Lynn Pitochelli has now celebrated the one-year anniversary of her Design Match, a business she created to help her clients find the right design industry professionals—architects, interior designers, landscapers, etc. By pairing the homeowner with the appropriate design partner, based on style, budget and personality, Design Match will save clients hours of Internet searching, making phone calls, worrying if they can trust someone, calling references, setting up interviews and more. “You are able to start at step two with me instead of step one,” she says.
Currently, Pitochelli [pit-o-KEL-lee] has about 15-18 design professionals on her team, and she’s always meeting with new ones, who will need to get through her vetting process to come on board. “There is an application process where they must meet certain requirements,” she explains. “They must have been in business for a certain number of years as well as be licensed or have a degree in their area of expertise. I also ask for references, both from clients and within the trade.”
In addition, she looks at their strengths. “Do they excel in a certain niche? Are they known for something that no one else is doing? What is their specialty—renovation, new, traditional, contemporary?” she says. “I am continuing to develop a balanced and broad spectrum of experts, and I’m looking for uniqueness of what you can bring that is different from someone else.”
So how does Design Match make money? “Upon meeting the Design Match requirements, design professionals selected pay an annual fee to be part of our elite team,” she says. “Referrals fees are paid only when a project has been referred to and accepted by a design professional.”
On the client side of things, Pitochelli will first make sure you are serious about your particular project. “We’ll set up a style profile, and I’ll find out the scope of the project, the timeline, the budget and who clients are.” Then, Pitochelli will present the professionals that match the client’s criteria, and she’ll sit with the client to interview the designers. Once the client makes a decision, she’ll create a contract. And she stays in touch with everyone throughout the project to keep tabs on how things are progressing.
As for her clients, she’s on a positive track if her very first one is any measure. “They were so happy with the designer we found that they decided to expand the initial project into a larger one.”
Pitochelli knew she had a viable business idea after doing research within the industry. “I contacted people across the country that had similar business models,” she said. “I also got connected to SCORE, which was wonderful.” (SCORE is a nonprofit association comprising volunteer business counselors who are trained to advise and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.)
“In any new business, you are always tweaking what works and what doesn’t work. What you envisioned right at the beginning might not be what it will turn into,” she says. “You will make adjustments, and you have to have patience to see it morph.”