Summer 2005, UE was pretty new to the industry so talks of any new decor competition would raise my eyebrows! I bumped into a well-known Indian photographer whose specialty besides taking wonderful photos is knowing “something about everyone.” Me and the photographer began talking and he mentioned that a “native Atlantan couple” is starting a decor business. Additionally, this husband and wife duo own furniture stores in malls and buy containers from China. m I didn’t think much of this trivial fact but kept it dormant in my head.
Now the fun starts…
Late Fall 2005: UE continues to make strides in the decor scene and like anything new, it takes time. I worked hard by building designs and creating custom pieces that I guarded because they are proprietary. We used to meet potential clients in my humble condo, normally when my 2 year old was napping.
It was a biting October late aftermoon. I scheduled a meeting with this couple who told me on the phone that they were arranging a wedding for their nephew. So the portly uncle arrived with his wife. They sat down and we began having a consult.
Gregarious he was with pointy eyeglasses, and they began asking me odd questions. First they did NOT have a venue, but the event was in Atlanta, so why did he ask me about travel costs to Chattanooga? I told him, I wouldn’t know until I learned more about his event – but he kept asking me for a guestimate.
The auntie – timid at first – began probing my albums, and asking me what kind of textiles I use, and specifically what KIND of fabric: tissue vs. Satin vs. crush?
When I replied with intentional incorrect answers, he rebutted, disclosing that he has an import/export business. Intrigued, I asked what was he imports. He told me that he imports several containers a year to support his furniture stores in Atlanta malls.
Ding! Ding! Ding!
Suddenly my dormant information resurfaced! Dirty competition!
I gathered the albums and kept them in front of me while they were chatting away – but I still wasnt sure if this couple were the same people the photographer told me about.
We ended the consult quickly and on friendly terms.
After they left, I Googled their info AND verified their information and address (from the info sheet he filled out when he came in). And guess what? The address to his new decor company was the SAME Address that he filled out just minutes before.
These clowns posed as potential clients to shop my portfolio and pricing – and they did it IN PERSON and on MY turf!
Annoyed, I called him 15 minutes later and asked him “Why did you come to see me, if you have your own decor company?”
Fumbling, the guilty uncle said, “The event was for my nephew, and my decor company does not have all the inventory.” Smart answer, so I rebutted: “Well, since you like to import so many containers, why don’t you import needed items for your nephew’s party. And if you are in this business, why would you hire another decorator and pay them full price when you could do it yourself? Furthermore, knowing that you have your own design company, why would you come another competitor’s place to check out their stuff?”
He fumbled again with some stupid response.
I ended the call by saying “Stay OUT of other people’s business like mine!”
Six years later I still see them in public and give them a very interesting smile! More flattering, is when I see them as guests to weddings that I was hired to decorate. I suppose karma caught up to them because their own friends didn’t hire them for their own events!
Competition keeps you honest: Knowing they are Atlanta natives, they thought they could waste my time while keeping their business anonymous? And visiting me in person in MY home. Very daring, if you ask me!
Food for thought: If you have a creative business, develop your own ideas and price it accordingly. And if you feel the need to shop your competition, don’t do it in person, unless you want to be written about in my BLOG!