Kitchen designers are often unsung heroes in the design world. They work hard to create beautiful and functional kitchens that make our lives easier. Today, we are excited to interview Jan Neiges, an award-winning kitchen designer and current member of the Board of Directors at NKBA. In this interview, she discusses her work, what inspires her, and how she became successful in the industry. She also offers some great advice for aspiring kitchen designers!
Hi Jan, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to chat! You have a rich experience under your belt. Can you tell us how did you start working in the industry?
It was an unexpected opportunity when someone asked me to manage their design center inside a hardware store. This occurred when I moved to a rural community in Colorado. Two weeks into the job a flier came through the fax promoting an NKBA Kitchen Master Class. I went and was hooked ever since.
What was the name of the class that had you hooked? Do you remember who the teacher was?
Les Petrie was the presenter and the class was called Master Class for Kitchen Design – held in Utah in the fall of 2000, then I went to KBIS in Orlando that April of 2001 and was blown away.
Do you offer private lectures?
Yes – I provide business consulting for designers and businesses in the kitchen bath business in helping them understand the value of creating a selling process and help them develop their own unique processes.
I do business consulting, so it is one on one. I learn what their obstacles are, business goals, and help them establish a selling process that can increase their closing ratio, spend less time cultivating a prospect into a client, and get paid for design work BEFORE they put pencil to paper. Selling to design by NOT designing to Sell.
What is your best advice for someone just starting out as a designer? What is the best way to find your first customers as an interior designer?
My best advice for someone just starting out as a designer is to remember that your clients pay you because of your resources and knowledge. Go out and visit every vendor/service provider in your area from stainless steel fabricator, to glassmaker, to painter, to stone fab shops to lighting, to window treatment. Learn about those places, their services, and how they do business. Ask to shadow them in their shop.
Best way to find your first customers – get your friends and family to do pro bono work to establish pictures to promote on your site. The best way to start is to work with a firm within the sector you want to work in. Learn from them. Learn what they do well and what they don’t do well so that you can know what you should include in your process.
Do you think the interior design market is too saturated?
Yes – because too many people call themselves a designer. They need to change the title that correlates to their niche market.
You also advise designers on their marketing and selling skills. What is a marketing trick every designer should know?
Ask for references all the time, send out a thank you note with extra business cards when the project is done!
What is the best way to shorten the lead-to-sale cycle, improve the closing ratio and earn design fees before the design?
Establish a selling process that you NEVER stop doing. The process will help you take control of the project and your client. For every client you have, your design/selling process is always the same. Never get lazy, once you start cutting corners in your process your closing ratio suffers, you lose control of the client, you work harder, mistakes happen
KBIS is really popular, but was Virtual KBIS successful?
KBIS Virtual 2021 was not successful, but KBIS Virtual 2022 saw more success!
What is next? (For you, community, and industry)?
Getting more involved in getting the word out to the younger generation to enter the trades. Right now plumbers and electricians make more money than doctors. I also want to get involved in a local Womens’ Chamber of Commerce.
Thank you for following along on this interview series and thank YOU, Jan! We’ve learned a lot. The next one will be all about…you guessed it: more aspects in the industry! Until next time!