How I Started a Luxury Interior
Design Studio Incorporating Holistic Therapies
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Jessy Kauldhar, the founder and managing director of L’atelier Kauldhar. We are a new and unique multi-disciplinary, luxury interior design studio, which adopts the principles of holistic therapies to help private residential clients transform their lives, through the transformation of their homes.
The holistic approach my company takes is two-fold. Firstly, in the manner with which I approach my design work, and secondly with the all-encompassing service I provide. This includes the interior design, robust cost management, procurement, project management and contract management of the works.
I work exclusively with private residential clients as their homes are the epicentre of their lives; with their hearts, souls and passions injected into them. Transforming these homes has the power to bring about major changes in their lives.
Having been trained in several holistic therapies, the approach I take comes from a burning desire to create well structured, organised and balanced interiors for my clients’ homes. We believe this will serve their souls and help them to function optimally within their lives.
My company is based in Birmingham, UK. My multi-disciplinary design services are available in-person, and as online e-design services, throughout the U.K. and internationally.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I have worked as a construction cost consultant for 2 decades. My career began in the U.K. and then took me to the Middle East and North Africa. There, I spent the last decade working for developers, consultancies and contracting companies. Most of this work focused on the cost management of luxury hotels and residential interior design projects for VVIP clients.
Academically, I have several qualifications ranging from a BSc in Mathematics and Business Administration, to a Diploma in Quantity Surveying, and a Diploma in Interior Design. In addition to this, I am a trained Reiki master, a breath-work practitioner, and creative expressions art facilitator. This unique and eclectic mix of skills, coupled with my burning desire to genuinely help people transform their lives, is the driving force behind the creation of L’atelier Kauldhar. It is also what makes my company stand out from the crowd.
Throughout my career, there have been two factors that have stood out time and time again. The first factor is the absence of designing to cost. It is not uncommon to hear that designers often overlook cost when designing. Or they believe that cost is secondary to the design, when in fact the opposite should apply. The implications of compromised budgets can have a major impact on the client-designer relationship. It can lead to project delays; substitutions being made to the original design selections, and actual project costs exceeding budgets. All of which have an extremely detrimental, and lasting impact, on the client-designer relationship.
The second is the inability to fully understand the deep-rooted fundamental core reasons behind a client’s specific needs. What may seem like an excessive luxury to an outsider, maybe a core fundamental need our clients have. This may be a need that enables them to function optimally in their lives, and from a more balanced perspective. It could even be something that affects them on a psychological level.
Without fully immersing oneself into the process of connecting with, and getting to understand our clients from a soul level, we will fail to recognise and acknowledge the reasons behind such deep-rooted requirements and instead focus on the project from a surface level, where we run the risk of failing to deliver upon, and satisfy their fundamental core needs, which go beyond aesthetics.
Outside of work, I love horses and have had the privilege of owning several whilst living in the Middle East. Although not an accomplished rider, I enjoy spending time in the company of horses, and connecting with them on a soul level, as it helps me to de-stress and truly unwind.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
One of the biggest challenges is being a new player in an already well established market, as well as a new country. Spending over a decade away from the U.K., has meant having to establish industry contacts from scratch. As there is a strong know-like-trust factor that comes into play, especially with such visual services like interior design, being the newbie where hardly anyone knows you, despite having decades of experience, can be quite difficult.
Who is your target market?
My interior design services are catered for the private luxury residential market. My clients are typically aged between 35-50 years old. They are high flying business executives and entrepreneurs who live in the U.K., and have second homes in Europe and the Middle East. They often work from home and live fast paced, busy lives which include regularly entertaining friends and family. Because they lead such busy lives, they need their homes to be multi-functioning residences capable of living up to their personal, business and social demands, as well as be a true reflection of their unique personalities.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
My business is marketed mainly through my website and social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. I also regularly write interior design articles for a couple of local magazines such as Birmingham’s MY Magazine. I recently wrote a piece about colour harmonies when we consider designing and decorating homes.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
I have not long started my business, so it is too early to comment on this.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
I’m quite a friendly and sociable person and this is the culture I adapt in all my business interactions.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I use a method of online and offline tools for my business. I use CAD software such as AutoCAD and Sketchup for technical design work. For basic presentations and reports, I prefer to use Keynotes as it gives me the greatest flexibility when creating documents. For accounting and financial documentation, I use Numbers.
Offline tools include planners and a diary. I find physically writing and planning one’s day helps to keep on track. There is something very cathartic about the process of physically writing things down. I cannot achieve this feeling through the use of online calendars and software.
Likewise, in the early design stages, I will often sketch out floor plans and ideas. This too is incredibly cathartic. I find that I can fully connect with the client’s brief in this manner and better understand what the client requires. It truly is a form of creativity and deep connection with one’s internal processes, that cannot be recreated with software.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
If there is one piece of advice I’d give anyone, it is to not be afraid of stepping into the unknown. Life will throw many twists and turns our way, especially in business. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, we should never lose sight of our sense of purpose, and reasons behind embarking on our business journey.
In the holistic world, there is a saying, “The phoenix rises from the ashes”. This means we can emerge from a catastrophe stronger, smarter and more powerful. If we adopt this teaching whenever we feel disheartened or knocked down, or feel like things didn’t turn out as we had hoped, we will bounce back quicker and stronger.
Another piece of advice is to not compare yourself with others. There will always be someone more better, smarter and more experienced than you, but the one thing they cannot be, is you. They cannot bring to their business, the uniqueness of your skills and personality, that makes your business truly different from theirs. Once we begin to understand and fully embrace this, we become unstoppable.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The most favourite aspect has to be working for myself. It gives me the flexibility to set my working days and hours, according to my work and family commitments, which is something that cannot be fully realised in paid employment. Also, I have complete control over the projects I choose to work on, and I am responsible for the work I produce.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Whilst working for oneself has its bonuses, I guess I am not the only person to say that the least favourite has to be the uncertainty of not knowing where the next project will come from.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
There are so many holistic books which have influenced me not only on my business journey, but in general. Two books stand out the most is:
The first is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. One of the tasks in this book requires the reader to write 3 pages, every morning upon waking, for 30 consecutive days. The intention is not to have any preconceived ideas about what to write, but to just write whatever comes to mind, on that morning, upon waking, and to not read over what has been written. The idea is that by the end of the 30 days, one’s mindset will have reset itself to have a more positive outlook on life, and any creative blocks there might have been previously, will be removed.
The second book is by Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello, where the central theme questions how we find the courage to be ourselves, even when we are unsure of who we are. It’s been a while since I read this book, but the one part that truly resonatess with me, and has stuck with me ever since is when the lady starts to dance, and in doing so she enters into a deep trance like state, where she lets go of all her inhibitions and just dances to her heart’s content. It truly was a mesmerising read from beginning to end. I remembered myself as a child dancing to my heart’s content, without a care in the world and wondering how many times as adults, we allow ourselves to be truly immersed in such processes.
Both books are great influences for me in my business journey. One enables me to reignite and reconnect with my creativity, whilst the other encourages me to dive deep into a journey with my clients, in order to create and transform their interiors from a soul level.
Whilst not a resource, but a creative and healing process, I often paint spontaneously using my non-dominant hand. As with the spontaneous writings, there is no set intention when starting a painting other than to allow the process to take you on a journey of deep self-discovery. I have used this process so many times, that now, painting with my dominant hand feels incredibly alien to me! I am always amazed by the paintings I have created as a result of this process, some of which have taken me 4 years to complete, but always have a story to tell!
Aside from the holistic resources, there are a couple of Facebook business groups that I am a part of. These business groups have helped me immensely. From giving me the courage to embark on my business journey, to helping me refine my interior design processes, and learning everything digital marketing related. One of the groups is The Interior Designer’s Hub and the other is run by Jess Brookes of JAB Marketing and the Facebook group is Self Made Success Club. Both groups have been encouraging and supportive, especially with getting started, finding clarity and dealing with self-doubting gremlins.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 2-3 years, I see a well-established business with a stream of large projects, repeat clients and higher revenues. I would like to have a couple of employees, but intentionally keep my team small. This is so that I can continue to provide the highly personalised service my company has set out to offer.