HIGH POINT– WithIt, a women’s leadership development network for the home and furnishings industries, offered students and others a virtual tour of the home furnishings industry this week, complete with guidance from well-known designers and industry specialists.
Designer Libby Langdon kicked off the conference with hands-on advice for those considering entering the home furnishings industry by suggesting students determine their dream job and set goals for how to get there.
“Students should put their design videos on social media to showcase their personality,” she said. “Also, look for five things each week to contribute to your job search. Residential interior design is strong right now, so jobs are absolutely out there for the taking.”
Langdon suggested going to a local donut shop or women’s shelter and offering a free makeover to be able to add those items to a work portfolio. “If you put yourself out there, and take on the design world, it’s going to come back to you,” she added.
Furniture designer Aimee Kurzner with Currey & Co suggested students get hands-on with their first job as a great way to learn the industry.
“I spent time sanding tables at my first job and getting them ready for prep and finish. I also stayed in contact with people there who helped me later in my career,” Kurzner said. “Those first jobs taught me about the importance of problem-solving along with how to design an ottoman that would retail for $19.99.”
Kurzner said she stays on top of social media to learn about trends in the industry and listens to what people are showing and telling her. “I design products for the company while keeping the marketplace in mind,” she said. “People are savvy and are searching online, so they know what they want.”
Madeline Brown, marketing manager for Sherrill Furniture offered tips on how to market home furnishings complete with a virtual, high-energy showroom tour.
“When you are starting out, be a sponge and look for ideas, since you don’t know where you’ll get inspiration,” said Kathy Dotterer, director of design at Brentwood Textiles. “The most important thing is figuring out what the marketplace wants. But keep in mind that the industry is small, so it’s important not to burn bridges.”
She also recommends internships as being helpful for both the student and the employer.
Keeping up with online trends is also important to Anderson Gibbons, vice president of marketing at Revolution Performance Fabrics.
“Our company didn’t have a website until 2014,” Gibbons said. “But we’ve come so far since then. Earlier this year I wrote a 500-word online blog with information about polypropylene and it went viral. More than 150 people called us to learn more about the global polypropylene supply chain.”
The conference ended with virtual roundtable discussions about topics ranging from interior design sales, to retail store employment opportunities and how to break into the textile industry along with speed networking, which consisted of five-minute sessions where attendees got to know others in the industry.