What defines a successful entrepreneur is someone who is able to stand up— over and over again— after a downturn.
Karin Ross is a perfectionist with an eye for detail. It’s served her well as an interior designer and owner/CEO of Karin Ross Designs. She’s been reinventing and reimagining homes in the metro for over 20 years. Ross knows the importance of taking a design all the way from the initial, creative stage all the way to installation. In fact, it’s her claim to fame. “There are a lot of interior designers who provide you with help in selecting items for the remodel, layout and so on, but when you take that information to the contractor, there can be problems,” says Ross. “In this company, we have an interior designer in the installation crew. It’s a huge benefit for potential clients. They’re assured the perfect layout and that whatever is promised will work in the field.”
It helps that Ross’ husband, Nick—who is a general contractor—is her right-hand man. The husband/wife team ensures an unstoppable one-two punch of creative vision and follow-through. “We’re always there so that any questions are answered or concerns are addressed,” says Ross. “Once it is installation time, it’s a no-stress process. It’s just time to go.”
What else sets Ross’ designs apart? Her telltale style, which she calls “European transitional.” “I like clear, clean lines that embrace Old-World elegance, but whisper today’s tendencies and trends in design,” says Ross. Born in Belgium, Ross studied design in both Italy and Belgium, where she honed her skills. Her flair for creating Euro-centric spaces are well-known throughout the Midwest. Dare we say, it’s her other claim to fame. “Even though I am familiar with other styles, I believe in this one,” says Ross. Obviously, her team is doing something right. Ross and her husband’s designs have been featured everywhere from HGTV to HBA to Dwell Magazine.
Her motto? She like a “fresher approach of open space, resolving clutter, resolving storage with fresh colors and new materials,” says Ross. “Oh, and maintenance-free.”
She knows what looks good and how to steer her clients in the right direction. Sometimes though, her clients come up with ideas and Ross will run with it. It’s the best of both worlds. “Trends are created by the requests of what people want. Trends are then guided by our knowledge,” says Karin Ross.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Interior design services are very dependent on the designers involved into the making. Karin Ross Designs emphasizes my talent in creating anything we get hired to do. I have a very specific vision and am known to create authentic European traditional or transitional designs. The stand out quality of this design + build remodeling company is that I the designer am in charge. When I am creating kitchen or bathrooms make-overs, I can rely on my husband Nick and his team for a flawless installation.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start the morning off with a strong cup of coffee; a must for a productive day. My day is a mix of visiting existing job sites, ordering and receiving products for existing jobs, and meeting with new clients and designing new bathrooms or kitchen. My days are usually are very long– as I need to be at job sites early in the morning and also meet with clients in the evenings. Some days my three children are able to help in the company’s showroom to refresh the look, change product displays or update flyers. As this is a strong family business, I support the “all for one’ approach and I use that time to teach my kids about interior design.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I believe that inspiration and ideas about your next remodeling project can truly come from anywhere. With all the years of training, I am used to seeing and finding things that I can transform from ordinary to extraordinary. But ultimately all ideas start with what the client wants. I am a good listener when it comes to understanding what a new client wants as the final result for their new kitchen or bathroom. I use my knowledge of products and their usability, a strongsense of color coordination, pattern use, and space planning when starting to gather ideas and plan for the new client and project. Spending a lot of time with your client is very important when bringing the right ideas for the project to life, as a good interior designer needs to be able to understand the client’s style even if the client themself has no idea what that may be.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I get very excited when my client wants a European inspired design. Being able to brush my origins and “sprinkle the magic” that comes from the heart is a joyful feeling, and the results for the client are spectacular. But besides European design, I also enjoy working with moderate to strong transitional spaces, where I bring the elegance and functionality together. I will only take on jobs that I can transform and provide the client with an improved kitchen or bathroom.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Making sure that the clients understand the process and love the products they select is the key to success for any remodling job— and I don’t mind taking the extra time to learn the client’s unique needs. From there I apply my design skills to work with what I know the client wants. My most productive habit is making sure that the client is involved as much as possible during design, product selection, and installation, so that they feel informed and included in the project.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I had the possibility to give advice to my past self, I would say to find a balance between work and family time. I am a true workaholic, but I also want to be present for all the activities my kids have. Borrowing time from sleep can only get you so far, so I converted Karin Ross Designs into a family business where the kids can be there with me. With my husband working as head of installation management, it is easier to keep the family feel that Karin Ross Designs’ clients really enjoy.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Something I know is true that other people have a hard time understanding is that working with your family brings the family together. Many people say they cannot work with their husbands, but doing so can help you feel more confident in what you do. Making the business family-oriented allows the family to grow together and have a common goal, which brings the members involved closer to one another.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur, I recommend that everyone should keep pushing forward, no matter how hard it may be. All businesses have ups and downs. What defines a successful entrepreneur is someone who is able to stand up— over and over again— after a downturn. No matter how hard it is, if you love being an entrepreneur you need to find the strength within you to walk through the storm.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
A strategy I have used to grow my business is to work on projects I am passionate about. When the client knows their designer and remodeler are invested in their project, they have a positive experience and want to tell their friends about their awesome new kitchen or bathroom. Word of mouth has always been the best way to grow a business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In interior design and remodeling, there is a lot of competition. Many contractors think they understand design better than interior designers, and with such beliefs they like to get into the designer’s work. The only way you can make sure your clients are one hundred percent taken care of is by providing full package service in house where you are in command. In the past, I have worked as a designer for other companies, where I offered my talent and passion when designing the project. However, the lack of control past the design brought changes to the design or project scope, as my bosses were in control to make those changes. Every designer knows how heartbreaking it may feel when the general contractor(s) make a change just because it is easier for them to install. So besides passion and talent, it is also important to have control over the outcome of the project.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If you have an eye for design, I highly recommend working on staging houses. It’s incredible how much more value a house is worth when it has been staged correctly.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
As a family business, we like our installers to feel like a part of the work family. With that belief, the best $100 I have spent was a bonus to our guys for a very well finished week, and outstanding work on the job site. A design + build remodeling company can fully succeed only if everyone involved pushes forward as a team.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Between design software, scheduling programs, and tax services, I can truly say I have used just about all the programs out there for our business. The truth is, there is no one program out there that solves every need or problem. Even big name company software is limited in capability and such overpriced programs are detrimental to productivity and speed. Nick is working on creating software that will hopefully resolve not only KRD’s needs, but also other interior designers or remodeling companies.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think that our community should read the Bible and understand it so that as a society we can truly learn and improve. When saying that, the reader has to be able to deeply connect with every paragraph they read.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success consists of going from failure to failure, without the loss of enthusiasm.” – Churchill
- My business, Karin Ross Designs, is a family-oriented business that goes the extra mile to achieve client satisfaction and create visually stunning home renovations.
- While I am known for my authentic European traditional and medium-to-high transitional design styles, I take the time to understand what each individual client wants and can create a unique look based on the client’s style
- I am a hard worker. I make sure that my clients are happy and involved with their project, and don’t mind even if that means putting in the extra hours.
- I have a big heart and treat my business team like a family. Everyone involved pitches in and when things go well everyone gets rewarded
- Inspiration is my message. Whether that means being inspired to push through even when times are rough, being inspired by your family, or being inspired by your newly remodeled kitchen or bathroom, it is important to think positively and keep moving forward.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.