In the Spotlight: Annie Selke

Wednesday, February 6th, 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!



Industry Insight from a Field Scout + Stylist

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I’ve always been fascinated by the magazine business, by the editorial side, the styling side, the photography side too.  When a magazine scout wants to come look at your home, it’s flattering of course, but for me the thing I value is the opportunity to gain some insight into the industry.

Each time I have the chance to work with professionals in the business, they always teach me something new, and it’s had a profound impact on the way I take photographs of everything.  Like all of us, I’m drawn to the pretty and I love to see how real spaces, ones that people actually live in, come alive on the pages of a magazine.

Last week there was a two day photo shoot at my house, and I’ll share all the details when it comes out in May.  At the end of the process, I sat down with Sarah of Albaworks, the regional field scout and stylist who found my home through the blog.  After watching her work for two days, I asked if she’d be willing to answer some questions so I could share with you all some insight into the industry from the perspective of a field scout and magazine stylist. 

Enjoy my Q & A with Sarah, and these lovely images from her portfolio! 

albaworks logo


Q:  Let’s start with your background Sarah, tell us what you do.

I’ve been a location scout, field editor and stylist for national home magazines for the past ten years.  I’ve been fortunate to work with a variety of magazines that run the gamut from ultra modern to traditional design, and from high-end to budget-savvy. Everything from Traditional Home to Better Homes & Gardens, California Home & Design, This Old House, Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Do-It-Yourself, etc.   My job changes all the time, which I love.  Some days I’m scouting a home, on others I’m styling a shoot, or I’m interviewing a fantastic homeowner.  Whatever it is, I’m constantly learning something new.

As a regional scout, I serve as the eyes and ears for these magazines on the West Coast and beyond.  It’s taken years to distinguish the “It” factor, but I know it when I see it.  It’s my job to match the right location with the right editor, without wasting anyone’s time.

As a stylist, my job to enhance what’s already present, so I come in to put the icing on the cake.  Styling for magazines is all about maintaining the integrity of the home and complying with the rules and requests of the individual magazines down to the exact angle and detail.

mod table and window seat albaworks


Q: What do you look for when scouting a home to be featured in a magazine?

I’m always on the hunt for a great kitchen or bath, or an entire home.  Typically a solo bedroom or living room will end up on the cutting room floor.  Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be the first spaces homeowners decide to remodel, so it makes sense why so many magazines will feature them.

seaglass tile bathroom albaworks

In general, I’m looking for everything the magazines are looking for.  Kitchens and bathrooms should have a unique element to them.  We’ve all seen the head-to-toe white kitchen, so we want to see something new that makes a kitchen or bathroom special.  Does it have clever storage, interesting mix of materials, color, or even a great floor plan? Is it “green” or tech savvy?  Is there a historic twist?


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