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Timing wasn't everything for couple's startup

Rochester Business Journal
September 14, 2012

By MEGAN GOLDSCHMIDT

In 2008, when Dan and Naomi Harel launched their business in a sluggish economy, people told them they had lost their minds.
 
But they knew they wanted to work in interior design. The spouses, in their mid-50s, are partners and co-owners of Invision Design Partners LLC, a Rochester-based interior design firm.
 
"We had maturity in the profession; we both have 30 years of experience in different aspects of design. I was laid off from Kodak in 2007, and that was what prompted it," Dan Harel says.
 
The Harels say they specialize in designing spaces that have unique requirements and use custom furniture. They strive not to push products on a client, which is what Dan Harel emphasizes as one of the three points of differentiation between Invision and other design shops.
 
"We don't start a project until we have a complete understanding of the customer, what their style is and how they want to use the space," Dan Harel says. "We believe that this is one of our strongest points; we don't just sell you our stuff.
 
"We visit some clients a few times until we understand their needs. We use computer programs to show them what the design may look like."
 
Interior design projects can require anything from a three-hour consultation to two years of renovation. The Harels, the only two employees of Invision, relish working consistently with a few customers at a time.
 
"I like the end result when the client realizes the great benefit of the design. Things are placed where they should be, the ergonomics of how to use the space have been thought through and they're just aesthetically pleased to be there," Naomi Harel says.
 
Invision clients are charged an hourly rate of $85, a price Dan Harel says is right in the middle for Rochester, where rates range from $70 to $100. Revenue at Invision has gone up moderately in the past four years.
 
The Harels are far from empty when it comes to ideas. At some point in the design phase art must be brought in, Naomi Harel says. The duo is connected to several local artists, including photographers, painters and people who create tapestries. Invision promotes such work to a client but will install it only with permission and if it is appropriate for the space.
 
"Art is personal, and it has to speak to you. It doesn't have to match the sofa," Naomi Harel says.
 
The Harels hope to continue to expand their client roster.
 
"I would like this to continue and am hoping for growth, but we don't see ourselves managing a 100-person company," Dan Harel says. "If we hire one or two people to manage the work, that's probably what we will do, but not more than that. We want to stay in Rochester; we love this place, and there is a lot of work here."

Megan Goldschmidt was a Rochester Business Journal summer intern.Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.9/14/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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