We had an interesting chat with Ms. “Julie Farris”, Founder + Editor of the Brooklyn – United States based startup Landstylist”
Below is the interview we conducted with her:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Landstylist is an online, highly curated one-stop shop for outdoor design. I am a landscape designer in Brooklyn, NY, and have noticed that there is no great, easy to follow resource for people to be able to pull their gardens/landscape design together on their own. People either need to go to Lowe’s and Home Depot, or hire an expert like me, which is expensive. This is for everyone in between who is interested in good, easy, and sustainable modern outdoor design.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
I started this website about 1 year ago. It is still in a nascent phase, with enormous potential to grown into a brand that is a go-to for a growing demographic of young people interested in organic farming and gardening, sustainable practices, and chic design. Over time it will seek to incorporate interviews with designers, gardeners, furniture makers, and others pioneering in the field, and video of how-to content that is thoughtful, fast-paced, and appealing to a younger crowd.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
This business model is really about becoming a trusted brand in the space of outdoor design. It is currently an affiliate model, with links to items online–but over time could incorporate advertising. Ultimately, “Landstylist” should be a brand that tells people what they need to know about designing their own outdoor space thoughtfully– with it’s own “look”, line of products, and an online subscription.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
I only have one contributor at the moment. His name is Mark Thomann. He is also a landscape designer, practicing in Manhattan. We met while working at a firm in New York City. He contributes content ideas occasionally, but works full time in a firm.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
This landscape wide open. Nothing like this currently exists. Martha Stewart filled this space for a very long time, but she is no longer relevant to a younger demographic interested in different sustainable practices, cutting edge design, new technologies…. I have been told that my look and point of view are important to building this brand, and so I am using my voice, and opinion about what I see as being important to any outdoor design.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
My milestones have been to get the site up and running which I have, and to begin to create original content, which I have. The site has been published in Industry Magazine, as well as featured on the site Gardenista.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
My competitors in the field are Gardenista (blog) Houzz and HGTV. However, none of them do what Landstylist does, which is to clearly get to the essence of what you need to know (insider’s edge) on outdoor design presented in a clear, easy, conversational format. Gardenista is disorganized, Houzz is too general, unaesthetic and unfocused, and HGTV is dated and suburban.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
The main obstacle I face is visibility. I have worked to begin using social media to overcome this–not only for “looks” and aesthetics, but also content related to news in the field, which also incorporates environmental issues, technology, new projects etc…
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
I think people get frustrated with outdoor design, because there are so many things to think about. However, good landscape design is within reach–but it takes some thought. There is a lot of information out there but none of it is distilled into approachable, digestable content for people who are curious and motivated. People are also hungry to learn about sustainable pratices, and how they can implement them individually.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
I am going to succeed because this is an idea that I am passionate about, and I do not give up. I think that there is a need–a movement, if you will–in a direction towards increased understanding of our outdoor environment–fueled by the convergence of the environmental crisis and more healthful living–that makes the need for this type of brand even more critical.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
This could be a product “line” on an international basis–and could make recommendations and lines based on regio or “zone”, making planting and design for the environment all the more understandable and ledgible to a larger demographic, essentially democratizing this type of design, which has been until now relegated to a more wealthy demographic.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
I believe that landscape design is critical to psychological well-being. I have worked in the field for many years, doing urban landscape installations, work in Africa, and Nepal and have been inspired by the difference it can make in everyday life. There si so much interest in this field nowadays–but there is no where for people to go that is reliable, thoughtful, organized, and well-curated. Landstylist seeks to fill this void.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
I have learned that people LOVE this content and want more of it. So while working on this site I have conceptualized how other forms of media can help to grow the cite–an APP that allows you to collage elements and plants into the site, and the development of videos with a topic per week explored in greater depth–incorporating different strategies would help disseminate good information more quickly to a wider demographic.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
I want to launch a video channel in the Spring. So in 6 months my biggest hurdle will be the production of these videos on a weekly basis. I want to produce 10 of them to each be 3 minutes, on a variety of subjects in the field.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
The benefit for the user is: if you want to design your own garden you can visit the Landstylist website, which is a clean and easy interface, and has very understandable, modern, chic and easy recommendations, including information on materials, elements, new technologies and plants. It makes the entire process of designing your outdoor space suddenly do-able because it is all under one “roof”.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Mostly social media, word of mouth, and articles that have been published about it. I have also been published for projects I have built in the past, so some have heard of the site from my name as associated with the site.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
My target is ANYONE who has any outdoor space of their own that they would like to transform. So whether it is a window box, a small courtyard, a roof, a lawn, or terrace, this would be your quick and easy go-to resource for inspiration on how to do it yourself.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
So over time, new customers could come from:
1. social media
2. video channel on YouTube for Landstylist
3.guest appearances on shows about design
4. written articles for Huff post and other media outlets wanting good thougtful,tasteful advice on outdoor design.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
People to date have responded universally positively to the website, the concept, and the content. They say they can’t believe nothing like it exists!!
20. How are you going to scale?
1.First I would hire a business developer.
2.develop more content-(video, articles)
3.develop a marketing strategy
4.expand site technologically for feedback, chat rooms etc…for sharing information
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
More content, ability for share feedback (chat rooms). I also think there could be an app that allows you to drag elements into a photo of your space, so that you can collage your space in 3-d before purchasing the element.I have priced this app. It can be done!
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Yes, I do think that this concept has the ability to internationalize because the enthusiasm for beauty and health of the environment does not see boundaries. This is a global movement, and inspiration cannot only be given, but received by many different countries, and can help to shape the vision.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
I think this has the potential to be a known go-to trusted brand for young, chic, healthy urbanites and suburbanites. By targeting a younger demographic and incorporating environmental strategies, this becomes a brand that, like net-a-porter for fashion, or One Kings Lane, becomes the go-to for online inspiration for all things outdoor.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Yes, but it would have to be for sweat equity at the moment. Right now, what I need desperately is someone with business expertise in the startup space. They can reach me at email@example.com
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes. I am looking for both partnership opportunities and also VC opportunities. I am a collaborative person and like working in a team. I realize my strengths, and my weaknesses…someone who has experince in startup development would be a welcome partnership. They can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
I would say that it is important to think of what your passion is –truly. I worked in an artistic field for a long time but was not outside, and felt disconnected form my environment. Feeling grounded in what you are doing is I think the most important thing, because it is so hard to make any concept into a reality–you really need to LOVE it.