“Designers don’t need another sourcing tool.” With these words, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief and agree. Every season seems to bring with it a new niche sourcing site, and let’s face it — Chairish is already the best site for finding pieces for every project (not to toot our own horn, but…). However, there are certainly plenty of other ways to improve designers’ businesses — and their bottom lines. Enter SideDoor, whose director of sales & marketing, Chad Smith, said the prescient words above.
SideDoor’s mission is simple: to offer designers a new revenue stream. Rather than dealing with dozens of separate confusing affiliate programs, SideDoor enables designers to share links to their favorite products in collections they curate. These are shareable with their clients on any number of platforms, from their own websites to Facebook and Instagram. Designers earn an average 30% commission, on products from over 150 brands, while SideDoor manages the delivery and customer service. And so far, it’s taking off: Over 4,000 designers in all 50 states are already using it.
We spoke with Chad Smith about the ins and outs of the business, particularly how it benefits working design professionals of all stripes. Read what he had to say, and check out SideDoor to learn more about it.
First and foremost, how would you explain SideDoor to someone who doesn’t know anything about it? Who’s it for, and what’s the company’s mission?
Simply put, SideDoor helps interior designers make more money.
Most interior designers struggle to monetize their business. As everything and everyone moves online, it’s getting harder and harder for designers to make money on products. First, there are billion-dollar online retailers with massive marketing budgets that target designers’ clients directly. Then, there are only so many hours in a day for designers to spend on specifying products and encouraging their clients to shop through their affiliate links. And, the affiliate links themselves only offer a fractional percentage of the sale. Our tool helps interior designers compete in the new digital economy by offering them a way to sell to their clients directly — and put more profit in their pocket.
From a designer’s point of view, why was it important to build something like this?
Designers are tired of sending their clients and followers to ecommerce platforms and getting chump change in return. Designers are also tired of meeting vendors’ minimums, or not being able to access certain lines because of their location and firm size. Designers are entrepreneurs and creatives and this industry can be overly complex, nuanced, and hard to navigate. These designers deserve something easy, transparent, and digital. That’s what we built.
Designers don’t need another sourcing tool. They and their clients already use Google and Chairish, which is particularly amazing for discovering unique pieces. We built a sales tool, not a sourcing tool, which allows designers to properly monetize their specified products, curation, and taste.
Interior designers specify $77 billion worth of product annually, but because our industry is so fragmented, independent designers have no way to leverage their selling power. By leveraging the value of SideDoor’s purchasing, we can hopefully shift some of that power back to the best group for driving the industry forward: professional, independent interior designers. With our founders’ 25-plus years of experience running businesses in the interior design, manufacturing, and home furnishings industries, we understand the considerable challenges faced by designers. Our tools and services help interior designers increase their margins and compete without being forced to give up their independence.
Designers don’t need another sourcing tool… We built a sales tool, which allows designers to properly monetize their specified products, curation, and taste.Chad Smith, SideDoor Director of Sales & Marketing
In terms of specifying product, how does it help?
Well for starters, instead of going to dozens of different sites, they can use our tool to see and search for products in one place. We get all of our product and pricing information directly from the brands and give designers an easy way to download all the information to use however they want. We clearly show the designer net price and the IMAP price, and ensure that the IMAP is the lowest price that end users will see once a collection is curated and shared. In other words, even if a client decides to shop the designer’s products directly, they shouldn’t be able to find the product cheaper online. We believe that, given the choice, end users want to buy from designers and tastemakers directly, even on social media, rather than buying from generic direct-to-consumer ecommerce sites.
People are shopping in so many different places these days, from different e-tailers to Instagram itself. How does SideDoor make the process easier for designers?
You’re right — everyone and everything has moved online. Our thesis is simple: the world’s best products are becoming more accessible to everyone, and there are plenty of options to choose from. No one knows how to curate products and create beautiful results better than interior designers. Given the option, we believe clients and social media followers will want to support an independent designer who can make choices easier by curating items that are tailored just for them.
Tell us a bit about the kind of revenue designers can make through SideDoor. How does that work?
Let’s keep the math simple. Right now, designers curating product with affiliate links make an average commission of 3%. It takes 90 days to receive a commission from most of the programs, and qualifying can be tedious. Not to mention, even when you get a sale, it takes place on someone else’s branded platform. In other words, you just gave your customer away.
With SideDoor, you can either buy these products at the Designer Net price and resell them however you want, or you can share your curated collections with clients and followers at the IMAP price. When someone checks out, they’re directed to a checkout page branded with your logo. SideDoor handles the fulfillment, and upon delivery, we put the full designer commission — an average of 30% per product — directly into your bank account.
In other words, you can make 10 times more selling designer products, and steer your customers away from competitor e-tailers.
Who manages delivery, and how is that paid?
We do. Freight is a fixed cost depending on whether the item is being delivered to a receiver (which is highly recommended), to an end user, or with white-glove delivery. It’s itemized at checkout for the designer if they’re purchasing to resell, and it’s blended into the final price for the end user.
Everyone and everything has moved online… Given the option, we believe clients and social media followers will want to support an independent designer who can make choices easier by curating items that are tailored just for them.Chad Smith, SideDoor Director of Sales & Marketing
How does SideDoor’s customer service work?
In short, we handle everything after the purchase is made. We don’t communicate with a designer’s client until an order is placed. At that point, we communicate with both the end user and the designer to update them at each phase of the process. Once the item is successfully delivered, the full designer commission is deposited into the designer’s bank account.
Can anyone use SideDoor, and how do you vet members? Is it open to the public or designers only?
SideDoor is only for professional members of the design trade. To use our tool, you must have an active resale certificate on file with us or show some other form of proof of your trade standing. It’s a password-protected platform with no access or visibility to any end user. Designers’ clients or followers can only see what the designer puts in front of them. Designers can also embed these collections onto their websites, but, again, no end users are able to shop on SideDoor outside of a designer’s collection. Every sale on our platform results in a designer earning a commission.
What are some of the brands you’re currently working with? How many do you have?
Right now we’re still in a growth stage and welcoming more vendors, but our current lineup has far surpassed our expectations. It’s incredible and has struck a nerve with vendors because we’re following their best practices and protecting their pricing. We’ve got over 100 trade brands that most designers are familiar with, like Visual Comfort, Hooker, and Bernhardt, and also specialty lines like Assouline and Eicholtz that are especially difficult to open with. We also have 50+ high-end European lines that are new to the U.S., and dozens more are coming. Importantly, we are brand agnostic and don’t push specific products or companies on our members. We consider ourselves more of a utility tool and service in that way — all in one place, designers can see trade and retail pricing, check availability, and make purchases at designer net or share curated collections online.
You recommend that designers curate their offering to clients a bit. Tell us why that’s important.
The internet is chock-full of the good, bad, and ugly products for the home. It’s overwhelming for everyone. Designers are perfectly positioned to be the curators of the Internet. No one understands the quality, craftsmanship, style, and function of products better than designers. Our tool lets them monetize their taste.
Is there a suggested number of products that designers should curate? What’s the best way for them to share this with clients?
There’s no secret formula, but most designers understand that it’s better to give a client a choice of two or three side tables than allowing them to choose from 20. Designers can use our tool to make collections by room, category, style, period, and more, like, “My Favorite Outdoor Chaise Longues.” The possibilities are endless, as are the places they can share their ideas online — websites, blog posts, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, moodboards, and more.
Designers are perfectly positioned to be the curators of the Internet. No one understands the quality, craftsmanship, style, and function of products better than designers. Our tool lets them monetize their taste.Chad Smith, SideDoor Director of Sales & Marketing
Are there any minimum spends or monthly fees designers should be aware of?
Nope. SideDoor is free to qualifying designers. There is no contract or obligation, and they can shop from any of our participating brands with no minimums and without having their own accounts.
And how does SideDoor make money?
We aggregate and place all orders at the wholesale/stocking dealer price on our own accounts. We make the difference between the wholesale/stocking dealer price and the designer price. With this margin, we can pay for credit card processing fees, overhead, and customer support, and coordinate the drop shipment or fulfillment of the order with the vendor.
Are you hoping to create more transparency for clients as well?
What this industry desperately needs more of is transparency. We get all of our info directly from the vendors and don’t manipulate anyone’s pricing. The reality of our business model is that we don’t make any money until designers make money using our tool. Our incentives are completely aligned with what’s best for the design trade, and the more helpful our tool and service is, the better we’ll all do.
Do you think this will result in more designers sharing their sourcing info more publicly online and on social?
I certainly hope so. Designers need to sell their skill and taste — not their access to products. They need to be creative directors, not administrators. Those days are quickly coming to an end as everything and everyone moves online.
What are some of the tools and functionalities you’re planning to roll out in the future?
I can’t show all our cards yet, but we’ve got a plan and a big vision. There are some really exciting things in the works, all built with the purpose of helping designers grow and monetize their businesses.
And are there plans to expand beyond the US?
We’re focused on onboarding every U.S.–based designer and home influencer first. Canada is likely next. There is a large demand for us around the world at the moment. You should see our international waitlist.
All photos: Design by Alder & Tweed Interiors, courtesy of SideDoor