How this entrepreneur turned misfortune into opportunity when an international move didn’t work out (podcast episode)

March 31, 2023


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In today’s episode of the Brains Byte Back podcast, we speak with Agnieszka Wilk, the CEO of Decorilla, a company using technology to democratize top-quality interior design services.

In the episode, Wilk discusses how the company began after moving to South Korea, hoping to continue her career in finance, but instead faced discrimination as a woman and a foreigner. 

Wilk talks about how she instead channeled her energy into designing and improving her apartment and saw an opportunity to create what would later become her interior design startup Decorilla.

Wilk also shares how she used a company name generator website to create the name, and why she fell in love with the idea of Decorilla as the name of her company. 

And finally, Wilk shares the company uses 3D & VR realistic design concepts and highlights what technology it plans to incorporate moving forward, in order to expand its services.

You can listen to the episode below, or on SpotifyAnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsStitcherOvercastListen NotesPodBean, and Radio Public.

Agnieszka: Hi, everyone. Yeah, Agnieszka Wilk, the CEO of decorilla. Our company’s an online interior design service that connects customers with industry leading interior designers. And we use cutting edge technologies like virtual reality and 3D modeling to create curated spaces based on customer style, preferences and budget. So as a CEO, I obviously wear many hats. I oversee a team of 300, interior designers and 350 Furniture partners and kind of ensure that we can work together seamlessly. And we can make high quality interior design more accessible, and affordable to the masses. So I, at the end of the day, I really believe that everyone deserves a beautiful and comfortable home. And we’re thrilled to be able to make that a reality for our clients. So thanks for having me, Sam.

Sam: No, no problem. I’m happy to have you here. And it really seems like you built up something very large, like a very large network there. And I’d be curious to know, like, how did this all start? Like when and how did Decorilla first start?

Agnieszka: Yeah, I’m glad you asked. It’s been a journey. So Decorilla was founded 2013, which I can’t believe it’s already 10 years. And we’ve always had the mission of helping people live in beauty and comfort, regardless of location and budget. So as someone with a finance background, it might seem like a bit of a jump to go into interior design. And many people ask me that, but it’s really life’s vicissitudes that led me to this field. So my then partner got a job offer for Samsung in South Korea. And I initially I didn’t want to go, and I was happy with my career in finance, but Samsung at the time, so they’d helped me find a job. And I thought finance was very transferable. So I made the move to Korea at the time. And then I quickly realized it was really a man’s world over there kinda like going back into the Madmen era. They didn’t trust foreigners, and especially women in their finances. So I was offered a role in HR. And I’ve never done HR and it wasn’t my forte. So I said no to that. And I decided to pour all of my energy into decorating our new apartment. So it was a very frustrating process for me, one, not being able to speak the language, but also going to markets and not being able to visualize anything, buying curtains many times, returning them. And that’s really when I had the epiphany of why not use technology to democratize top quality interior design services. So that’s how that was born.

Sam: That’s fantastic. I’m so happy that you took a leap of faith. It didn’t go as planned. But you pivoted and now it’s become something else something far bigger than you, I suppose ever expected. So that’s an awesome backstory.

Agnieszka: Thank you. Yeah, it’s, it’s wild. How life turns out that way. Sometimes.

Sam: It really is. Yeah. And I want to know, like, what’s the story behind the name? Decorilla. Where’d that come from?

Agnieszka: Oh, that’s a fun question. So my goal was really to capture, like, the fun and imaginative and creative elements of interior design. And I believe that the name should incorporate the term decor because of its widespread use in the industry. I honestly wanted it to become a verb, like Google, and to be distinct and memorable and, you know, evoke strong feelings in people. But I just I didn’t know how to accomplish this. I’ve never created company names before. So I seek advice from a friend. And she recommended that I use name generating website, and that her business professor told her about. So I tried that. And After inputting some relevant keywords, the website suggested several available URLs. And from that list, Decorilla really stood out to me. So the name of strength and playfulness of a gorilla, while encompassing our values and features, and I still ultimately hope it becomes a verb as in Decorilla your home.

Sam: That’s funny, I could see that happening. I also just love I love how the name looks. It’s just very different from everything else that’s out there. And to be quite honest, I asked this question to almost all my guests because I’m so curious to know what process they go through when they decide their company name because it’s like a big decision to make. And I’m always anticipating someone saying like they use like a name generator, and you’re the first guest I’ve ever had. So I’m really happy to see that like they work like they are.

Agnieszka: They wonder if people just don’t admit to it, but I didn’t have the funds at the time to buy, you know, a URL that wasn’t available. And, and that just seemed like a practical choice. And I’m glad I did it. And that could really, Decorilla really stood out.

Sam: Like it’s good. Now, you mentioned obviously, that you went down this path with Decorilla, because it was trying to solve a pain point you were trying to solve a pain point in your life. But since then, have other companies I entered into this space. And if there are other companies in this space, how do you differentiate yourself?

Agnieszka: Yeah, there are other companies operating in the online interior design space, our competitors include Havenly, Rule Lift, and Space Joy, just to name a few. And I think overall competition is great because it expands the market awareness which when we started 10 years ago, no one knew what online interior design was, there was no Google search volume for the term. And now, a lot of people know about it. And at least even designers didn’t know about it at the time. Now they do. And it always drives us to continue to innovate as well. So I think the key factors that make Decorilla different from our competitors, would be our attention to quality and experience. So our interior designers are vetted professionals with years of experience in the industry. They have a proven track record of delivering high quality design projects. Their work has been featured in media outlets, like Architecture Digest, Wall Street Journal, Well, Elle Decor, so really focus on quality and experience. And a really, really big differentiating factors are customization and flexibility. So decorilla offers highly customised and flexible design. And our process is also flexible. So clients can choose the level of designer they want. They also choose from multiple visual proposals from two different designers. And we’re the only ones that do that. And then they work with their chosen designer to create design that fits their budget, style and needs. And I think also our focus on technology has been a key to our success. So we use state of the art technologies to streamline the design process, we make it more efficient and effective, cost effective as well. Our 3D visualisation tools help clients see realistic representations of their design before it’s implemented. And our online platform allows for easy communication. And that’s all done online and, and constant collaboration with the designer online and build some great tools for designers to so and of course there’s a we have the best value for money. So we offer affordable design services without compromising on quality. We have a transparent pricing structure. And our clients know exactly what they’re paying for our design packages with tailored to different budgets. And one of the best parts is that clients often save more money on our exclusive furniture discounts than they pay for the design package. So we really make sure clients are saving the most they can and we have mass volume discounts with our vendors. And we pass a lot of that on to our clients who they always pay the lowest rates on their furniture, and these end up saving a tonne of money.

Sam: I mean, that makes sense. I mean, that is a long list of reasons why someone should choose you over the competition. So I’m really happy that you’ve got so many ways of standing out. And one of the ways that you mentioned obviously it was technology. I do realise that use 3D and virtual reality, like realistic design concepts. Are there other forms of technology that you may look to implement in the future such as like augmented reality? Or the metaverse perhaps?

Agnieszka: Yeah, we’re always looking at new technologies and how to enhance the user experience. So that we can make our service more accessible and engaging. And an augmented reality is definitely something and AR they’re both exciting, and we’re really exploring them. AR so can enable our clients to visualise how furniture will look in their actual spaces. And it makes it easier for them to make purchasing decisions in the end. So we have already started testing AR technologies in our designer shop and we plan to expand it and its use in the client platform as well so that we can explore how it enhances their virtual design process. Another really cool concept so AI it’s rapidly is expanding, and it’s an emerging concept. And we’re following it really closely. So one potential application for Decorilla is integration of AR, AI and machine learning onto our platform. We believe technology, this technology has enormous potential to enhance the interior design experience for clients and provide more personalised tools for designers and data analysis and accurate design recommendations. So we’re excited to explore those possibilities.

Sam: That sounds like yeah, a really solid use case for for AI in this case. And for my next question, I want to step away a little bit from technology. Because I’ve seen like the wonderful collection of blogs, you have advertising, some like amazing office and homes designs. And I’d be interested to know like, how did the pandemic impact demand for Office designs? And have you seen an uptick at all since we’ve like moved away from the pandemic?

Agnieszka: Yes, well, the pandemic definitely had an impact on the demand for Office designs, and online interior design in general. So with more people working from home, many realise the importance of having like a functional and aesthetically pleasing home office setup. And we’ve seen a significant increase in the demand for home office design since the start of the pandemic. Now, as we’re coming out of out of the pandemic, we also noticed a shift towards the hybrid working models, where employees split their time between working from home and going into the office. And this is really led to an increase in demand for Office designs that are flexible and adaptable to different styles. So going forward, I think we’ll continue to see the demand in both Home Office and Office designs. And, you know, we’re looking forward to creating comfortable and functional spaces that support that lifestyle.

Sam: Awesome, fantastic. Well, obviously, you’ve got that ahead of you probably some more demand for office space and office designs. But what else do you folks focusing on, what’s next on the horizon for Decorilla?

Agnieszka: Thanks for asking. Looking ahead, we’re really excited to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of tech meets interior design. One area we’re particularly focused on, as I mentioned, is AI to enhance our platform and offer even more personalised recommendations and designer matches for clients. So by leveraging AI to quickly analyse our customer data based on past projects and design history, we’re able to gain deeper insights into what our clients are looking for, and to make more targeted suggestions for designers and products that fit their customised needs. So I truly believe this will improve the overall customer experience and help her designers work more efficiently. Well, overall, we believe that the combination of tech and personalised service is the key to delivering the best possible interior design experience. And we’re really committed to being at the forefront of the innovations in the space. We’re excited to see what the future holds.

Sam: No, indeed, and that, that focus on tech that you have, I think it’s so unique, and it is really appealing, like what you’re doing in this space is very intriguing. So if people do want to keep up with the work that you folks are doing, what are the best ways for them to do that?

Agnieszka: Yeah, I think since that Decorilla is so visual, definitely follow us on Instagram, and Pinterest, you’ll see some of our work and and definitely check out our website have a wonderful gallery of projects, and our blog features a lot of before and afters. So we’re really excited about that. And, you know, and thank you so much for having us. Maybe one day, you’ll have us again, I love how your show covers kind of a variety of topics related to technology and its impact on society. So really, really appreciate that Sam.

Sam: No problem. And yeah, it’s not unheard of that we have a guest on more than once. So by all means further down the line. Maybe once things are picking up or you’re experimenting a bit more with your AI or or whatever. Yeah, we can have another follow up episode. And in the meantime, listeners can go and check out those, those places where you mentioned, and we’re gonna have links in the show notes anyway, so they can check them out. But otherwise, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been a very unique conversation.

Agnieszka: Thanks. Thanks, Sam. Have a great weekend and rest of your day.

Disclosure: This episode includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company


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