Sandi Samole is an embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit. Forty years after establishing her residential and commercial design firm, S&B Interiors, Sandi is working on new ways to grow her business and is constantly keeping tabs on developments in the design industry. While her track record of success proves she knows how to adapt to a changing world, it also shows that Sandi has a resilient brand. As she navigates her business through disruptions, one thing that remains constant is her commitment to her clients’ needs above all else.
How Sandi Got Her Start as a Designer
Before founding her company in 1979, Sandi had been building a career in finance. When she and her family moved from Chicago to Miami, she had the opportunity to work on designing her own home and realized she had an untapped talent she wanted to explore. She started by taking design classes and continued on to become certified, gaining her Florida state license. Sandi began her new career as an interior designer, with the official capacity to work on space planning and the interior embellishments of design, in addition to decorating. With her business background and a degree in finance and accounting providing a solid foundation of knowledge, Sandi was ready to start her own firm.
As a new interior design business owner, Sandi saw the value of joining trade associations to network and learn more about the industry. It was at an ASID meeting where she first learned about Design Manager, an accounting and business management software for interior designers, and she decided to give it a try as one of the company’s earliest customers. At the time, she had two employees working for her and thought it would be helpful to have a single entry system for bookkeeping and project data. She credits the software with helping her to manage her business through times of growth and times of contraction, like during the housing bust of 2008-2010. In fact, Sandi is such a strong believer in Design Manager that she makes sure to spread the word to aspiring designers. “I recently gave a class at Miami Dade Community College, during which I discussed finance and how to run a business. I told them about Design Manager and why it’s a prime example of what you should utilize when you're running a business.” Having a single system to track her finances and project progressions is key to knowing where her business stands at any given moment.
Sandi’s Brand and Core Values
One thing that has remained a consistent theme in Sandi’s approach is her mentality of service. S&B Interiors designs all types of residential and commercial spaces, but Sandi welcomes the challenge of specialty projects, like designing kitchens that accommodate dietary restrictions or living spaces that meet the requirements of a special needs child. She views every project as a partnership, or a “short-term” marriage, as she calls it. When she meets a client for the first time, she focuses on getting to know them, their lifestyle, and pinpointing their specific needs. “I really need to get to know my client, and the way I do that is by talking to them,” says Sandi. “If I feel we're having a good conversation, I don't mind spending that extra hour during the interview process of getting to know them and letting them get to know me because I think that giving them my time, especially in the beginning, is so important.”
After identifying a client’s short-term and long-term goals, she helps them see the larger potential of their space. “If you think ahead when designing, then you don't have to make expensive changes later on,” says Sandi. “This way, you can start out as a 30-year-old in your home and know that it's going to accommodate you now and also at 75 or 80.”
While Sandi is an expert at unlocking long term-value in a space, she will also happily accept a small project, like a single bedspread, knowing it may lead to future business with the same client. She will also work with clients who may not need her full-service offering but would like her input on a consulting basis. Overall, she believes in keeping an open mind when she meets a potential client she gets along with, no matter their budget or project scope. She says, “Some established designers won’t start a project for less than their minimum fee of, let’s say, $10,000, no matter how small the request. Here I am in business for about 40 years, and I don’t work that way.” Sandi will take on a small project for a fee that reflects the work needed, knowing that the same client may return for more projects over time.
The Future of S&B Interiors
Sandi has big plans for the future of S&B Interiors and is currently focused on marketing and expanding her reach. As a savvy business owner, Sandi knows the importance of focusing her efforts where they can make the biggest impact and outsourcing tasks when possible. Right now, she wants to be out of the office selling and marketing, so she works with specialists to help produce final drawings and renderings for client presentations.
A big part of Sandi’s marketing initiative is rejuvenating her social media presence, particularly on Instagram. She’s even recruited her teenage grandchildren to keep her informed of the latest social media trends and innovations. She has also enlisted the help of an email marketing software to plan her client communications for the months ahead. Sandi knows she can become very busy at any given moment, so scheduling holiday greetings and other customized client communications ensures she won’t miss the opportunity when the time comes.
Sandi also prioritizes taking care of herself in order to keep her mind clear and energy levels high. “One of the things I do to de-stress is a little exercise,” says Sandi. “I think that's important, and while I'm past the point of jogging five miles, I can take long walks to unwind.” Spending time with family also helps Sandi keep stress levels down. Showing how devoted she is to her craft, Sandi also enjoys scrolling through design websites and surfing the internet to see what her competitors are doing as a way to relax. She says, “For me, I'm less stressed if I know what I'm facing.” With a track record of success like Sandi’s, it’s no surprise she enjoys staying prepared, ready to tackle any new and exciting challenges to come.