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Home Grown Business

29 Design


Carolyn and Wayne Allman


Both 51


29 S. Grape St., Medford






29design@charterinternet.comEDITOR'S. NOTE: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Carolyn Allman:

We are a trade-only studio and design show room. Anyone with a business license and business card in the design industry, designers and architects can come and work on projects, using our product library. They can bring in clients, have them sit on furniture and touch fabrics. We have wall coverings, flooring and window treatment hardware ' everything for the interior of a project.

I came here in 1993 and rented a phone line for &

36;20 a month, and worked for several designers in the area. I've been in this building for 11 years. My husband and I purchased the building in March 2004 from Marlys and Darrel Weinman.

Separately, I own Carolyn Allman Interior Design at the same location. There are five design firms renting here and I'm one of them. I have three employees doing residential and commercial design, specializing in kitchens and dental offices.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

We moved here from Bakersfield, Calif. I worked for an architectural firm, BFGC, and Wayne was a manufacturer's rep, selling industrial valves.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

I'm the youngest of six children and came from a family of contractors. So I learned a lot about construction, but no one in my neighborhood knew what a designer was. I had three children and was a stay-at-home mom. But when they were all in school, I decided to go back to school to finish up my degree. The nearest, program was at Fresno State ' 2&

189; hours away. I traveled back and forth for four years.

Once I had the degree, I went to work at BFGC. I told them I'll work for free. Of course they hired me and I worked under two wonderful interior designers. They did commercial, residential and hospital design.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

I love kitchen design and I wish I would've pursued that more in college. Basically, my husband and I made &

36;6,000 our first year here. It would've helped if I would've had more focus involving kitchen design when I first started.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

The toughest decision is to go from working by yourself to adding an employee. You have to think in terms of that person, they have to make a living and you worry about their family and the responsibility. Twice I had to sit down with an employee and say 'I don't have money or business right now, you need to take time off.' They did and then we got a project and they have come back. But the last four or five years we've been very consistent and had a lot of projects.

Who are your competitors?

29 Design is the only trade-only facility from San Francisco and Sacramento to Portland. Jennifer Jones is the showroom manager of 29 Design. We had 33 designers show up at an open house.

We pull things together, do calculations, place orders and follow-up. We also have a complete line of art, accessories and antiques provided by the Selective Eye, owned by Paula Sendar (of Medford), who formerly had an accessory shop in Boca Raton, Fla.

The beauty of trade-only is that you can take items out, furnishings, accessories, lighting, and keep it for three days and see if it works into your project.

How do you define success for your business?

To have the local design community ' there are about 100 members here ' realize the value and bring in their clients. We're hitting from Redding to Roseburg. We've gone to the vendors over the years and asked them what they can do to support this showroom. We've told them: 'If you can give us an extra percentage, by volume we can cover expenses, have it be a benefit to designers and have it grow.

What are your goals?

I buy at the same rate as anyone else in town. A lot of times I had to go to Seattle or San Francisco and that's costly and takes a lot of time. If I can go to a resource library here and visit San Francisco and Seattle a couple times a year, that's an extreme advantage.

It costs &

36;1,000 to &

36;1,500 a month just to keep the sampling department running. You can't afford the space, time and money to house the inventory we offer at 29 Design. Yet, you can buy at the same exact rates you normally would.

We want the business to grow and be this little jewel of one-of-a-kind pieces, fabrics and materials that you can't get anywhere else. We have some exclusive lines sold only through us between Sacramento and Portland.

The third Wednesday of every month we have a Lunch and Learn with guest speakers, new products, networking and business practices. It's free to the designers.

What training or education did you need?

I'm a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers. You have to have a Foundation for Interior Design Education Research-accredited interior design degree, work two years with a qualified professional, then take national exams in several sections. Once you pass that, you can put ASID behind your name. There are about 16 ASID members in Southern Oregon.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

You need a little nest-egg to fall back on, a supportive family and friends. You need to know you're going to make less money than your employees some of the time. You are going to work long hours and toss and turn at night. Then, if all that comes together, you get to reap the rewards.

The upside is that you can totally follow your passions and sculpt them in the way that matches your dream. It becomes a vision of a place you've had in your mind all along.

Carolyn Allman hosts a designer ?lunch and learn? at her 29 Design studio in downtown Medford. The studio, featuring samples of materials and products, serves as a base for several interior design firms. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell