a challenge, but the pandemic has made investors even more risk averse. In March 2020, one of our funding rounds fell through at the 11th hour because of Covid-19, taking us all by surprise. Women still have to battle to raise capital and we certainly had to fight hard to get our voices heard.
Over time, we have come to see that being a female founded business is a strength and have attracted some incredibly supportive partners and investors as a result.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’m very proud of the way we have managed to scale over the past year to meet significant growth in demand. We’ve seen a 140% growth rate, as people have been spending so much more time at home and interest in interior design has skyrocketed. We’ve also been involved in some exciting projects including designing our first vegan home for TV presenter Jasmin Harman and the supermodel Jourdan Dunn.
When the pandemic hit, we already had the right infrastructure in place to support our team and they have definitely risen to the challenge. I believe it’s in times of crisis that you really have the opportunity to shine. We are very proud of the whole team for all their hard work and dedication in such an unsettling year for all.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Our bespoke tech platform, Design Pal Pro, has made it possible for us to connect more consumers with talented designers – helping us to complete over 1,000 projects over the past 12 months.
This technology has been such a huge driver of our success, so we wanted to share this tool with other industry professionals to help them succeed. This year, we opened the technology up as a subscription service to give more up-and-coming design entrepreneurs the tools they need to set up and grow meaningful businesses and careers. Our mission has always been to make interior design accessible to the masses – but we also believe it should be as easy as possible for professionals working in the industry to succeed.
Do you think lockdown has changed how we view/use our houses?
Not only are our homes becoming more important to us, but we are demanding more from them. We want more multi-functional spaces which are convenient for distinguishing between work and homelife.
What has been your best purchase during lockdown?
Keeping active is really important to me. It’s a way to stay healthy as well as relieve stress and improve sleep. During lockdown I converted the outhouse at the bottom of my garden into a home gym so that the whole family could have a space to workout easily. My best purchase was definitely my Peloton!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Never give up! We’re very fortunate to offer a service where demand is increasing, but there are still hard days, and that’s when we lean on our partners. Having a strong support network in place is critical to help you navigate the challenges and to be able to give you a boost from time to time.
We strongly believe in championing other fast-growing businesses, and we share our knowledge and tools as widely as possible. This has helped us to build an incredibly supportive community.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
With Design Pal Pro we have an opportunity to build a whole new community. We have created a space for people to communicate, design, source, manage and transact seamlessly. The more designers we get involved, the more we can facilitate sharing of key business fundamentals, such as how to price design services and market to the right clients.
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