In the Spotlight: Annie Selke

February 6, 2013

annie selkeTwo weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet and interview a role model entrepreneur who started her business on her dining room table 19 years ago.

Annie Selke has experienced great success from both working very hard and trusting her instincts, and years later she has an immensely successful brand, an inspiring book, and two companies to show for it, Pine Cone Hill linens and Dash & Albert rugs. 

I asked Annie if she’d share some insight with budding entrepreneurs on how she’s come so far.  My questions are for the most part related to start up companies, but I’m sure any of you who have a dream of turning ideas into a business will be equally inspired!

 

Please welcome Annie Selke into the spotlight today. 

Q: You started your business on your dining room table 19 years ago when you had a one year old. Tell us what happened to bring you to that place.

AS:  I had been working in New York for five years in various roles and companies. I was an assistant sales manager at Ferragamo, then went on to the Saks Fifth Avenue training program, then to Conran’s as a publicity assistant, later a copywriter and finally, I landed in a licensing company where I started in my now career long love, product development. 

I always had a lot of enthusiasm and new ideas I wanted to see implemented. I was told over and over again “in a couple of years Annie” too often and got antsy and one day just decided to quit my job.

pine cone hill linensIt was risky, but I was fueled with passion and drive.

I bought an industrial sewing machine and my first client was Country Curtains, I started making chair pads for them with a group of home sewers I hired.

I had no business plan (which in hindsight I don’t recommend!) I just got to work.

 

Q: What did you learn in your first few years in business for yourself?

Every day was and education (and still is) as an entrepreneur. I learned how to participate in the NY Home Textiles Show and was encouraged by what I saw. I had unbridled enthusiasm for fabric design, and decided to take what I observed as inspiration and give it my own twist.

Q: What would you have done differently in the early years if anything?

I can’t say I’d do any of it differently. I’ve been successful beyond what I ever imagined. I kept redefining myself over the years, once I’d “done” something, I was always asking myself “what’s next?” I still do. But I do think it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish but from the start, to envision where you want to go and work towards that goal.

striped dash & albert rugsQ: What inspires you in your day to day ideas about your line of textiles, rugs, and furnishings?

Every collection comes from a piece of my personality, from things I’ve observed or experienced. And I’m always asking myself, “do I love the product?” I have both a design sense and business sense – Photoshop and Excel are equally important in my world – I love designing something and then watching how well it sells. I get a sense of gratification when people respond to my work, when they live with products I’ve designed.

Q Can you offer any tips for budding entrepreneurs wanting to start their own business?

Be eager. Do the thing that wakes you up in the morning. If you have passion and drive and talent and work hard enough, success will follow. Love what you do, it’s not worth it to go into business if you don’t absolutely love what you do. I’m a worker bee myself and I will emphasize that you can’t fear the work. To be successful you have to work hard.

Stay on top of the numbers and figure out how much money you need to make. Is it just to supplement at first or will this new venture need to feed your family? Start with a realistic financial picture and then structure your business to accommodate those numbers.

scramble table linens

Recognize and make use of your strengths, but you should also be equally aware of your weaknesses. Know what you don’t know. Where you have weaknesses, hire help, for example, someone to do your payroll. Be clear about your needs with everyone you bring on board.

Be aware of both the risk and the reward. Even though you’re working hard, being self-employed is also an opportunity to have more control over the balance in your life. You really can define what’s important for yourself and your family and your life’s work. Master that balance and you will be a role model for your children and those around you.

annie selke fabrics

Q: Share some tips for a young business in expansion. Once it starts to experience growth, what is important to keep in mind?

AS:  As a successful business grows, more opportunities will come your way. Always do a gut check whenever you’re approached. It’s flattering for others to want to partner with you, but know your brand and where you want to go with it. Stay focused, trust your instincts, and never be afraid to say “no” to opportunities that won’t fit your brand or business plan.

Q:  What’s your opinion on the changes in the business world, especially the influence of social media and blogs?

AS:  As a business person, it’s so important to be open. Business changes over the years and you have to adapt to those changes. Both social media and the rise of blogging are examples of powerful changes –people more than ever want to feel connected and businesses will benefit by being approachable, sharing their stories with their customers, and engaging with their constituents. Businesses have to be acutely aware of what’s happening and evolve with those national or global changes.

For more tips on how to be a successful entrepreneur, take a peek at this article where Annie shares eight lessons learned from starting a business

Thanks so much Annie for sharing your wisdom and inspiring story with us today!

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18 Responses to “In the Spotlight: Annie Selke”

  1. I really enjoyed this interview! I like to take lessons from successful entrepreneurs because I feel I become better and they give me the power to go on when I am down! Thank you so much for this article! I wait for the next one…..!

  2. This is so interesting, but the highlight has got to be the pic of that sweet Clumber Spaniel, too cute!

  3. Crunchy Diva says:

    I love Annie Selke and have often thought that I’d like to run a business like hers (but smaller!). She always seems so connected to her work. Thanks for the interview – it is a keeper to tuck away for inspiration in the future!

  4. I love hearing the thoughts of someone who has been so successful. And I love being reminded that no matter what, you gotta work hard! Thanks for sharing this interview… it was perfect inspiration for a Thursday morning!

  5. janna says:

    Love this! So inspiring to see hard work and determinaton pay off! She deserves every bit of success she has and I wish her the best!

  6. I’ve heard of Dash and Albert, but not Pine Cone Hill. Thanks so much for sharing this interview.

  7. I loved this post. I’m just beginning to shift my focus to a self-employed future and I needed to hear what Annie had to say. My favorite part is when she says “You can’t fear the work. To be successful, you have to work hard”. Brilliant. Thanks Annie for the inspiration!

  8. FAISAL RUB says:

    Thanks for sharing this lovely Interview !!! I am proud to say that i work for PINE CONE HILL & DASH AND ALBERT.
    it outstanding.

    All the Best !!!

  9. Stephanie says:

    Wow what great advice! I have a new found respect for Annie and her product lines. I like her “guy check” advice, so true in all aspects of life!

  10. WRECKD says:

    Thank you for this – what a great interview! Exactly what I needed to get motivated again ;)

  11. Susan says:

    Love her sense of style and color, what an opportunity to interview her!

  12. christie says:

    kate: you picked a great role model! I ‘m glad you got t meet her.
    I’ve always loved the color combinations from dash and albert. If I met her, I think I’d ask her all about color …..
    Her advice made me feel nervous … always being outside your comfort zone. I’ don’t know if I would like living like that all the time. ;) Maybe I’m a shopper not an entrepenuer ?

  13. Oh my gosh, Kate, what incredible timing for me! Thanks SO MUCH for this post. I just opened my shop, 6 Wilson, on Etsy two days ago, following my passion for fabrics and creating pillows. It’s meant to be a way to help with upcoming college for my highschool twins, but it’s also helping with a life long goal of owning a shop. Eventually, I plan to have a physical store front that I can also design out of (I’m a full time designer). I didn’t know anything about Annie’s beginnings. This was amazing to read just now, and I’m grateful I tuned in to Centsational Girl today.

  14. S. Jamal says:

    Thanks for this inspiring interview. I love this post and wish all the best for Pine Cone Hill & Dash And Albert.

  15. Heidi Rew says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this interview, Kate! I just quit my full-time radio job. Literally. Yesterday was my last day. I felt similar to what Annie felt like when she quit hers. I’m going to have to print this out so I can go back & read it. I know I’m gonna need these reminders. Thanks again! <3 Heidi Rew

  16. Love this. Great idea. Inspiration is endless.

  17. Ginny Gemmel says:

    Our daughter lives a mile down the road from Pine Cone Hill and we travel from PA to visit her and Pine Cone Hill. (love the tent sales). Great to hear Annnie’s dreams come true. My daughter and I have a jewelry business she runs from her home with a baby interweaving her days. Yes, work takes time and devotion but it pays off in so many ways. Creating art feeds the soul. I love your pallette of colors and fresh ways you find to use them. Thanks for being “down the road” and for the great encouragement by being all you can be and allowing others to enjoy your talents. (I do production for my daughter from PA, as well as create and sell jewelry in south Alabama). Thank goodness for email, phones and delivery services. Fed Ex, UPS, and mailman are close friends. ha.

  18. As a product design entrepreneur i LOVED this post, so inspiring and thank you for sharing. Like Annie says, recognising your strengths and weaknesses play a huge role in succeeding as a first time entrepreneur. Modern marketing tools like social media portals and blogging have made gaining visibility for products or services that much easier and economical for young entrepreneurs. She’s right about testing the water first and doing a lion’s share of research before getting started. Thanks for this inspirational post! Please keep em coming!

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