In celebration of Women’s Small Business Month, we sat down with the majority owner of Grand Kitchen + Bath, Julie Burch to learn how Grand Kitchen started, how the business has changed and the opportunities and challenges that exist for a female entrepreneur.
How did you and Richard get into the business in this industry?
When we first started Grand Kitchen + Bath I was still working a full-time job for a steady paycheck and working at the showroom as a side hustle. Designing is essentially a form of merchandising, and I had a retail merchandising background, so as the business really started to grow it just made sense that I use my background to integrate into a larger ownership role in the business. When we started GKB we just did cabinets; as the business grew so did the products and services we offered, adding on countertops, tile, lighting, fixtures, sinks, etc. We now offer over 500 products in our portfolio, which was easy to learn as we added them, but now it can be a little daunting for someone new to come into.
Most small businesses start with the owner deciding they don’t want to work for someone else and essentially go into business to give themselves a job. We did just that; we decided we didn’t want to be working for someone else through to retirement, so as the business grew, we also grew our staff, so it became about leading a business and hiring other people as part of the team. This way, I could really take charge of managing the client process while Richard maximized his talents in Design. We feel we had an advantage; we got into this business without being taught so we didn’t know any rules and that allowed us to experiment. Now, 3 showrooms later, here we are.
What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
Recruiting the right talent. Along the way, I’ve learned you can’t ask enough questions; you can’t dismiss your gut instinct. No matter how many questions you ask, no matter what a person’s qualifications or how recommended they come, the early red flags your gut picks up on usually lead to bigger things down the road you’ll wish you’d paid more attention to.
Have you had any mentors or coaches along the way?
We’ve had a couple coaching opportunities along the way, most notably getting involved in Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership. The formula is adaptable to every type of business. We’ve worked with local entities that helped get us into the coaching world, but we needed to go deeper and EntreLeadership is very good at educating and coaching for businesses whether they are transactional, or service based. The way they maximize technology and the network of other business owners gives you a great support system to share and learn from each other in addition to the resources from the Ramsey team. It’s a cohesive comradery of everyone helping everyone else.
Pros and cons of being a female business owner in 2019?
Compared to the rest of our industry, we are an interesting mix, because we have a bit of a hybrid with the interior design business and the construction side, where many just do one or the other. The construction part of the industry is of course still very male-dominated while it’s safe to say interior design has been a female-dominated industry for decades. Kim and I are really devoted to managing the people and client-side of the business along with the merchandising side. Realistically, this works better as most of the demographic we deal with is female and often they relate better to other females as a major decision-maker and homeowner.
Tips for women wanting to start their own business?
Think about it very carefully. I think we really learned a lot the hard way going by the seat of our pants. If you want to get into business for yourself, I can’t stress enough to really think about it and be realistic. You need a business plan from the beginning, a vision and a roadmap of how you are going to get there and what it’s going to take, financially, mentally, and physically. We sort of lucked out that we jumped in and it eventually all came together as we were self-taught. There are a lot of resources out there these days for small business owners and I can’t stress enough to really tap into those; many of the small businesses we’ve seen not make it in the past 15 years since we started GKB, not having a clear plan was probably one of their first downfalls.
I would also recommend utilizing your network and take advantage of programs out there designed to help promote women-owned businesses. I know funding can still be a barrier for women who want to launch their own business for example so there are a number of resources from agencies like the Small Business Administration, The National Women’s Business Council, National Association of Women Business Owners among many others that can help connect you with the resources that might help you take the next step.
What motivates or encourages you?
Wine! All kidding aside, a good motivator for me daily is to have happy homeowners; they put a great deal of trust into us to invite us into their homes, tear apart something, and then create something brand new that they will love. Just the other day, working with a client, I pulled some materials together that they never even dreamed of putting together and they were totally gaga over it! That’s what gets me out of bed each day, the ability to do that and knowing that many of the clients we’ve worked with have become close friends. Our projects can take a great deal of time, and there is no better compliment than when that project is complete, that we’ve created not only an amazing space for them, but we’ve also built amazing friendships along the way.