Architecture & Design, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Interior design service draws $20K investment

September 3, 2014
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Startup makes over interior design
Roomations sells various web-based interior design services, including 3-D renderings. Photo via fb.com

The latest Start Garden winner has designs on going big.

During the most recent monthly event where entrepreneurs compete for future financing, the Grand Rapids-based seed fund selected online interior design service Roomations for another $20,000 investment during Update Night.

Roomations is an online platform creating affordable and convenient interior design services for the mainstream consumer.

Using a network of national freelance interior designers, Roomations allows consumers to select up to three different style boards provided by the designers based on customer budget and retailer and style preferences.

Katie Miller, co-founder of Roomations, said the team is excited to receive the additional $20,000 investment to maintain the momentum the company has developed in the past three months.

“The Start Garden $5,000 investment is a great way to do some experiments that answered key questions for us about customer acquisition, marketing strategies and conversion, and the follow-on investment allows us to continue with that experimentation and driving sales growth,” said Miller. “It is very exciting to us.”

Roomations initially received a $5,000 Start Garden investment on May 29. The Rommations team, consisting of Miller, Jessica Goldberg and Lakshmi Bhargave, used those funds to conduct two initial marketing campaigns and a third follow-up strategy session to prove the crowdsourcing online platform was desirable, feasible and viable for interior designers during a 90-day experiment. The three promotional initiatives included: a referral campaign; a blog or influencer campaign; and a promotional strategy focused on increasing the number of people using the product.

Upon completing the referral campaign, which went well in terms of proving it was a viable acquisition strategy, Miller said the team learned it was most likely a small scale business due to the existing user base.

“As a result of that referral campaign, we ended up doing another campaign which focused on increasing the number of people who had experience using our product,” said Miller. “We started offering free design advice on our site to get people initially engaged with use, and we did a free giveaway which has allowed us to do ‘deep-dive interviews.’”

Upon completing the marketing experiment, the team from Roomations presented the results from the two campaigns in front of a live audience at Start Garden’s 50 Louis St. location in downtown Grand Rapids. Competing with five other invested companies for additional funds, Roomations then received feedback from the Start Garden team and was selected for additional financial support.

Kim Pasquino, portfolio manager at Start Garden, said the team was impressed with Roomations’ disciplined approach to run tests in the market, find out what worked, and implement a strategy from there.

“We think this idea has a ton of potential, differing ways to monetize it, and we are excited to proceed with a $20,000 investment,” said Pasquino in a written release. “We have confidence that if it can be figured out, this team will do it.”

The Roomations team is looking to raise a seed round of $500,000 in financial support primarily from angel investor organizations, and continue its collaboration with Start Garden, according to Miller.

“We have different parties we’ve been developing relationships with,” she said. “One thing we are very excited about in terms of our relationship with Start Garden is now that we are going to have this larger investment from them, we anticipate being able to collaborate with them more and have a deeper level of advisement from Start Garden.”

As Roomations continues to focus on sales and growing its user base, Miller said the next step is to show an ability to scale the business with month-over-month consumer increases, and develop robust metrics to show future investors in terms of sales, marketing and conversion.

The other startup companies that participated in the Update Night event, but did not proceed to the next phase of investment, included: Folyo, an e-commerce platform for art students; Networkingout, a health and wellness collaborative experience application; Storyverse, a mobile application merging games and storybooks; This Day in Art, an online venue for artists’ work in a voting challenge format; and Caredisplays, a software program to improve communication between patients and caregivers.

Start Garden hosts the monthly Update Night events to promote social accountability for the entrepreneurs who have received initial funding from the $15 million seed fund. Each startup idea, company, or service can earn up to $500,000 in financial support from Start Garden based on feedback from the community and its future potential.

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