O F B L V C K is a Rising Star in the Competitive Toronto Design Market
Home improvement shows on HGTV, DIY and other networks make design look easy. From the comfort of our couch, we watch glamorous professionals transform properties in less than 60 minutes.
But reality TV is far from reality. On top of training and natural talent, designing a space and becoming a successful designer is also a lot of hard work.
Just ask Jena Nasser, who has spent the past six years building her design business and her reputation in the competitive Toronto market. Her firm O F B L V C K (pronounced “of black”), which she runs together with partner Payal Bhakta, offers a full-service experience, covering everything from design and logistics through to delivery of furniture and overseeing the concept as it comes to life.
Jena’s first major project was a funky, street-style Indian restaurant on Yonge Street, but O F B L V C K ’s main focus today is the condo market in downtown Toronto. Most of the firm’s clients are bachelors who want a masculine space and vibe.
“They’re the best clients because they are busy, appreciate esthetics and style, and they want it to look good because they are exposed to so much culture and diversity in design,” says Jena. “Esthetically, we’re comparable in style. I’m not about frilly, soft or pinks and whites. I’m very distressed leather, distressed woods, mix it with a little bit of glamour, but still have an overall more masculine feel to the space. So personality and design wise, we’re a good fit for each other.”
While Jena appreciates the important role that marketing plays in building a business, she and partner Payal are extremely proud that almost all O F B L V C K client projects have come in through referrals. Other marketing strategies include plans to launch a website later this year and the occasional consumer tradeshow – O F B L V C K took part in the 2016 National Home Show and was named rookie of the year.
“We also provide a booklet that is like a storybook. Clients get to keep it [as a keepsake of the project] and it’s a marketing tool for us too,” Jena says, explaining that it contains all the answers needed to complete a space, from millwork detailing and contacts to every single fixture and piece of furniture, right down to itemized pillows. Clients often show the booklet off when people come over, admire their space and ask questions about the process.
On top of being full of inspiring ideas, designers need to exude confidence and connect with their clients.
“Ethics are very important and I think that comes across initially when I meet [a potential new client],” says Jena. “We are just as interested in helping the customer as they are in what we can deliver from a design perspective. It’s not so much about a cold, monetary transaction – it’s more ‘what can we do to make you feel better in your space, to make it feel like home.’”
With projects ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 or more and clients who collect various types of points, it’s also important for a business like O F B L V C K to accept credit and debit card payments.
Using Dream Payments “makes life a lot easier because everything gets directly transferred into our bank account and it avoids email transfer limits. Logistically it’s easier too – we can get paid faster, clients can pay quicker, they can get their points and it’s seamless. It also gives us extra added value that a lot of decorators don’t have currently, plus it keeps us organized – all our billing and information is kept up to date and consolidated into one site.”
Jena adds, “The days of cheques and cash are over. The faster your payment is, the faster your business gets done and the faster you have a happy client. It just makes sense. It would be foolish not to switch to something like Dream Payments.”
And, like a true designer, Jena can’t help but chime in on the look and feel of her Dream Payments device.
“It’s also really cute. It fits in your pocket. It’s not clunky; it’s honestly just like a thicker iPhone.”
If you are interested in getting O F B L V C K to help with your next design project, you can connect with Jena Nasser on LinkedIn.
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