I’ve been following (stalking) Sarah for a couple of years now and love how REAL she is – by reading her blog The Yellow Cape Cod ‘Interior Design for Real People’, you get to personally know her, her family, her home, her projects, and of course, Murphie the dog.
Sarah’s goal is to help “Real People” create a home that is beautiful, practical and unique. And I’m thrilled that she’s agreed to help all of our businesses by sharing some of her blog success secrets here. Enjoy!
NAME OF COMPANY: The Yellow Cape Cod
WEBSITE URL: http://www.theyellowcapecod.com
OWNER: Sarah Macklem, Professional Home Stylist
DESCRIPTION OF COMPANY: The Yellow Cape Cod is an interior design studio specializing in design for real people. Each year, we provide hundreds of custom room designs for people around the globe through our affordable online design services. Our online home decor boutique offers a selection of high-impact home merchandise that is usually only available to trade insiders.
YEAR BIZ LAUNCHED: My blog and my business launched in 2009.
TARGET CUSTOMER/NICHE: My target audience is anyone that is passionate about creating a beautiful home. My design blog offers daily inspiration, DIY project tutorials and decorating advice. My affordable design services are tailored to each client’s wants/needs, project abilities, lifestyle and budget. We are a great fit for anyone looking to achieve professional design results in their “real life” home.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO START YOUR BUSINESS: Four years ago, I took a huge leap of faith and left my banking career to pursue my life-long passion (obsession) for interior design. Although I enjoyed my job as a Banker, my heart has always been in helping others design their homes. I realized design was my true calling when my bank clients started coming into the bank to see me with paint chips and fabric samples in hand. What finally made me take the plunge and leave my safe and secure day job to start my own design business? My dad.
A Detroit area newspaper wrote an article about my dad titled “Doing What You Love”. It was a full page article in the sports section about his passion for his job as a long time golf course superintendent. A few years after the article was published, we lost him to a four month battle with cancer at the age of 57. His passion for his job was one of the things that got him through the difficult days at the end of his battle. My siblings and I found comfort knowing although his life was short it was full and passionate. He spent every day doing what he loved.
His example inspired me to follow my passion. I left my banking career and my design business took off. Every day, I thank my dad for inspiring me to live a life filled with passion.
WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM AS WELL AS, THE THEME/OVERALL IMAGE/BRAND? The name of my design business was originally Sarah Macklem Interiors. I started my blog, “The Yellow Cape Cod” to document my largest lifelong project, my own home (which happens to be a yellow cape cod style house). As my blog grew to become a large part of my business, I decided to change the name from Sarah Macklem Interiors to The Yellow Cape Cod. My brand and image has evolved along with my business and tends to reflect my general design style.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? I would describe my personal style as traditional with an edge. I like the feeling of nostalgia associated with traditional design elements and family heirlooms, but appreciate the youthfulness of fresh, new, contemporary design elements.
SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: My clients are hands-down my largest source of inspiration. When I am asked what is the largest source of inspiration in a room design, the answer is always the family that lives in the home. When it comes to my business, my clients inspire me to make decisions that will better serve them. When it comes to my blog, seeing the success of other business blogs inspires me to step up my game. The TomKat Studio, also featured here this past week, is one of my favorites. I have always admired her ability to run a successful business and blog at the same time.
WHAT WAS THE TIPPING POINT IN YOUR BUSINESS THAT MADE YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR BLOG WAS GOING TO THRIVE? I believe the tipping point where I realized that my blog was going to thrive was when I opened my online design plan service and advertised it on the blog. I was completely surprised by the response. I had to shut the service down while I made necessary changes that allowed my business to grow so that my design studio could keep up with demand. This is also when I realized that my blog was going to be an integral part in the success of my design business.
IF YOU HAD TO NAME ONE THING THAT HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN CATAPULTING YOUR BUSINESS TO SUCCESS, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I would say the one thing that has been invaluable to my business and its success is the internet. Most of my clients have found me through my online portfolio of design work on the blog and through various social media platforms. My online presence has landed my business incredible opportunities for exposure through features in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, Hobby Farm Home Magazine, Kitchens and Baths Magazine, Bedrooms and Baths Magazine, Ladera Ranch Magazine, DStripped Magazine, CNN.com, HGTV.com, Houzz.com, BHG.com, Apartment Therapy and more.
WHAT WERE SOME CHALLENGES/MISTAKES YOU MADE ALONG THE WAY? When I started my blog, I didn’t realize that it would come to be such a big part of my design business. If I could go back and start my blog all over again, I would enlist the help of experts in SEO, internet marketing, social networking, and graphic design. I built my blog on my own and my concentration was mostly on content as opposed to building an audience. While content is the most important aspect of a good blog, I know there are things I could have done differently in the beginning that would have made operating the blog easier and more efficient now.
WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO A BLOGGER JUST STARTING OUT? I think it’s important not to rush the success of your blog. If you are a new blogger just starting out instead of rushing to publish a lot of content quickly I would keep your focus on building a successful blogging platform and delivering quality content that makes your blog stand out among others. If you are starting a blog as a means of growing your business, my advice is to get the help of an internet marketing professional/social media strategist right from the beginning.
WHAT ARE YOUR 3 BEST MARKETING STRATEGIES TO GETTING NEW CLIENTS? My biggest marketing strategy is providing outstanding design services to each and every client. The second best marketing strategy is giving my work exposure through my online portfolio. Daily engagement in social media platforms is another way I make myself and my company readily available to new clients.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST TIP FOR BALANCING WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE? I have to be very careful how I answer this one, my family will hold me to what I say here. It can be difficult to tear yourself away from work when you are self employed. Especially when you are running an internet based business and a blog. The internet never shuts down and technology keeps us constantly connected. I think it’s important to define work and personal time by unplugging as much as possible. I find that I am most creative and my best business decisions have been made after time spent unplugged with my family.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ITEM IN YOUR HOME & WHY? This is a tough one, there are so many items in my home that have sentimental value that it’s hard to choose a favorite. The towel rack in our master bedroom means a lot to me. My grandmother made it from an antique bed and vintage iron hooks. Aside from being functional and unique, what I love most about it is how it reminds me of her, her resourcefulness and her ability to create something beautiful with her own two hands.
SARAH: Thank you Tana for this interview. I am so thankful for the wonderful marketing and business advice you provide for all of us on your blog. I really do consider you my marketing BFF.
Special thanks to Sarah for opening up her heart, home and images to us – especially this one (above) of Murphie! You have a friend for life in me…thx girl!!! You can follow (and be inspired by) Sarah here: Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube.