Interview with Samantha Jane Agbontaen, founder and CEO of House Designer

Samantha Jane Agbontaen is the founder and CEO of House Designer, a UK-based online design platform dedicated to ensuring that elegant and sophisticated interior design services are accessible and affordable to the wider market.

What’s your career background?  

I come from an entrepreneurial background. Prior to interior design I had my own fashion business. After several years within the fashion industry, I concluded that it just wasn’t the right fit for me with the rise of fast fashion.

I knew that I wanted to continue being an entrepreneur, but I wasn’t sure as to what my next move was going to be. I went on to study Interior Design and I enjoyed it.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My friends and family have always commented on how stylish my home is and would always ask my advice on where to buy certain furniture or how to design their own homes.

One day I asked a friend if she would pay £150 for somebody to design a room in her house for her. She immediately answered yes that would be an excellent service that I would definitely pay for.

I then decided to experiment with designing a website for online interior design services and found ways to develop the concept further. This was the beginning of House Designer.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

My first step was to research the interior design market. I analysed competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and looked for any gaps in the market. Once I had some sort of vision, I got a notebook and wrote a quick plan for the business.

The plan included a goal, marketing strategy, a budget, and a business structure. This plan kept changing as I completed each step. Eventually after some time the business started to take shape. 

What is your USP?

Having unique traits that differ from your competitors is important for any successful business. House designer is currently the only online design platform that offers both interior and garden design services. It’s a one stop hub for affordable design services.

We are also the first to have offered photo-realistic 3D design in our interior packages in the UK.

What were the biggest mistakes you made starting your business, and what did you learn from them?

When I started the business, the top three mistakes that I made was not spending enough time on developing the social media presence of the business, being too ‘soft’ with clients and not delegating enough to team members. 

As an online business, social media platforms are powerful tools that can be utilised in building the business as a brand and giving it its identity. However, this is a full-time job in itself which takes a lot of time and planning. I did not realise this in the early days and the business was initially slower in having a presence on social media platforms. 

Clients would demand a lot of time and attention and with my eagerness to ensure that clients were satisfied, I would spend excess time trying to meet unrealistic expectations. This would result in a loss of time that could have been utilised in other areas of the business.

Having started the business solely on my own, when I began to employ team members, I didn’t delegate enough to them. As the time has gone on, I have learnt to become less self-reliant which has in turn enabled the business to grow more efficiently.

Who’s your target audience?

Traditionally interior design is viewed as a service utilised by the more affluent in society. As an avid lover of interior design, I was inspired to launch House Designer to change this narrative! My goal is to ensure that sophisticated and elegant interior design is accessible and affordable to the wider market.

What’s your proudest moment so far?

When I had my first paying client, that was a glorious moment for me. I was so happy as this meant a lot. I have since had many proud moments. By far it would be when we won the ‘Best Online Interior Design Company 2021’ award! 

How do you balance your work with your family?

To strike a happy medium I try to always plan my days strategically and within this plan I try to include time for family activities.

However, as an entrepreneur it is very common to work long and unsociable hours. I sometimes end up missing social events, which can at times be disheartening. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a supportive family and friends who are understanding. 

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

The top three skills to becoming a successful entrepreneur include consistency, hard work and patience.

Consistency is crucial as an entrepreneurial skill because it is needed to reach your goals. Routinely working each day will help to achieve better results than sporadically working extra hard. Being consistent also helps to build trust in others such as your clients and your team.

There is no easy route to success! To be successful, an entrepreneur needs to get out of their comfort zone and work hard, not being afraid to sweat. This hard work is what makes the reward even more satisfying. 

‘The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. Be patient and stay the course ‘- (Anon). This is a quote that I use to remind myself of the importance of patience in being a successful entrepreneur.

No matter what goal I have set for myself or my company I know that patience is paramount. There is no overnight route to success and without patience it becomes very tempting to give up when things are not going the way I intended. Giving up is not an option!

Find out more about House Designer.