While great ideas will always have their place in the business world, it’s a fact that the more unique the idea, the more viable it will be. Lisa Fredrikson and business partner, Lili Hall, took that very mantra and applied it to their product design business, TREAT AND COMPANY. Eight years later, they – along with their growing team – have paved the way for innovative and beautiful product design for a bevy of clients and today they share a bit about the journey they’ve been on. –Stephanie
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Why did you decide to start your own business?
TREAT was born in 2006. At that time our focus was on product design. Along with my close friend Lili Hall, I was inspired by the opportunity that existed in the marketplace for well-designed, attainable products. Inspired by our ideas for items that we would want ourselves, we acted on our intuition and started TREAT as a design agency with our focus on product design and development as well as surface design. Lili and I have now been business partners for eight years.
Bringing our collective resources together made sense because retail and design were a way of life for both of us. Having grown our individual careers in areas like product development, merchandising and brand development, it was in our DNA. Design excellence, customer focus, and the belief that our company is a community continue to be our guideposts today.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
We wanted to broaden the design possibilities for our clients. Having a network of contacts in the design and creative industry, we knew that we could work collectively with retailers and manufacturers to reinforce their brands. Our mission and our mantra became, “Enhance the Human Experience. Eliminate Ugly.”
“Eliminating Ugly” for us means remembering to keep our customer focus, working together as a community, and keeping our focus on design excellence.
It is important when starting a business to have a plan and to define what it is that makes you unique. The right plan, for us anyway, embraces opportunities and allows us to be open to what those opportunities might bring. With that in mind, the definition of our business is continuing to evolve with our clients’ needs. Creating strong consumer connections and seeing them come to life for our clients is what we set out to do. Today we are doing that as a full-service agency, holistically designing consumer touch points for the brands that we work with.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Build an outstanding team of people and empower them to do what they are best at. TREAT is not just Lili or myself, but it is each person on our team that inspires the next.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
As many amazing things as there are about starting a business, there are just as many challenges.
For me, I like to know what is going to be coming next from a planning perspective, so understanding that you don’t have to figure everything out at once is a great lesson.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Before you say “No” to something, give “Yes” a voice and see where it takes you. The real opportunities might not be where you thought, so be open to taking a chance. Go beyond what people are asking for, and try to get to the root of what they really need.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
I wouldn’t call them failures, but we have had several learning opportunities along the way. That is a natural part of any company’s journey.
For TREAT, the biggest shift has been an evolution into a full-service retail design agency. It continues to be a natural transition for us as we grow in directions we never anticipated.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
Maintaining our culture of community as our business scales up is our point of pride.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Our culture at TREAT is very much about sharing information. Retail industry news feeds, design blogs and magazines are big with us. Speakers and events are also a great source of information. I can’t say that I would call out one source specifically, but take in all the information you can get your hands on.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
Are you ready to be nimble and flexible to the changing needs of the marketplace and open to considering new opportunities?
Go into it understanding that no one person in your organization can be all things. Form a team with members of different talents and perspectives, and you’ll be so much stronger than the sum of your parts.
Generous communication with your team is key – wins and setbacks alike.