Australians love nothing better than a good renovation: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spent $7.7 billion on home renovations in the 2015/16 financial year, a jump of $1 billion on the year before.
To help Australians decorate their new spaces or freshen up existing ones is recently launched ‘eDecorating’ startup Milray Park, whose platform aims to easily connect consumers with design professionals to conduct the whole design process online.
Like many an idea, that for Milray Park came to founder Sally Bevan from her own personal need.
“I wanted this service for myself; I was renting an apartment and I had a limited budget for furniture and décor. I was also quite time poor with a demanding job so the prospect of spending my precious weekends at the home SuperCenta or battling Saturday traffic furniture shopping was less than appealing,” she said.
“Like everything else, I jumped on good old Google and searched for interior designers offering online services. I stumbled across a handful of designers offering their services online at flat-fee prices. Digging a bit deeper, I saw how big the market for online interior design services had become in overseas markets. It started from there.”
A customer signs up and uploads a brief, consisting of a couple of pictures of their space as well as some ideas or bits of inspiration, magazine clippings or things saved on Pinterest. They can then browse designers and their portfolios and invite them to a project.
Once a project is taken on, the designer then works to create a concept board, which they will refine until the customer approves each element. They then submit to the customer the final design package, including their final design board, floor plan, shopping list, and their designer debrief.
The platform also offers a free Design Bar service, where users can ask designers for some quick advice.
The full design service works on a flat fee basis, with customers able to choose from a Silver package at $299 or Gold for $599 for a more detailed design and service.
According to Bevan, the pricing structure works around the idea that most services equate to around four hours of the designer’s time. The startup takes a 15 percent cut, as well as payment processing fees.
With 25 currently on the platform, Bevan said her pitch to designers is simple: Milray Park will help them get more clients and work flexibly. Rather than being a detractor, Bevan the fact that all interactions between designers and clients occur through the platform is a bonus.
“The platform really resonates with their frustrations in terms of interacting with clients with over email or whatever. Working on the platform allows designers to scale their efforts and is built for purpose, reducing the dead-time so that client interactions are streamlined. The interaction is still really conversational so the personal touch is still there,” she explained.
“Clients upload pictures of their space from their phones and a floorplan of the room. The designers are professionals so they’re able to get a full sense of the space layout from images and will request more from the client if needs be.”
Working online suits clients too, Bevan said, cutting down the need to make a time commitment to be there to let the designer in for a viewing like they would for a face-to-face job. This also means they are not limited to working with designers in their local area or city.
“It can be slightly intimidating too. Online breaks through those kinds of barriers. A bit like dating. Maybe we’re the Tinder of design. Hmm.”
On the customer side, Milray Park is aiming itself at the “house-proud”, whether they are property owners or renters. So far, most have come through word of mouth or social media, with some having used the Design Bar and then wanting the full service.
Having funded the build of Milray Park herself before raising some pre-seed funding last year, Bevan said she started off just having a lot of conversations with various stakeholders in the space before settling in for development.
“The best part of not having any real skin in the game at the beginning is how much richer your information gathering will be as a result. It also established some key relationships for us that we’re only now looking to ‘turn on’, if that makes sense. It’s important to build rapport with stakeholders, so that early piece was key,” she said.
Milray Park has some direct competition in the form of fellow Australian startup Designbx, which sees designers compete to win client briefs. After the designer submits a style board, floor plan, design folio, and furniture and homewares brief, the customer is then passed on to the Designbx personal shopper service, where their new items are bought with industry discounts.
Eager to grow, Bevan said Milray Park will over the coming months focus on adding a variety of designers to the platform to offer a wider range of design services, from landscape and garden to retail, hospitality, property staging, and event styling.
Image: Sally Bevan. Source: Supplied.