Editor’s note: This month’s Business Beacon is a spotlight on Erika M. Powell Textiles, a line that operates out of Powell’s Urban Grace Interiors studio. Do you have a business you think we should feature? Leave a comment below!
1. How did you get the idea or concept for your business?
Erika: When I was in college, I did an internship for the renowned fabric house, Scalamandré, in New York City. I was hired as an interior design student to assist on the showroom floor, but I often got a peek into the fourth floor of the building where the art director was mixing colors and tweaking patterns. The art studio was a beautiful mess of old patterns getting new life breathed into them with new colorways and also new patterns being explored to add to the collection. I was completely enamored with the process. It wasn’t my field of study, though, so I tucked it away and told myself “maybe one day.” In 2005, I opened my interior design firm (Urban Grace Interiors), and as the years passed I continued to have a craving for something new to fuel my creativity. I have always been the artistic type — drawing and painting were always hobbies — but one day I decided I should give it a go and see how they translated on fabric. I took a handful of my painted sketches to a graphic designer to be repeated and then on to a printing house to do a test run. The magical transformation between motifs I painted on paper to the seamless pattern printed on linen really blew me away … I was ecstatic. While the process was tedious, when the sample prints arrived at my studio, I felt giddy about creating more … enough for a “collection” I could launch.
2. Let’s discuss numbers: What year did you open? How many locations do you have? How many people do you employ?
Erika: After many years of development, we finally launched the line in 2018 and work out of the Urban Grace Interiors studio. As of recently, we went from a two-woman team to a three-woman team — I design the line, Emily manages it, and Sara, our newest member, oversees inventory and order fulfillment in the warehouse! In addition to our home base, we are represented in showrooms in Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, S.C.; Washington D.C.; Palm Beach, Fla.; and, New York, N.Y.
3. What do you sell or what service do you provide? What’s your best seller?
Erika: We offer fabric by the yard, grasscloth, custom pillows, leather goods, bedding, etc! Our fabric by the yard is the main focus and best seller!
4. What’s unique about what you do or offer?
Erika: Every design was first hand-painted, then repeated into a pattern, and finally assigned various colorways to eventually form a complete collection. Every step of the process is very intentional, so what you see as the end product is a very clear reflection of my personal aesthetic and design tendencies.
5. How would you describe your business to a potential customer?
Erika: We are a boutique textiles line offering printed linen for lightweight upholstery, pillow, bedding and drapery application.
6. What do you love most about your line of work?
Erika: I love the continual process of creating and building upon patterns that reflect who I am as a designer and artist and then seeing how other designers use my designs in their own work!
7. What sorts of trends are you seeing in your industry?
Erika: Lots of wallpaper and grasscloths, pattern play and the use of a lot of different textures and materials.
8. Tell me in just a sentence or two what you feel sets you apart from your competitors.
Erika: I think the fact that I first hand-painted every pattern you see is pretty unique to this industry. Most textiles designers’ patterns aren’t the result of them taking paint to paper and then going from there, but rather, might be a concept or idea that is then translated into a pattern by someone else.
9. Who or what inspires you? This could be a family member or celebrity, a particular quote or even a book/movie/podcast. This sky’s the limit!
Erika: I am majorly inspired by nature. I love gardening and spending time outside, so I gather a lot of inspiration from my time in the dirt, on the sand and in the water!
10. What’s the best thing about being a part of the Emerald Coast, personally and/or professionally?
Erika: This has been such a phenomenal place to not only build a business but raise a family. There is such an amazing community of loving, kind and down-to-earth people here who we get to do life and that’s what makes this place home. The added bonus of the beach, the bay and the bayou don’t make it hard to love it either! It’s been an absolute blessing and a privilege to call the Emerald Coast home.
11. Are you/your business involved in the community in any way? Volunteering or giving back? If so, how?
Erika: We are! We donated $5 for every mask purchased this year to the Point Washington UMC Medical Clinic, which is an amazing donations-based healthcare clinic in our community. It’s been amazing to watch the way this small-but-mighty clinic has served our neighbors and friends and we are so happy to have been able to come alongside them!
And pre-COVID, we were on a roll with hosting creative events at our studio. We hosted many groups in our space, pairing food and wine with creative arts! We had a Shibori event, a watercolor event and a holiday Putz house event. We are really hoping to bring this back once this pandemic is over.
12. What does a typical day in your business look like? (Pretend it’s Monday (or Friday!) and take me through the highlights of your day.)
Erika: A typical day might look like communicating with designers and our showrooms that represent our line in various states (from south Florida to the Carolinas to New York!) about pricing, stock, memos and orders. Stuffing pillows and rolling fabric bolts to be shipped out. Instagram-ing! Designing upcoming collections, reviewing new pattern repeats and strike-offs (samples) for color matching and scale, communicating with our printer and suppliers, managing the website and so on! It’s busy and every day is different, but we wouldn’t want it any other way!
13. What’s your best “insider tip?” (This could be a community tip for vacationers or homeowners or even a tip for customers related to your business.)
Erika: When picking fabrics, choose a palette/patterns that are YOU and not something that is “in” or trendy. Going with your gut will end up creating a space that feels more like home than just going with what is in.”
14. How do you recharge or relax when the day is done?
Erika: I love to hop in the boat to watch the sunset over the bay with my husband and two daughters!
15. Just the deets, please! Where are you located? Business hours? Social media profiles and/or website links we need to know about?
Erika: We are located at the Urban Grace Interiors design studio. With no true retail presence or hours, we operate by appointment if a local needs to pick something up, but a majority of our business is done online. We offer memos on our website should you want to review textiles before purchasing! Check us out on Instagram or on our website.
16. One final question: If there was just one thing you wish the public knew about your business, what would it be?
Erika: That producing textiles is much more complicated than people may realize! So much grit and hard work that has gone into this business. It takes many months to pull a pattern together with many hands involved, many tries at color combinations, so many samples run to nail down the perfect linen ground material, in the perfect shade. We are known for being particular about design and quality and when there are many hands in the production process; there are also many checkpoints and unfortunately sometimes setbacks. I’ve learned many lessons the hard way (which, unfortunately, is usually the expensive way too!), but as the years have gone on with the faithful help of Emily (and her discerning eye) I think we are finally entering that sweet spot of our hard work paying off and production running like a well-oiled machine!