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Fab Friday with Leslie Carothers

04.13.2012 | all-posts, Fab Fridays

Leslie Carothers is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of The Kaleidoscope Partnership – a social media agency for the home furnishings and related industries. She has been involved with the furniture business for the past 28 years and prior to that she was involved in real estate investment banking.

Robin Baron:  Hi  Leslie…Tell me about what you do.
Leslie Carothers:  Hi! First, thank you for inviting me to be a guest interviewee on your blog. I sincerely appreciate it! Regarding what I do, well, a lot of the time I hang out online and talk with people… but it does go a little deeper than that.

My company consults and executes on a variety of strategic social media marketing initiatives for high end, luxury businesses in the home furnishings, interior design and shelter media sectors. We are hired for consultations, for one time projects over a period of two or three months, for tradeshows, and for long time social media strategy implementation and platform execution.

Each company is different with respect to their objectives. Some want to build brand awareness for a  new or re-launched brand, some want me to connect them with traditional media opportunities through my own twitter work as a micro-blogger,  some want us to plan and execute on contests and/or events connecting several different brands together, some want my company to manage their own social media platforms, some want us to help launch a new brand at a tradeshow or event, and some want training for their own in-house teams. The list goes on!

I’ve been fortunate enough to complete work for wonderful companies in the manufacturing, retail, tradeshow and shelter industries like Cargill’s BiOH Polyols, The New Traditionalists, SHINE by SHO, Von Hemert Interiors, Gardner White, Better Homes and Gardens, World Market Center Las Vegas, Bornholm Kitchen, ICFF, Spirit of Sports and many more. Current clients include Olioboard, The Curtain Exchange and Masins Furniture.

RB:  Why did you choose to focus on social media for interior design and home furnishings?
LC:  Because I have had 30 years of experience in the home furnishings and interior design sector and understand, deeply, the business needs of every stakeholder in the distribution chain. In addition, knowing many people offline through those years of work allows me to help my clients achieve their objectives – quickly.

For the first 20 years of my career in this field, I was an interior designer working at the retail level. I spent 4 years at Scan-Design in Florida, 10 years at Roche Bobois and 6 years at Cantoni – both in Houston, TX. As a result, I have a deep knowledge of interior design and the mindset of the luxury consumer.

When I left the retail design world and started my company 10 years ago, I began it by doing sales training for retailers nationwide. I wrote a sales training book which explained how retail sales consultants could use design in their sales process to increase their sales.

Eventually, I trained on site for over 36 retailers across the United States. When I got tired of so much travelling, I turned the focus of my business to the manufacturing side and was endorsed by Hooker Furniture Corporation as their nationwide design based sales training expert and taught their in-house reps how to take my process to their own national accounts to help them increase their sales.

When my father died, I retrenched a bit to help my Mother (and myself) and then in 2008, I saw the potential for social media to connect the fragmented distribution system of the furniture and interior design industry in ways never before possible and was the first person in my industry to turn the kaleidoscope of my business around to focus on social media.

Immediately, (and fortunately!) companies that knew me from my years in the business doing training, speaking, writing and volunteering on the board of WITHIT –Women In The Home Industries Today – began to hire me for their social media work and I’ve never looked back. I am very grateful for their support and for the support of so many who helped me in my early career.

RB:  What do you love most about what you do?
LC:  Being able to use my creativity, my writing skills, my business skills and my analytical skills to see new patterns developing via the time I spend on social media channels and then to connect my clients and others–fast –to deliver wonderful new opportunities for them that would otherwise have taken months or years to develop.

Leslie on vacation in Maui

RB:  What do you think is the next trend in social media?
LC:  Simplicity and Focus. People are overwhelmed and we can’t stretch our 24 hours. We’re not looking for another social network. We’re all looking for which two or three networks or tools allow us to meet our business objectives and personal objectives in the most time effective way possible and we’ll be focusing only on those.

Addiction. On a darker note, I think there is a huge issue with social media addiction and I think in 2013 you will see a trend of more and more businesses springing up to treat it.

Mobile: For businesses: I would advise their big investment this year to be in mobile. Make sure everything you have – your site, your blog, etc. is maximized for mobile delivery. There is a new acronym –BYOD. Bring Your Own Device. People are increasingly accessing everything via smartphones and regular phones.

RB:  How do you stay organized?  Do you have any special tips or tricks?
LC:  I don’t use it and probably should, but everyone I know is using Evernote to stay organized. For me, I prefer paper and my beautiful calendar. I still need to touch THINGS. I make a list on an index card every morning of what I need to accomplish that day and execute against it. That’s it.

A picture Leslie took in Amsterdam that she loves. It sits in her living room.

RB:  How would you describe your home décor?
LC:  Clean, peaceful, calm and filled with books and  a few treasured family heirlooms.

Leslie's Great Grandmother's handmade lace with her Grandfather's wife's antique ruffled glass vase

RB:  What design elements in your home have you personalized?
LC:  My library –which is also my guest bedroom. If you were to walk into it, you would be inside my head. It is filled with color which stimulates me creatively and it’s also filled with messages of hope and love which fill me with joy.

RB:  What is the one thing in your home everyone comments on?
LC:  That it smells good when they walk in the door.

RB:  What do you put on your shelves or on your dresser?
LC:  Books!

RB:  What does fabulous mean to you?
LC:  Living with a grateful heart, choosing to create tiny pockets of joy in the spare moments we’re given each day to do so and, no matter how much or little money you have, creating beauty in ways that are meaningful specifically to you.

RB:  Anything else really that you’d want to include about your organization would be wonderful!
LC: Get Published:

I started a Twitter chat a year ago called #GetPublished – http://getpublishedchat.com  The purpose of this chat is to connect my guests, who are either shelter editors, publishers,authors or very famous designers with the best design and creative talent in the world in order to create opportunities and share information.  I hold the chat on the 1st Wednesday of each month at 6 pm ET.

This year so far my guests have been Assouline Publishing, author and Boston Globe book reviewer Meredith Maran, the editor in chief of Architectural Digest, Margaret Russell, design book author Susanna Salk and in May, I will host the Editor In Chief of Traditional Home, Anne Maine and other members of her team to discuss the second issue of her online magazine, #TradHome, debuting April 20th.

Everyone is welcome to join the chats. All that is required is to show up on Twitter at 6 pm EST on the first Wednesday of each month. I post clear instructions before each chat on my FB Page at http://facebook.com/TheKaleidoscopePartnership, too.

My legacy business: Messages Of Hope

Everything I have been doing all my life is leading towards my legacy business – Messages of Hope. Three and a half years ago, I was *told*, powerfully, in a dream, to buy this url. It’s a long story, but, eventually, I was able to do so and I now own the url http://messagesofhope.com . It is empty at the moment but, thanks to the kindness of Philip Allen, it is currently being developed for me for free. I don’t know yet what its final form will do or be, but I know one thing –with the help of universal energy and the millions of people who want our world to become a better place – when I am gone, it will become a foundation that will deliver financial…. Messages of Hope.

Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed and share more of my own story on your blog. I appreciate it!