We’re taking an industry and bringing customers a different experience.

Years ago, Lee Mayer, CEO and founder of Havenly.com, wanted to decorate her home on a modest budget. She needed help, but as she explains, “No interior would talk to me with my budget.” Mayer suddenly felt a personal need for an affordable and approachable design service, and after talking to friends and associates, she realized this was a need felt by many. The emergence of Houzz, Pinterest, and HGTV increased the pressure her peers felt to have a well put together home, though few of them could afford professional help. The legacy interior design model, with its high prices and hourly fees, was not accessible to a wide range of consumers looking to upgrade their spaces.

So Mayer gathered a team, started surveying potential customers, built Havenly.com, and launched the site in late March of 2014. Since its inception, Havenly has been focused on the customer experience. “The customer is at the core of what we do,” Mayer says, explaining she and her team spent the first six months after the site’s launch learning as much as they could about their customers. “We were really looking at what customers were doing,” Mayer says. “If you’re smart enough, every day your customer tells you something.”

All that listening and focus on the customer led to Havenly’s system for bringing superior design services to the rest of us. When a customer visits Havenly.com, they are invited to take a survey that determines their style. The customer is then matched with a couple of designers and is able to choose which designer they like best. The customer pays a small fee, uploads any photos, inspiration boards or pins that will help with design collaboration. The designer then creates a mood board, consults with the customer, and when both the designer and customer are satisfied, the designer fills an online shopping cart with furniture and accessories for the customer.

The whole process is a drastic departure from the legacy infrastructure that once dominated the interior design industry. Havenly has successfully lowered the design services price point by capitalizing on underutilized capacity, such as educated and talented designers who are eager to work. “We’re using this idea of remnant inventory,” Mayer says. Remnant inventory, coupled with technology, makes interior design available to not just the super rich, but nearly anyone with access to the internet. “We’re taking an industry and bringing customers a different experience,” Mayer says.

It’s an experience customers are responding to as more and more young, upwardly mobile consumers visit the site and sign on for Havenly’s services. More are sure to follow suite as the business continues to grow and disrupt the design industry. Mayer and her team just closed a $7.5 million round led by the Foundry Group, money they plan to use to hire more team members, enhance the site, and improve the design process. “We’d love for this to be something that really changes the way people shop for their home,” Mayer says. Citing Havenly’s ability to match consumers with the exact right product and the exact right time, Mayer says, “We want to be the first place to go when shopping for your home.”

Published 11/25/2015

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