Stefano Cafiso founded Cafiso Design in 2006 in New York, New York.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Cafiso Design is a full service interior design business, but with a twist. We manage everything from the ground up, including construction all the way to design and completion.
How did you come up with your business idea?
The business has changed. At first I started out just staring a company so that I can buy and sell properties that I acquired and run it as construction business with myself as the only client. Then as the economy shifted I began to shift my business model to being that of an interior design and decorating company with general contracting as an in house service. I have a very long line of design experience, so it only made sense.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was doing a lot of different things in fashion and interior design.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Absolutely. Any business would need a plan. It was effective in providing direction. Obviously, tweaking along the way is always a must
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
All bookkeeping is done by me. I have an accountant and a lawyer that I use from time to time and some workers.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
The best resource you can have in life is a great personality and networking with the right people. If people like you, they will tend to help you and guide you.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, I started from home and only over the past few months did I decide to get an office. My business has been growing. The biggest challenge is balancing your personal and business time. Get another telephone line for your business!
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
Currently, my business is completely owned y me. However, in the past I was involved in my family's business. It is extremely difficult to separate emotions from a family business.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
It depends on the client. At times, being green is more expensive, so it all depends on budget. However, we always try to work with different materials and try and make old materials fresh.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Always educate yourself before you buy and make a decision. It is always easy to buy. Selling is the hard part. Be as knowledgeable as you can be before you make a decision.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Only if it makes sense. It depends how much it will impact my bottom line. I consider ALL expenses. Especially when it comes to labor. Until now, outsourcing has worked as best as I could have ever expected.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
Reference are always best, even when I'm looking for sub-contractors. I don't want my clients to pay for my mistakes. The more I know about an employee or business the better off I'll be in making a decision.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I hired a PR company. They are constantly making sure I'm out there one way or another and make sure that my image is being presented properly. They know the best, most cost effective marketing techniques for your business.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
There are new challenges every day. It always seems easier until you actually start implementing your plans.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Yes, stick to the experts. Leave legal to the lawyers, numbers to the accountants, and marketing to a PR firm. It all makes sense. Don't be "penny wise, pound foolish." In the end, you end up spending the money anyway.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Be patient and have faith that through hard work you will be successful…and always network!
Thank you, Stefano. Best wishes with Cafiso Design!