AMA: Samantha-Jane Agbontaen, founder of House Designer
Samantha-Jane Agbontaen is the interior design specialist and self-taught techie who founded House Designer, the UK's most popular interior and garden design service.
We talk to Samantha about House Designer, hiring talent, the team, share schemes and more.
Hi Samantha! Tell us a bit about your company.
House Designer is the UK’s number one platform for affordable interior and garden design services.
We are a team of professional designers on a mission to make design services accessible with an easy, quick, remote process that is applicable to everyone regardless of your location or budget.
How did the idea for House Designer come about?
I had been working on high-end interior design projects, where it’s competitive and took a lot of time to get work. I used to get friends to ask me for décor advice, I always loved helping of course.
I then realised that these friends didn’t necessarily want high-end nor had the budget for that. I asked one of them, would you pay £150 to get design advice? She replied, "Yes".
It sparked a big interest for me, I am always thinking of my next venture and House Designer was initially an experiment. I jumped on my laptop and started building the House Designer platform.
I launched the beta version in January 2020 and 2 months later, the UK went into lockdown. House Designer proved that the online interior design concept was here to stay. People could see the ease of designing your home from your home.
Fast forward 2 years later, I have designed countless versions of the platform, built a small team of full-time designers, expanded our services and won 3 awards. Together, we've catered to over 700 homeowners and we are now the #1 platform for interior and garden design services.
Amazing. Tell us about your team. How do you keep everyone aligned?
Transparency and communication are core values. Cultivating a happy work environment is also very important so that the team is motivated to work to their best ability. I don’t micromanage the team.
What do you look for in a candidate when hiring new people?
I look for people with a can-do attitude. Candidates who have career goals, and want to learn, grow, and succeed.
We continue to build a multicultural team. Diversity and inclusion are not widely practised in the design industry. We aim to be different.
You can message me via Linkedin if this sounds like you. We are growing!!!
Do you have a share or option scheme in place for your team? If so, what impact has it made?
Success is to be shared! We are in the process of setting up a share scheme with Vestd. Allocating shares for the team who have been with us since infancy. I'm sure it will make an impact.
Fantastic! What’s your morning routine?
I am an early riser. I get up just before 6 AM to get my coffee, and go through my e-mails, which often leads to doing some work. I go to the gym for about an hour and get back to start work/team briefing at about 9 AM.
What motivates you?
Motivation is a powerful tool. It comes with self-discipline. I love coming up with creative ideas and learning new things that lead to reaching my goals. Ultimately, what keeps me motivated is being successful. It encourages me to keep going when times get tough.
What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
I've made many mistakes over the years with several ventures. As an entrepreneur, I see making mistakes as a learning experience.
Couldn't agree more. Can you share any practical tips or processes to help people work remotely?
- Creating a dedicated workspace is very important.
Whether it’s a spare room turned into a home office or just a desk and chair in the corner of your living room.
- Take regular, scheduled breaks, especially your lunch away from your working desk.
- Embrace the perks of working remotely by wearing comfortable clothing (when you’re not on Zoom of course).
- And know when to log off work.
And finally, who’s your favourite band or musician?
I love Adele.
Don't we all! Thanks so much for your time, Samantha. It's been a pleasure.