Business Woman. Decorator. Shop Owner. Designer. Blogger. Wife. Mother. the list is endless. Bailey McCarthy is the creative mind behind the very popular blog, Peppermint Bliss and now home decor store, Biscuit Home. Her homes (Chicago, IL, Austin, TX and now Houston, TX) have captured the delight of many with her uncommon decorating quotient and great eye for detail. Bailey is extremely talented and I am very excited to have her tell us how she does it all today on Sunday Spotlight.
I am a 27 year old wife, mother, designer & owner of Biscuit Home. I was born and raised in Houston, Tx. I went to boarding school in Connecticut for high school, and George Washington University in DC for college where I met my husband, Pete. I transferred to the University of Texas for my Junior and Senior year where I majored in American Studies. After a year in Houston post college graduation, Pete and I got engaged and moved to Chicago where he was attending Law School. In Chicago I worked as the assistant to an interior designer until I went out on my own.
How and when did you start writing peppermint bliss?
I started writing a blog after college graduation in 2008 to document some exciting traveling I was doing, but I didn’t get serious about the blog until moving to Chicago in 2009. Initially it was a way of keeping in touch with friends and family in Houston, and to document my work and interest in interior design. Over time I learned about the blogging community, and gained a few readers and things took off from there.
What was the inspiration to establish Biscuit Home?
My good friend Isabel went to art school at RISD and majored in textile design, and we had always talked about doing something together creatively at some point. After working as an interior designer for a few years, I noticed a lack of options for affordable/mid-priced bedding in fun colors with classic prints. My friends and family always called our bed the “Biscuit”, so that is where the name came from. Isabel and I started talking about the line in January 2012, and by May decided to go for it. We started designing our first season prints that summer, and went to printing for the first time in September. We opened the store October 2012 and just launched our second season of prints. It’s been absolutely madness and so much fun.
Have you always worked in Interiors and Home Decor?
Since about a year out of college. I had surprisingly never considered a career in interior design, even though I had been passionate about it for years. My job with an interior designer in Chicago was sort of a fluke and ended up making so much sense.
And how did you make the transition to running your own company?
It has been a long, tricky transition. The decision to start taking on decorating on my own was pretty easy, because of my blog I had a list of clients ready and waiting and I just sort of winged it and figured things out along the way. Biscuit was much more difficult. There was a large investment needed to start the company and begin production, business entities to form, company agreements between my partners and myself. I then had to figure out how to keep running the decorating business with the added elements of Biscuit.
Did you start out with an online store or brick and mortar?
The initial idea was to just sell the bedding online, but while I was looking for a space to office and distribute out of, a space in my favourite shopping center in Houston became available. Nothing ever opens up in our center, I believe the last availability was 15 years ago so even though brick and mortar was not part of the initial plan we had to leap on the opportunity. The online store launched a week after we opened the doors.
What was the experience like setting up shop?
Stressful. I have very little background in retail, and my plate was already pretty full with my design clients and managing production/development of the bedding line. We didn’t really start focusing on the traditional retail side of Biscuit until January. We have already had to renovate the store in our first six months because my vision for the space has changed so much since we opened, and we are now toying with a second renovation later this year. It is a constant learning experience I am grateful for. It is an important piece of the overall Biscuit puzzle and I love being able to see customers interact with our bedding and hear their feedback, and merchandising our bedding with other products we find and love.
What are some of the challenges you have faced working in this field?
Retail can be kind of nasty and competitive. There are only a set amount of products out there, unless you are creating your own branded line, and a lot of people in the industry seem to believe there is only so much success to go around. I tend to focus more on creating our line and a store I am proud of, keep my head down and do our own thing, and try to stay out of the competition.
How have you successfully increased your clientele at Biscuit Home?
From the beginning we have been really lucky to have the support of the friends I have made in the blogging world over the past four years. Without any paid online advertising, the day our online store launched we had 20+ orders for bedding, mostly from my blog readers. I have been so grateful of that support, and am in awe of how much that has grown and spread rather organically. We still to date have only paid for local advertising in one publication. We have been lucky to get some great editorial features, and otherwise it has just spread by word of mouth.
What would you say the best things are about running your own company?
I love that I get to create my dream environment to work in. We have a very equal, casual, democratic work dynamic. We all work really hard on our own, and have lately gotten to the point where we can take some time now and then to enjoy how far we have come in such a short period of time. It is an enormous responsibility to provide livelihoods for my employees, but I am very proud that so far we have been able to create jobs for some incredibly talented and driven ladies who I have grown close to.
Your most memorable experience since the launch of Biscuit Home?
Umm I am sure I would say something about putting out our first line and the deep personal satisfaction that gave me, but in truth it would probably be the day I was working the register and a lady came in and accidentally ate a bar of soap we were selling because she thought it was a cookie. It was so horrifying, and so hilarious, I recall the moment on hard days for a giggle.
Can you take us through a day in your life? And how do you stay organised?
OMG. I do not stay organized. I wake up around 6:30 with my 2 year old daughter, and spend an hour snuggling with her. 7:30 we make breakfast and 8:00 go to the gym with my husband and daughter- baby girl plays at the “bungalow” day care in the gym. 10:00 showered and at work. The days here are all completely different and unpredictable. Some days I am on the floor all day helping customers, other days swamped in the back doing inventory/shipping orders. Some days I am working with design clients, and others managing production and designing new products. But that is what keeps it interesting. My employees Maddie and Caroline are what keep my head on straight. Maddie manages our design clients, and Caroline handles buying and marketing. Most days are a blur of meetings, clients, and endless email until 6:00 pm when we close for the day. I cook dinner for Grace and Pete, put Grace to bed, and then usually cozy up with Pete watching TV while I do blog work until bed.
What is your motivation?
Grace. My baby girl. I want her to see that you really can do anything, and to be proud of her parents accomplishments. I aim to make an environment at Biscuit that she can be a part of, and hope that it provides some outlet for her to explore her interests and spark her curiosities about people, business, and design.
What advice do you have for others who might be interested in setting up their own retail/design company?
Figure out what you are going to add to the game and stay focused on that. Make sure you have a fresh perspective. You will hit a lot of roadblocks because of the aforementioned competition- competition over accounts and territory- and the more different and unique you are, the easier that will be to manage.
What advice do you have for people looking to start something on their own?
Learn how to write a detailed business plan and do it. Project your goals 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 10 years in the future. At least for yourself, answer questions honestly. If your dream is to be Pottery Barn in 10 years, don’t be embarrassed to admit that and start working backwards to develop a plan to get there.
If you could do anything differently, what would you do?
Hire more professional help from the beginning. We tried to DIY a lot of the online store and graphics, and the juice just wasn’t worth the squeeze. As soon as we started paying for professional help the clouds parted and the sun sparkled upon us. Figure out what work you are doing is value added and what is detracting from where you are most needed.
What does the future hold for Biscuit Home and Peppermint Bliss?
Well, I really hope Beyonce. But beyond that, expanding our product lines, more seasons of beautiful prints, and fun partnerships and opportunities.
GET TO KNOW BAILEY…
Hobbies: Music, especially in the summer with all of the festivals and concerts.
Brunch or Dinner: Dinner for sure.
Fave Restaurant in your City to have dinner Uchi
Fave Colour (s): Green
Women you admire: Beyonce.
Quote that inspires you the most: “Who run the world? Girls.”
All-time fave movie: The Royal Tenenbaums
City you’d love to live in: London
What are you currently reading: Lots of trashy magazines.
You would describe your personal style as: Whimsical classic.
One thing you wouldn’t want to live without: My family le duh! Or my kumi kookoon blankie.
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