Established in 2018, Upstate Roots Design is a certified staging and boutique redesign company. This female-owned and operated business out of Rochester, NY was started up by longtime friends, Kristin Lindley and Meaghan Baker.
With a foundation built upon a passion for family, friends, and the traditions of living in Upstate NY. These pieces of their lives are the extensions that define who they are and what has created their story. A HOME is one of the places where people have the opportunity to take an empty canvas and paint it with their personality, their traditions, and their roots. Their passion for design and décor led them with a desire to tie the two together.
Their focus in design is built around helping their clients refresh or recreate both the function and beauty of any space; one that is true to them and their season of life. In addition to that, their staging services allow them to partner with clients to market their home at its maximum potential. With a goal that home staging is to create an opportunity for a property to appeal to a mass audience and allow for an emotional connection to the property, resulting more traffic and higher priced sales.
Getting to know more about Upstate Roots Design…
What inspired you to start your business? What was the Eureka moment that compelled you to take action?
Upstate Roots Design was created in a moment between two longtime friends that were going through a time where they were both questioning their life choices for different reasons. I remember the exact moment URD came to life. Kristin had joined me on a medical appointment as a support system and we were sitting in the waiting room having a deep conversation on how we both wanted MORE. We were both working corporate careers right out of college that were not fulfilling us and feeling unfueled and uninspired in a pivotal time in our life where we should. Kristin had recently lost her father to a short battle with cancer and was in a place where she wanted every day moving forward to be intentional. We decided right there and then, that we should put our heads together to do something we both loved and that would light our souls on fire again. That was July of 2018 and URD was created in September so we did not sit on the idea or allow for it only to be a momentary dream… we acted and we haven’t stopped pushing forward since that day.
How are you working to differentiate yourself from other existing service providers in the market?
There are a few ways we feel that we differentiate ourselves and it began with the inception of our brand. We are surrounded by a lot of great talent here in Rochester so our mission from day one was to create a brand awareness that allowed our clientele to feel connected to what we create. We work to create an emotional connection for buyers to properties with our staging services, which involves us paying attention to the details. The same goes for design. We also want the experience to be an enjoyable one where we can get to know one another and create a long term connection.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced during the early stages of your business, and how did you overcome them?
Looking back, it is hard to pinpoint just one. Much like many small business owners, we have experienced all the things and had many days where we have questioned if this was the right move. Our second year of being in business was during the pandemic which was trying but forced us to be creative and have a solution mindset. We have made a lot of mistakes along the way but what was most important is that we used our mistakes as an opportunity to become stronger, smarter, and push harder. At one point in time, we were moving all of our own furniture in and out of houses. I will never forget it, it was raining and we were carrying a couch. We looked at each other and said this ends today. Either we do this the right way or we will hate it before we even start. We are constantly working to pivot in order to be ahead of where we want to take the business. We also hold ourselves accountable to the things we want/need to keep forging ahead.
Can you share a specific example of a difficult decision you had to make as a leader and how it impacted your business?
Wow, another tough question. A difficult decision both Kristin and I had to make as leaders in our career was that we both chose to exit successful 10 plus year, 6 figure salaried corporate jobs. She made her decision early on after the inception of URD. It was not an easy one for her as a fully remote employee prior to even the concept of remote work but with the loss of her father, she felt called to enjoy her life in a new way. Mine came many years later …actually just recently and still was very difficult. With 16 years of financial career security, it made it hard to disregard what may be logical and follow my heart. It is something I hope to share more of soon and maybe even inspire others. But the good news is, we both made the decision to jump two feet in and give our all to what we worked so hard to create.
How do you foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning within your organization, and how has it contributed to your growth and success?
This is so important. We are not at a stage yet where we have a huge team of employees but that is the goal one day and culture/ continuous learning is always top of mind. It has to be a focus even for the two of us at all times. The minute we stop being intellectually curious, educating ourselves or innovating within our industry, our market, across our peers… we put everything we have built at risk. We always want to create an environment with our brand that shows we are committed to learning, perfecting, and pivoting as need be. We want it to be within our culture but always present to our customers so they feel inspired to invest in our services.
How do you stay ahead of the competition and adapt to changing market conditions? Can you share any strategies or initiatives that have helped your business stay agile and resilient?
We seek out help and we invest in educating ourselves. We have a business coach who keeps us on track and we have invested in being coached by other top stagers in our industry. We became certified early on and continue to participate in national staging and design communities. Leaning into peers when need be and taking guidance from other professionals where we feel we have gaps has allowed us to overcome challenges. We also work hard on ourselves personally so we can drive ourselves professionally. We lean into each other a ton. Our hats go out to all of the single business owners out there because we are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to share ideas, take the driver seat when the other is having a tough week. We are constantly sharing the wheel which allows us to always stay on track and adapt.
Tell us about a specific challenge or obstacle you faced while building your business and how you overcame it. What valuable lesson(s) did you learn from that experience?
A specific obstacle we faced while building our business was learning how to work together. We are friends first…best friends in fact. We have been in each other’s lives since we were 15 years old. We went to high school together followed by college. We have stood up in each other’s weddings and been there to meet each other’s babies just after they were born. Our husbands are friends and our kids are like family to each other. Learning how to create a professional relationship that had boundaries and did not cross a line has by far been our biggest obstacle in creating Upstate Roots Design. It has taken time, tears, frustrations but we truly believe that we came together for a reason. Where one is weak, the other is strong and vice versa. Our company has pushed us each to learn and understand things about ourselves and become better versions of who we want to be. In many ways, it is like a marriage where we had to understand each other’s feelings, approaches, what worked well and what did not. Still to this day, we have moments and we also have to ensure we separate work talk when we are just being friends. It will forever be a work in progress but one we are both proud of how it has shaped us to be better all around.
What unique strategies or approaches have you implemented to differentiate your business and stand out from the crowd?
We will highlight brand awareness on this one again. It was important to us from day one. Before we did anything else, we were committed to having everything created as a backbone to URD. It was never….lets just throw up this company. It was always about the mission, the purpose, the vision. Understanding our target audience, creating a connection to us as human beings, and trying to never be predictable.
Can you share an instance where you had to pivot your business model or change your strategy significantly? What were the reasons behind the decision, and how did it impact your overall growth?
I am not sure we are here just yet but it is coming soon. We have had many small pivots but it is time for bigger changes in order to grow.
What are some KPIs you mainly focus on to measure the success and progress of your business? How do you ensure you stay on track towards achieving your goals?
KPIs we measure is our portfolio of projects and how we expand it each year. Have we built stronger preferred partnerships meaning how many clients have reused our services, are we doubling our number of projects each month, are we improving our clients return on investment as we track all of these statistics, are we referred to others, and are we leaving clients satisfied. We send surveys for feedback and we try to pay attention when we are slowing down so we can be proactive in creating demand. We are still learning the real estate market and the highs and lows but having a consistent pipeline of confirmed projects weeks into months ahead is a big KPI for our business.
How do you prioritize and manage the various challenges and demands of running your business while maintaining a healthy work-life balance? What strategies or practices do you follow to prevent burnout?
This is such a real thing! We have both felt the burn out and when you are in it, you are so off track, it is hard to get yourself back on solid ground. As mentioned earlier, the benefit of being a team of two is that we have one another. When one is down, the other takes the lead. It is hard to see your partner go through it or be the one going through knowing you are not yourself but we are only human. We are both moms of three, wives, daughters, sisters, friends to many, and have our kids in full time sports leaving for little to zero ME time. What we have learned is that ME time is critical. Working out, date nights, friend nights, having time to yourself creates the space to decompress.
What question(s) is no one asking you that they should be asking?
We often get asked what is next? But we rarely get asked why? What is our purpose and what drives us? What is the future state URD 5 plus years…not just next? We don’t want to give away all of our secrets but there is SO much we want to do to extend the brand.
Of course our family is our purpose but we have a mission. Would we love to build something so big, that we could take the lead for our husbands who both sacrificed for us to build URD. We would love this to be a family business in a sense so we can employ all of our loved ones. What was a small dream is much bigger for us now and we are so grateful for all the people that follow our journey and continue to cheer us on. We hope to continue to create beauty in bigger ways!
Upgrading Your Abode with Upstate Roots Design…
If you live in the Western New York area and are looking to upgrade your home’s design or stage it to maximize the selling price of a home for sale, you should definitely consider looking into partnering with Kristen & Meaghan at Upstate Roots Design. With a rich experience, great eyes for design, and so many happy clients, you’ll be glad you did.