When Lisa Janvrin found herself moving from New York to Omaha after the 2008 market crash, she didn’t anticipate the move would eventually lead her to join the ranks of the Silicon Prairie’s female founders. But through identifying a gap in the Midwest’s interior design services, the concept for YouthfulNest was born.
YouthfulNest is an online, virtual interior design site that appeals to modern parents by providing them with a convenient and stylish way to design rooms for their babies or children.
The inspiration for the company came when Janvin designed her own son’s nursery. She had designed for commercial spaces in the past but found that designing highly-functional residential spaces that had to meet specific needs like middle of the night feedings, was something entirely new.
Janvrin said the change from working as a design executive in New York to waiting tables in Omaha while she found a job to get her back on her career path, was humbling but ultimately beneficial.
“It’s allowed me to start a company that I really love and that I want to grow,” said Janvrin. “I know the value because functionality is a huge part of kids’ spaces.”
After the birth of her son, she looked into other online design services like Decorist and HomePolish but found that none of them specialized in spaces for children. In addition, those sites force their designers to compete with one another to win jobs.
“They have you competing against other designers for one space. You don’t get paid unless you get the job,” said Janvrin. “It’s kind of like crowdsourcing for design which I’m against. I think people should be paid what they’re worth.”
The focus on stylish and well-designed spaces for kids is growing as 3 million millennials start having babies. For the generation that grew up accessing everything online, it’s second nature for them to design their children’s’ rooms online with a stylist. Combine that with Midwest cities’ limited selection of brick and mortar home funrishing stores, and the opportunity for success with an online design source is even greater.
“[As millennials get older, they] want a house, they want to have kids, they want rooms for their stuff,” said Janvrin. “I’m a tech business. I want to appeal to those who get tech.”
Janvrin was chosen as one of 200 female founders from across the country (one of only two from the Midwest) to attend a conference for women in New York in 2015. She said that experience changed the way she saw herself as a business owner.
“It was my first time realizing I was a female founder. I didn’t really put myself in that box,” said Janvrin. “I was just starting a company because I wanted to do this. I wanted to offer design expertise to those who didn’t have access to it.”
The conference also got her thinking about fundraising and investing, something that she hadn’t yet considered since her business was entirely bootstrapped on an initial $3,000 investment she made out of her own savings.
“After the entrepreneurial weekend in New York, seeing all these other growing businesses who have done it, that FOMO set in,” said Janvrin. “But I really want this company to prove to be successful on its own […] I’d rather bootstrap it until then.”
She knows that additional funding will allow her to make changes to the company like creating a new software platform, but she decided to wait on seeking out fundraising, investors and a potential tech co-founder until her son is older and starts school––something countless other entrepreneurial parents can relate to.
“If I want to look into investors, I really need to give them my time,” said Janvrin. “I have one and only chance to do this right––to be a mom––and I can have other chances to grow YouthfulNest later on.”
Janvrin knows what’s possible with investors. In 2015, Design startup Decorist raised $4.5 million in seed funding from Lowe’s Companies, the Women’s Venture Capital Fund and undisclosed angel investors.
“These retail brands are seeing the value of virtual design,” said Janvrin. “They can sell more product and they can reach more people who aren’t going to brick and mortar stores. […] That’s the ultimate exit.”
Currently, Janvrin is running a campaign through iFundWomen to help hire marketing talent and scale modestly until the time is right to make a big move. She keeps the company running lean, only outsourcing expert consultants such as copywriters and developers as needed. She advertises on social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, which are currently connecting her with clients across the country, from L.A. and Miami, to Chicago and New York.
There’s no question that Janvrin is a founder running a successful business, but as a female entrepreneur working in design space, she’s often faced with one question.
“One of the discussions at the entrepreneurial event was ‘Are you tech or are you fashion?’” said Janvrin. “I see it as a tech solution to a lifestyle problem.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.