After several years of helping their clients reconfigure and expand their homes and favourite rooms, Heather Galloway and Terra Gateman, the owners of Simply Divine Designs, need to do the same for their interior design company.
Sitting in their diminutive, Erie Street storefront, Terra explains, “We love this location, but we need more space for a full-scale kitchen display – that’s just the best way to sell kitchens.” She would know. After studying interior design at St. Clair College for three years, and working seven years at Kitchener-Waterloo interior design companies, Terra was ready to start something of her own.
In the meantime, Heather was working summers at a granite fabricating company while getting her biology degree in London and planning on a career in healthcare. “Terra was actually a customer of ours and through circumstances we wound up working together side-by-side,” she says. “I was getting ready to back to school in Toronto when she told me about her vision for a design business in Stratford, which sounded like a lot more fun that studying public health.”
So the two pooled their money and began working as Simply Divine Designs in November 2011, and opened the storefront the following February. “We had clients immediately, including work in Kitchener-Waterloo, which is a really crowded space and part of the reason we located here,” says Terra, a resident of Wellesley. “I chose to locate in Stratford because of the creative atmosphere here, and as a geographic mid-point between the London and Kitchener-Waterloo markets.”
“Our primary focus is Stratford,” says Heather, who recently moved from London to St. Marys to be closer to their
studio. “But we’ve also had projects in St. Marys, Milverton, Goderich, Tavistock and Ingersoll.”
Terra and Heather have already expanded by hiring another full-time designer from Milverton, and they take co-op students from Conestoga College. Which doesn’t leave a lot of space in 650 sq. ft. for countertop, cabinetry and
hardware displays. “We need a gallery to help people understand what we can do for them,” says Terra.
“Our account manager at Libro Financial suggested we talk to Perth Community Futures because they couldn’t help us,” Heather explains. “The business looks good on paper but we didn’t have assets as collateral. But PCF took a real interest in our business and plans to expand.”
With financing in place, Terra and Heather first built a 10’x10’ tradeshow display, replete with a full kitchen, that takes two days to set up and another to pack away. “We used it first at the Stratford Spring Home Show in March [this year] and then another show, and now we’re crazy-busy,” says Terra. “Now we’re looking for 1,400 sq. ft. of permanent space to display more equipment, cabinetry, floor models, and generally show more of what we offer.”
Simply Divine’s services include decorating, space planning and cabinet design, electrical and plumbing layout,
materials selection and sourcing, securing permits, architectural drawings, and coordinating utilities, construction and trades. “Sometimes we are solving significant problems,” says Terra, “like moving or removing walls, adding structural supports … and all the permits, documents and drawings you need for that.”
“The personal touch we bring is important,” adds Heather. “For instance, we do hand-drawn renderings of the room designs which gives a better visual sense than a CAD diagram. It takes extra time, but clients appreciate it.
“The best projects are the ones we can design from scratch,” she says. “Recently a client gave us free rein for a main floor kitchen and third floor bath with a $100,000 budget. Now that’s fun.”