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55: Creating a Retail Experience with Shany Kaufman (Part 2)

Your retail location is your biggest advertisement. If you don’t think about your brand when you design your brick and mortar, your customers are going to notice.
When Shany Kaufman was asked to build out a branding project for a cafe, she knew that their interior design was out of sync with the branding she had created, so she went out and drew up how she thought it should look. After that cafe became a huge success, Shany went out with her natural talent and flair to create one incredibly successful project after another. Her trick was infusing brand in space to create retail locations that matched with their brand.
In this episode, Shany shares some top tips that you need to know when designing your brick and mortar store. She also shares her struggle of being the sole creative brain in her company and the systems she came up with to allow her to scale despite her limited bandwidth.



My Guest: Shany Kaufman

Shany Kaufman is the CEO of ICO Design Group, an Architectural Design Firm specializing in branded interiors for the commercial and residential industries. She is a mom of four beautiful children and just recently got married.
Shany opened her firm 6.5 years ago, when she knew she had to start supporting herself. With a strong passion for the arts but never specifically interiors, her background was in Graphic Design, which she practiced for 14 years. Shany taught herself everything she knows about interior design, and continues to learn more every day.
The hustle and the passion for design is what keeps Shany going strong. Never one to compromise on quality, her goal is to always bring out the wow factor through all her designs. Shany has been through everything, but she doesn’t let it get her down. She built this baby from nothing and plans on taking it to the very top.


Pivotal Moments:

Tried to study design at NYIT (New York Institute of Technology) but couldn’t sit in the class and needed to start working on projects so that she could figure things out herself.
Took a course that taught her how to use Adobe Illustrator, and then went out with natural talent, grit and determination to create her career in graphic design and branding.
Was hired to do a branding project for a cafe, and while on the job, realized that their interior design didn’t match their brand. Drew up a quick sketch of how she thought it should look and showed it to the cafe, who hired her to design the store.
The cafe turned out to be a huge success, bringing her more clients who wanted her to design their store interiors in a way that matched their brand.
Grew her interior design and branding business organically, mostly off the back of referrals from satisfied clients.
Shany is currently running her business ICO Designs, servicing healthcare and retail stores by providing the unique blend of interior design and branding services to help stores convey their messages and branding to their customers in a consistent manner.


The Advice:

Your brick and mortar is your biggest advertisement because your customers feel and experience it more than any other promotional material you put out there. You need to put great thought and planning into how you want your store to look and feel.
The bottom line when creating a new space for your business is to infuse your brand into the space. You do this by making architectural elements that you can touch, feel and experience.
Below is an outline of what to keep in mind for four different types of businesses:


1. Product Retail Stores


Low lighting creates a more luxurious experience in your store, but bright lighting works better if your brand has a fast and cheap feel to it.


Layout and Flow
You want your store to be self-serving so that people can walk in, browse through the store and be convinced to buy without having to be guided by a salesperson. The goal of your layout should be to get customers to walk through the entire store. For example, in a supermarket, the milk is always furthest from the door with the diapers at the other end, so that people shopping for families will walk through the entire store.
Your store has to work practically too and accommodate different sizes, types, and amounts of inventory for different seasons and trends. The best way to do this is to create modules so that you have a basic layout that can be flexible. You then group like items into your modules so that every single item that you sell is categorized into one module – never one item in two different modules. This not only helps with laying out the store and organizing inventory, but it also works with the psyche of the human brain to get people to buy more.


Retail space is ROI because you are paying for every inch. You don’t want to have more on display than you have to. But even more than that, if you put less clothing on the rack, you create a more upscale experience in your store and you can charge more for each item.


2. Food Retail


There are three factors that make a successful restaurant or cafe:
  1. Incredible food
  2. Amazing customer service
  3. Creating an experience


However, the most important factor by far is the menu. You can create a beautiful experience and amazing space for customers but if don’t have good food and good service, it is not worth anything.


Starting Point: Menu
The menu must always be your starting point. Your kitchen will be designed depending on what is on your menu, because you will need machinery to create your food, and machinery takes up space.

Once you know how much space your kitchen needs, you then know how much space you have for the dining area and the bathrooms. But until you have your menu, you can’t start designing anything.


Kitchen Design
When designing a kitchen you need to work with a professional kitchen company as well as an interior designer. The kitchen company has the expertise to create a kitchen that not only looks good, but also works practically.


Eating Area Design
When designing your eating space, you need to know how many people you need to seat per night to make the profits you want. You also want to have different types of seating e.g. a bar, a lounge area and formal table seating.


3. Hospitality
When creating your hotel, you need to understand what your customers want. If you are a luxury hotel, your guests want to feel pampered and enjoy a relaxing experience. Make sure you are going all out to pamper your guests and make your space look and feel extra beautiful.


4. Commercial Retail
Commercial retail spaces are less about branding and more about creating a space that your customers will want to live in. However, to make it easier to sell, you still want your brand to be recognizable so that wherever you are in the world, people will know that this building was built by your company.


The Struggle:

Shany is the creative brain of her company. She comes up with the creative concept for every single project that her company works on. But as her business grows, it is becoming more and more difficult to be part of every project. How can Shany keep up with being the sole creative engine with her limited bandwidth?


The Breakthrough:

Shany does the bare minimum she needs to for each project. Anything that she doesn’t need to touch with her hands, she delegates to others. She uses 3D printing and a detailed tagging system to give over her creative ideas to other team members. This means that they can take her concepts and actualize them, leaving her to work on the creative aspects, which is her greatest skill and talent.
But even with this system, Shany still has a limited capacity and if she wants to grow her business beyond herself, she ultimately needs to figure out how to bring in other artists who can be creatives alongside her. Shany, therefore, has a system where she hires new people, even when she doesn’t really need them. That way she can train them in and let them sit and watch her when the pressure is low. Then, when it does get busy, she has people who already know what they need to in order to start creating concepts that are on the level that Shany needs them to be.



A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.


Resources & Links:

For part 1 of this episode, where you can hear Shany’s incredible journey, go to

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About the author, Estie Rand

I love turning ideas into money, and helping others do the same. I help small business owners with everything from marketing to fiscal management, business plans to staffing, database architecture to work/life balance coaching and I love it all! What do you need help with today?

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