Inside DesignSponge: Interview with Grace Bonney

Inside DesignSponge: Tara Gentile interviews Grace Bonney

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For the latest episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., I sat down with Grace Bonney, founder of the iconic design blog brand DesignSponge.

DesignSponge started in 2004, which means it’s seen the ups, downs, twists, and turns of the lifestyle and design blog industry. Grace has weathered all of these, plus big personal changes, too.

Last year, Grace moved to from Brooklyn to Upstate New York. Brooklyn had been a main character in Grace’s story and a huge influence on her point of view. So I was eager to find out how she had changed her relationship to her company, the site, and the world of blogging.

She said that in the city it was so easy to get caught up in the push to be #1, to land the big deals, and to be on top with page views. Moving upstate has put that all in perspective. The change was noticeable.

While she might not use these exact words, I loved how Grace talked at length about the craft of blogging and the craftsmanship of running a site like DesignSponge—from the way she approaches her team to the way she developed the concept for her forthcoming book.

Grace also shared her thoughts on creatives being paid for their work—something she’s been vocal about for years. Her views are nuanced and evolving and it was a real treat to talk with her about this important topic.

As always, I probed into how DesignSponge generates revenue, how the team is structured, and the role of collaboration in her company. Grace also shared about how her attitude toward “being the boss” has evolved over the last 11 years.

Pay close attention to how Grace balances ambition and the pursuit of what’s important in her personal life. She does it beautifully, and she should be a role model for creative and idea-driven entrepreneurs who don’t want to give up their lives to pursue their dreams.

Click here to listen to my interview with Grace on iTunes.

If you’re loving Profit. Power. Pursuit. be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast player and leave us a review on iTunes.

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Learn more about Grace’s forthcoming book on women in business here.

Photo of Grace by Christoper Sturman

$27 Nail Polish, Priorities, and the Luxury of Scarcity

Recently, over at Design*Sponge, Grace posted about a high-end designer showroom she visited near her home. In between the racks of pricey designer goods, she found something in her budget.

It was nail polish. The nail polish was $27 a bottle.

An unsuspecting commenter made an off hand comment about “budget” nail polish at $27 a bottle and how “successful” a woman must be to afford such a luxury.

Grace saw an opportunity:

“Comments that make women feel bad or guilty about being financially successful ultimately keep us trapped in a place where we don’t feel comfortable to demand higher salaries, raises or ask for freelance rates that are fair.

I don’t think we need to applaud or approve of perceived “extravagant” purchases all the time (though it’s important to note that just because someone buys a $27 bottle of nail polish it doesn’t mean they don’t cut back and conserve in places others might not), but I think female business owners deserve the right to enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

Grace believed (and I concur) that the comment was just a joke. But I think we all realize the Truth of these type of jokes. We make jokes and laugh at them because we’re uncomfortable.

I’m sure $27 nail polish made a lot of people uncomfortable.

But the problem with the jokes, as Grace rightly states, is that they create an atmosphere of shame around money & what we spend that money on.

Because we’re already uncomfortable about talking money, those off hand comments only silence us completely.

Silence is the enemy. Not money. Not even a bit of luxury.

Ultimately, spending money is about priorities.

Your every day purchases — and especially those luxurious little splurges — reflect your personal priorities. Those priorities are dictated by values and personal preferences. They’re dictated by what you perceive as “needs” and “absolutely hafta haves.”

We assume others priorities are the same as ours. We assume we know what others spend their money on. We assume that people that make the same amount of money we do live life with relatively similar lifestyles.

These assumptions are all false.

What I have learned over 3 years of growing a business, learning how to make more money, discovering how to lose more money, and launching new products & services with regularity, is that I can never truly understand how others will prioritize spending the money they earn.

Who’s to say that people won’t spend their hard earned benjamins on your crazy idea? Who’s to say that people won’t pay what you need to charge for your creation?

This isn’t about $27 nail polish. It’s about creating the success & multidimensional wealth you need to make the choices you want to make while empowering others to do the same. Give people a chance to choose you.

But what really gets me, is how easy it is sit back and say, “Not me!”

Living with scarcity is a luxury.

It is easy to sit back & make off hand remarks about other people’s spending priorities. It is easy to assume that what you have is all you will ever have. It is easy price your products or services in a way that doesn’t challenge your customers — or you.

It is easy to play the game you’ve been taught to play.

I dare you to discover abundance.

I challenge you to work towards financial candor.

I am pushing you to discover the means to splurge on what you truly love.

Will you?