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April 30, 2024 at 1:06:14 PM

Making Interior Design Accessible: The Orangetree Interiors Philosophy

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April 30, 2024 at 1:06:14 PM

Ignite Business Insider shares the stories of businesses that are making an impact in their local markets. We highlight their stories in order to inspire entrepreneurial growth and to let readers learn more about businesses across the world that are growing and scaling.

Featuring

Val Malnar

Interior Decorator

Orangetree Interiors Inc.

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and share your story. Can you share a little bit about you and your company?

Sure can! I have always wanted a comfortable and beautiful place to call home. I remember as a kid making forts in the forest and using tree stumps for seating and sweeping the ground floor with a branch that had fallen from a tree. I also remember rearranging my room often and occasionally surprising my parents with a new living room arrangement when they’d come home from being out somewhere together. I also remember being envious of friends who had beautiful homes where the furniture all matched and the art and décor enhanced their home’s beauty even more. Fast-forward 25 years and I created Orangetree Interiors out of a need to provide a convenient, more affordable way to get interior decorating services to regular people like me. I wanted to help busy families who wanted to have a beautiful home, but lacked the time to meet with - and didn’t value paying for, an elite-level designer. With these two things in mind, Orangetree Interiors was born. I created virtual decorating services and a process that clients could participate in any time of day, any day of the week, from anywhere they had access to a computer or smartphone. I did this so clients could communicate with me when it was CONVENIENT FOR THEM when the kids were in bed or when they got home from nightshift, etc . instead of having to be present for design meetings during a traditional Monday to Friday work week between 9am and 5 pm. By providing a process that worked any time day, I was able to provide them with a flexible design schedule. And by putting some of the onus on them (eg. they measure their space and order furnishings), I was able to void some of the traditional design fees to reduce the overall investment on the service. It felt like a win-win to me and it also allowed me to be more present with my young kiddoes who were 1 and 4 at the time, which was an absolute bonus for me.

A question so many people are interested in, is how you got started. Can you share a little bit about what you were doing before this, and what that moment was like for you when you decided to start this new journey?

When it was time to go to college, I got talked out of Interior Design because everyone said I’d have to move to Toronto to be successful and I didn’t want to move to Toronto. I ended up taking Pre-Health Science, Holistic Nutrition and Marketing, but I still yearned for design. Shortly after getting married and becoming pregnant, I decided to go back to school to take the Interior Decorating program at Conestoga College. I LOVED it! After graduating, I thought I’d get a job marketing for a new home builder or a design firm or something else similar, but I loved design so much that I started working for a window treatment company instead. Shortly thereafter, I began working for a kitchen and bath design company but it’s reserved, quiet culture wasn’t a good fit for my jovial, outspoken nature. So I decided that instead of getting another job, I would go into business for myself and that’s when I got started on creating my virtual interior design business, Orangetree Interiors.

Let's take a little bit of a detour, and rewind the clock a little bit. What did you want to be as a kid? And how did that influence the person you are today?

Hhhhhmmm, when I was a kid I loved making things pretty. I drew fashion designs, obsessed on getting my makeup and hair just right, I loved art and I even made a homemade Barbie house and my own Barbie clothes. I also loved making up dance routines and creating my own mixed tapes. I loved playing teacher and I fantasized about being a famous actress or singer one day.

It’s funny, now that you’re asking me this, I see how it’s all kinda related. Of course I’d choose interior decorating if I loved art and making things pretty . I’m not much of a dancer anymore, but I do love to dance and I’m always the one that brings the music wherever we go - which I guess are forms of art so still related to my chosen line of work. I have no desire to be famous anymore, but I do love to teach. I teach people through my interior decorating blog and I even created a DIY Interior Design course for people that don’t want to pay for design services. I also offer coaching to newbie designers and I’d love to put together a program for designers one day. Sigh. If there were only more hours in the day! And although I don’t have much of a singing voice, I do use my voice through my podcast called Lessons on Happiness where I share things I’ve learn that have taken me on a journey toward more happiness in my life. I love this question! I’m so glad you asked it. I love seeing the connection of my youth into my adulthood. Crazy!

Did you have a person, or brand, that was influencial in your early formation of business, or career?

I’d say that before I started my business, HGTV really inspired me. I used to watch Love It or List It, Fixer Upper and Masters of Flip religiously. Then once I started my business Shea McGee was a HUGE influence in design for me – she still is. And on the business side of things, I LOVED listening to the Real Talk Design podcast with Michelle Binette and I learned a ton from fellow virtual designer and creator of the amazing rendering program I use, Jenna Gaidusek.

Now, I have found that with successful people, there is always someone pivotal as either a mentor, parent, teacher, or someone that you look to for advise, that helped set you on this path. Could you share who that person was? And what impact that had on the person you are today?

Oh man, I wish I had the sense to get a mentor early on – that would have saved me SO MUCH time, money and energy. I didn’t really have a face-to-face mentor, but rather I was mentored through courses I took, books I read, podcasts I listened to, videos I watched, etc. I have so many mentors that don’t even know who I am, but I know them through consuming all of their valueable content. I think if I had to give you a name, I’d say Jenna again. Jenna because she started only about a year before I did and she showed me what’s possible. It was because I her success that I knew if I worked hard, I could achieve great things. I followed her religiously for about 2 years before I got too busy in my own business.

What was one take away that you learned from that person? And how did it translate into your business today?

I think I answered that, but to be clear; it was because of Jenna's success that I knew, that if I worked hard, I could achieve great things.

When we work with businesses, we focus a lot on their "Why?". What is your "Why"? What is the driver behind your company, and why you and your team wake up each day and give it your all?

My why is directly related to my core values of family & friends, freedom, fun and learning. Orangetree Interiors is SO fun for me. I seriously LOVE what I do! And being the boss of a convenience-based, virtual company means I can work from anywhere in the world , providing me with freedom of location and a flexible schedule that allows me to spend more time with family and friends. And lastly owning a business is FULL OF learning. I’m always learning whether it’s design related, business, mindset etc. It’s the perfect fit for me.

Let's dive deeper into your products and services. You already gave an overview, but how do your products or services help your customers? And what makes them different from your competitors?

Let’s start with how my services are different from competitors. I think one of the biggest differentiators is that I’m willing to work with almost any size project. I often get clients who were turned away from another company because their project was too small. I personally love small projects! I mean I like big ones too, but it’s nice to have a variety and be able to be the hero for someone who really just needs some hard and fast answers. My goal with all of my services is to be the biggest help I can be, to help my client get the most beautiful home they can, within the investment amount they are comfortable with. Period. :)

Let's unpack that even further. Let's pick one aspect of your business. What makes it so unique? And how does it change you or your customer's experience?

I think the DIY Interior Design course that I offer is really unique. This is more of a product than a service, well, it’s actually kinda both. I think it’s unique in that I share everything I know about interior decorating. I’m not hiding anything in hopes of upselling you later. I really just wanted to serve the people that couldn’t see value in or couldn’t afford hiring a decorator or designer. The course teaches how to design a beautiful room from start to finish using my step-by-step process AND the student gets a 30 minute Q&A with me after taking the course to help them with their home design. I think this really builds trust with the client. They learn everything through me and after going through the program they know they can trust that I truly want to help them.

Let's dive into your customer's journey a little bit. Can you share with us, how do your customers discover you and your brand? What are their next steps? And what is the experience you would like to see your customers go on, when working with you and your brand?

A lot of customers discover Orangetree Interiors on Pinterest or via a Google Search and then visit our Instagram page. If they like what they see, they typically call or email and we set up a time to discuss their project and how we can help them. If the service and process are aligned with the client’s goals then we set up their project and send them a Welcome package to start the process together. We try our best to make everything easy and enjoyable because that’s how we want the overall experience to be. We are friendly, approachable and want to help and we hope that comes across in everything we do. :)

Let's rave about your customers for a minute. Can you share a story about one of your clients or customers, that either touched your heart, or made an impact with you and your team?

OMGOSH I have so many amazing clients! Seriously, I am SO lucky. Some of my clients have become my friends and I’m truly grateful. One instance comes to mind right away. It’s with a client named Alicia. The second year into the pandemic was really hard on me. I was burnt out and depressed. Alicia contacted me needing more help with her home (we worked on several projects together in the past). I was honest with her about how I was feeling and told her I didn’t feel right taking on her project while I was feeling so depleted because I worried I wouldn’t deliver the caliber she had grown accustomed to. Alicia responded with such humanity and love for me – I will never forget it. She basically said that she wanted to work with me at whatever pace I could manage because she trusted me and knew I wouldn’t let her down. She probably doesn’t know this, but her belief in me was part of what helped me climb my way out of depression and for that I am forever grateful.

Everyone likes an inside scoop. What detail or secret about either you, or your company, is something most people might not know?

I’m TERRIFIED of dogs. It’s actually part of the reason I set my business up as virtual. Everyone one loves their dogs and is convinced I will love them too, bit my brother was viciously attacked by a dog when he was 4. I was 9. I clearly remember my grandma running into the house holding his head together with her clothes soaked head to toe in blood. It TRAUMATIZED me. It took me until age 29 to be in the same room as a dog. And now I can be around VERY well behaved dogs that don’t bark or jump with some level of comfort, but for the most part I avoid dogs whenever I can.

Final thoughts. What feeling or benefits would you like your customers or clients to take away when working with you and your team?

Working with an interior decorator is an investment. I want our clients to walk away feeling like they made a good investment, they love their home and they made a friend.

Last question. How can people find out more about you and your company?

The easiest way to get information about our company is on our website at www.orangetreeinteriors.com. That said, as I mentioned, many people like to check out our Instagram page before making contact, so if that’s the case, they can find us at @orangetree_interiors_

Well, it has been great being able to sit with you and learn more about you, your brand and your customer's journey. Thank you so much for sitting with us and sharing your story.

Omgosh, thank YOU! I really appreciate the opportunity to share what I do, who I love to help and why I love doing it. Thank you so much for spending your time with me and helping me fulfill my mission to help as many people as possible love where they live.

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