After school, Cristina Casañas-Judd, a tremendous artist and illustrator, used her artistic abilities to design TV, movie, and theater units. She met her husband, a lead actor in Blue Man Group, engaged on its set. Early in his profession, he was a set dresser.
The 2 life companions additionally turned enterprise companions, launching an interior design studio in 2012, Me and Common Design. Within the early days of the corporate, they bootstrapped the enterprise and skilled regular development. In yr 5, to quicken development, they determined to maneuver from working within the enterprise to engaged on the enterprise. They wanted to rent extra folks that might require outdoors financing. They select a mortgage from a Group Growth Monetary Establishment (CDFI).
As a set decorator, Casañas-Judd turned a fast-paced problem-solver. She fell in love with complementing the storylines of TV exhibits, motion pictures, and performs by way of their environments as depicted within the set. Her work consists of set decorations for Queer Eye for the Straight Man, Adventureland, The Messenger, Profitable Season, and Then She Discovered Me. His movie set dresser work consists of The Abyss.
The duo realized that storytelling was a vital ingredient of any area, whether or not dwelling or business. They might take their inspiration from the neighborhood, the structure of the constructing, and the character and way of life of the shopper to inform an entire story. “We’re recognized for our consciously designed interiors that elevate the human spirit,” mentioned Casañas-Judd.
The pair began doing aspect tasks. “On weekends and after we have been on hiatus, we designed the interiors of mannequin flats for actual property builders,” mentioned Casañas-Judd. “It was enjoyable and a special form of artistic outlet.”
When Casañas-Judd and Judd have been about to have their second little one, she realized that the grueling lengthy hours of set design weren’t appropriate with the kind of mom she needed to be. In 2012, the 2 leaped into full-time entrepreneurship and opened Me and Common.
That they had developed sturdy relationships with builders who favored their design sensibilities and the best way they did enterprise. Shoppers returned again and again and referred others. Their work expanded from designing interiors for mannequin flats to lobbies and facilities areas, comparable to lounges and gymnasiums for luxurious house buildings.
Designing for closely trafficked areas established their functionality and credibility to plan business areas, comparable to boutiques. They’re at present designing the inside for the general public library in Port Washington, NY.
In 2017, with a monitor report of stable development, the couple determined to speed up development by rising the staff past the one worker that that they had. To do this, they wanted outdoors financing.
They have been referred to the SBA by way of networking, which related them to Carol O’Connell, assistant vice chairman of improvement and advisory companies at Pursuit Lending (previously Excelsior Development Fund), a CDFI. CDFIs are one of many best-kept secrets and techniques within the entrepreneurial financing world.
CDFIs have been created to lend money, at reasonable rates, to underestimated small enterprise homeowners that business banks deem dangerous. Debtors obtain free steerage to assist them succeed. Technical help might embody serving to entrepreneurs do a price range with projections, produce monetary statements, enterprise planning, and enhancing or establishing a credit score rating.
The Treasury Division and banks primarily fund CDFIs. Financial institution of America lately introduced that its CDFI mortgage portfolio surpassed $2 billion. This cements them as the biggest personal investor in CDFIs within the U.S. They’ve produced Entry to Capital Listing, which incorporates 200 CDFIs. The listing tells you which of them native communities the CDFI serves.
“The Common and I wanted to work on technique and enterprise improvement,” Casañas-Judd. Pursuit had their again. “After we wanted assist [preparing financial statements],” Pursuit supplied it. Pursuit paid for a sure period of time with a bookkeeper to place their monetary statements so as. O’Connell mentioned financing choices with them. The couple selected a $50,000 SmartLoan. It supplies financing inside two days of submitting your utility and has versatile phrases.
“Having the monetary assist was life-changing,” mentioned Casañas-Judd. “It supplied the monetary training I wanted.” The Judds proceed to work with the bookkeeper who helped them put together for the Pursuit mortgage. “O’Connell has turn into a trusted advisor,” mentioned Casañas-Judd.
The corporate staffed up. Earlier than Covid-19, that they had six staff. Having staff gave her time to work on the enterprise, not in it.
“As an artist, I am all the time pushing boundaries,” mentioned Casañas-Judd. Even with the gazillion wallpaper designs available on the market, typically she could not discover the precise one for a shopper. A love of architectural components in a Harlem constructing led her to design a wallpaper that used geometric patterns from the constructing on the wallpaper.
Casañas-Judd turned to Wolf-Gordon, a wall protecting producer and distributor, to fabricate the paper. Over time the corporate seen how usually Casañas-Judd designs have been being reordered. Wolf-Gordon approached her about promoting her designs to a broader market than simply her purchasers. “This was like a dream come true for me,” she mentioned. “We have been all the time desirous about licensing our designs.”
Casañas-Judd is a first-generation Chilean-American, recognized for her eager sense of coloration and use of textures. Judd is Black and grew up in North Carolina. He’s recognized for his southern allure and timeless design-style sensibilities. They satisfaction themselves on their multicultural background and that of the staff. Their small staff of 5 consists of designers from China and Turkey. It is well-suited to a Brooklyn, NY-based enterprise serving the tri-state space.
Variety can also be mirrored within the supplies they supply for interiors and the sources they use.
Covid-19 dramatically lowered revenues in 2020. As folks began transferring round, issues picked up and the corporate’s income rallied again. The couple moved out of their studio workplace and the staff has been working from their houses ever since. “The staff turned extra environment friendly and productive,” mentioned Casañas-Judd. They maintain conferences on Zoom, telephone, and now in-person on the Judd’s dwelling.
Even with a down yr in 2020, since receiving the mortgage, annualized income development is 59%.
The subsequent cease on their development journey is shopping for funding properties, fixing them up, and flipping them.
How will you financial the expansion of your enterprise?