The Reflective Designer - Owner, Beverly Ferguson

Beverly Ferguson realized her passion for fine arts at a very young age. At the age of 12, she was drawing and painting. She has studied with well-known artists Daniel Greene and Wolf Kahn. Her paintings have been published by Polaroid in their Museum Masters Collection. In addition, she has been published in several instructional books distributed internationally.

Although Beverly’s family appreciated the beauty of her art and the contribution that she was making, she was guided to seek a path that would be less art-oriented and more substantially career-oriented. In all of her brilliance, the fall back career path she chose for her education was to go into the field of interior design. Instead of the fine arts, she was now practicing applied arts. She used her universal knowledge of composition and color theory to bring design visions to life. Her favorite professor was educated at École desBeaux Arts in Paris, France. Beverly had the opportunity to learn traditional classical design that he brought to Chamberlayne College, now a part of the University of Massachusetts.  She holds her degree in the Applied Science of Interior Design.

After college, Beverly was busy raising her family and serving clients in her career as an interior designer. She is a lifelong learner with a broad range of interests. Beverly is an accomplished gilder and was employed at a studio producing hand-carved picture frames and restorations. When it came to the restoration of frames, her knowledge of color theory and pigment interaction was invaluable. She has shared her knowledge and skills while instructing at The Rhode Island School of Design, The Boston Architectural Center, and Cennini Studio Workshops.

Beverly had a goal of continuing her career as a full-time designer. She went to a sales seminar to improve her sales techniques. As synchronicity would have it, she met the person who would eventually be her future partner at The Reflective Designer. The meeting of minds began with the idea of Beverly providing a shop at home service using The Reflective Designer as her framework. The success of the partnership gave way to an opportunity that came in 2009 after the market crash. A business owner who had a 20-year-old established decorating business was looking to sell her store and retire. Beverly and business partner Joe Barnett purchased the business despite the less than optimal economic climate.

Beverly Ferguson became a full partner and owner of The Reflective Designer in 2009. The business has a showroom in the Metro West region of Boston. The business was an immediate success and has been thriving for the past eight years.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

I was in my early 50s and I wanted to grow my business. I went to a workshop where I met my business partner. He had his own drapery design business since 1980. He thought we could work well together. My partner told me that he had a gut feeling and allowed me to represent his company along with my designs. When the brick and mortar showroom came up for sale, he came to me and asked me about starting The Reflective Designer together. I was used to working from home and on my own. I did not want to be tied down to a schedule or routine. But in the end, I realized if I wanted to grow, this was the perfect opportunity at a great location with an established reputation.

How do you make money?

We are interior designers with a retail storefront. The furnishings and goods which we sell are the tools for implementing our ideas. We charge an hourly fee. A portion of the design fee is applied to items purchased from us directly. We have structured our fees in this way to make design services attainable to a broader range of people.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

We were profitable right out of the gate. We purchased a business with a great location that was an established Hunter Douglas Gallery. Hunter Douglas requires a serious commitment and specific instructions with how to do business. The place was in rough shape, but we gutted and furnished it.  Things were spare in the beginning but eventually, we fleshed out our acquisitions for the store. I am proud of what we have accomplished in such a short time.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

Before I had the showroom, I was working at a local paint and decorating center. We sold paint, shades blinds and shutters. I was selling very profitable jobs, so I asked for a commission on my sales. They offered 10 dollars per window. I knew right then that this job was going nowhere. The timing was good because that is when I met my business partner, Joe. I built my own customer base in a remote location and independent of my employer at the time. My employer and I did not see eye to eye about my enterprise and so we parted ways. I went from having a regular paycheck every week to a strict commission structure. At age 53, I started all over without a net. I made it work because I had to.

How did you get your first customer?

I used to get a free real estate paper. I’d look up addresses of new homeowners online and go knock on their doors. Every Saturday, I’d prepare welcome packets and go ring doorbells. Once the ball got rolling, most of my business started coming from referrals.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

We are very big on social media. And I talk to everyone and anyone. I have a magnetic sign on my car. It helps that people know we are here. The Reflective Designer has two websites.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

We had a creative parting of the ways with a person who helped us tremendously in developing our brand. He worked on our websites and developed printed collateral since we started and he was wonderful. But as all business do, we have evolved and we needed change. We have gone in another direction and I have no idea if it will work out, but we had to change. It was a hard decision because it is just an unknown.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I never stop. Never ever stop. I have steady energy. I am at the store six days a week.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

We are a team here, a really great team that works together very well. They want to see me succeed and I want to see them succeed.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

We are actively looking to expand the business. I am looking for designers who would like to have the independence of their own design business while being able to be under our umbrella and utilize the benefits of associating with The Reflective Designer. I am looking for someone who will carry on the business in continuity. I have hired a designer who has experience, but I would be willing to train the right person. After so many years, I want to have some well-earned time for myself. It is a huge opportunity for someone who loves the interior design trade.

What business books have inspired you?

Scott Adams: “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big”.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

Our showroom is in a shopping plaza, it is a very unassuming location. Hunter Douglas Gallery dictates the front of the store, so we cannot touch it. Our floors are horrible 1950s asphalt tile floors. I laid carpet tile over top of the asphalt flooring and it has made a world of difference. It brought a much higher degree of elegance to the appearance of The Gallery and it now blends seamlessly with our fine furnishings displays.

What should people know about Beverly Ferguson and The Reflective Designer?

I would like for people to be more aware of what we have here. I offer a premium design experience and personalized service. People see me as a shopkeeper. We never really engage in a discussion of the fine arts or the success I’ve had. They think my installer is just a guy with a toolbelt, instead of an important member of the board of a local symphony orchestra. I would like to see people be more intuitive and engaging with the people they are doing business with.

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