Designers who don’t have a showroom can showcase their talents through other venues – but few are as fortunate as Jaclyn Wike, AKBD, who has the third largest Whole Foods Market as her stage.
Wike, owner of the Chicago-based Studio Swann, recently completed the cooking school kitchen for the upscale food market in a collaboration that included Jenn-Air, Ann Sacks, Greenfield Cabinetry and Cambria.
Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Whole Foods Market is a perfect fit for Wike’s upscale, food-oriented clientele, and the kitchen has presented a unique marketing opportunity for the designer, who only launched her business in April of 2013.
Her company’s logo is permanently displayed on the wall, and Wike will be leading quarterly seminars there on how to design a luxury kitchen.
Although only just completed, the project has already yielded new business for Studio Swann: The Whole Foods’ store manager was so impressed with the cooking school kitchen, he hired Wike to remodel his personal kitchen, which is currently being installed.
In addition to the obvious benefits of having her name attached to a high-traffic upmarket foodie haven, Wike is also able to use the Whole Foods kitchen to show potential clients her work and capabilities.
“It’s a great partnership for everyone,” Wike says. “We’re getting really, really positive feedback and a lot of excitement from the cooking school participants, and I think [the store’s] sales are up, which is good.”
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
While Wike loves her ‘Whole Foods stage’ – and certainly is excited by the chance to grow her business through this public venue – she still believes it’s the personal touch that makes her business special. As such, Studio Swann makes it a priority to meet all potential clients in person, at their home. Indeed, building a connection is what the company centers its business model on.
“One of my goals is to [find] some way to relate to my client,” says Wike. “I try to meet with them in wherever they’re currently living and get a sense of their style.”
She adds: “It’s much more personal. I think people get a sense that you care, that you want their business, [and that] you want to help them bring this dream of theirs to life.”
Before launching Studio Swann, Wike had been working as the senior designer in a cabinet showroom. In addition to 13 years in the cabinet industry, she also gained experience in the plumbing arena at a previous job at Kohler.
But ultimately, she says, “I didn’t like the restrictions, so it was time to go out on my own.”
The business is made up of Wike and fellow designer, Julie Gillespie. In the short time since opening its doors, the company has completed 50-60 projects, and has about 30 projects of various sizes going on at any given time around the country. Most of the projects take place in the Midwest, but Studio Swann has also completed work in Tennessee, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina, where Wike grew up in the heart of the furniture industry.
Studio Swann specializes in kitchen and bath design, but also offers full interior design services. A majority of the company’s projects are remodels, with many of the clients being first-time homebuyers. Wike also works with an architect she has known for years, and often does interior design for his clients. These clients will later come to her for kitchen and bath projects.
Sometimes projects will grow in size after she has begun work. “[Clients] are doing their kitchen or they know they’re renovating their entire single-family home and they’ve heard about me because of [my work doing] kitchens and baths. Once they realize that we do everything, it just kind of grows into everything,” she explains.
Another important aspect of Studio Swann’s business is staying on top of industry trends. Both Wike and Gillespie go to appliance trainings, color preview sessions, lighting seminars, luxury home tours and KBIS on a regular basis. Wike believes it is fundamental to her business to know what’s new and available.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of different roles in the past and they’ve all allowed me to learn little segments of the industry so that, overall, I have a pretty good knowledge of products and what’s out there in terms of offerings within the industry.”
All of this seems to have paid off, as Studio Swann continues to keep busy with new projects.
Wike herself is always on the go and admits that she doesn’t get much sleep. But while she is constantly on her phone and never goes anywhere without her iPad, she says she is happy with how her business is growing, and continues to strive for bigger and better things.
“I love it,” says Wike. “It’s what I always wanted to do and now I’m able to do it for myself. It’s incredibly rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
At A Glance
Principal: Jaclyn Wike, AKBD
Location: Chicago, IL
Hours of Operation: By Appointment
Areas served: Chicagoland and Midwest, North Carolina
No. of Employees: Two
Major Product Lines Specified: Greenfield Cabinetry, Siteline Cabinetry
Design Software: AutoCAD
Business philosophy: “Make it happen! We believe everyone should love coming home. We are here to assist our customers in making that true.”