An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Sometimes you must learn things the hard way. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising. We have gone through a couple of digital ad agencies promising us the world of success through Google, Facebook and Instagram ads. For us, it has been an expensive lesson, ultimately leading me to learn about these platforms and then running my own ads against their ads to see which ones performed better.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Wotsch.

Jen Wotsch is the CEO of DoorFoto, a Tampa-based startup that is trailblazing the path for digital art in the home décor industry. With a degree in interior design from the International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT) and over 15 years of experience in the industry, she has helped find a way to revolutionize the idea of door decorating.

Jen previously worked for various home builders and design agencies, before the industry was restructured back in 2008 during The Great Recession, where she assisted in the designing of interior finishes (i.e. flooring, paint, bathroom tile, as well as furniture, window treatments and decor) of model homes all across Florida. Jen has also served as a furniture sales associate at Crate and Barrel when she earned “million dollar seller” in 2010 before becoming a part of the showroom design team.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have always been interested in beautiful design. I earned my degree in interior design back in 2004 and worked for various home builders and design agencies before the industry was restructured back in 2008. Around that time in 2010, my husband and I had our first child and I had decided to stay home and raise our children for a couple of years.

We live in South Tampa, and back in January 2017, I started to notice that people were decorating their doors with more expensive and elaborate wreaths during the Gasparilla season. With an eye for design and someone that loves to decorate, I wanted to spice up our door since we are on the parade route, but with something more than just a wreath. I wanted something exotic, something I could customize.

I figured there had to be a cool Gasparilla door cover product on Amazon or Etsy. When we couldn’t find anything to our liking, we tried getting something custom printed at a local print shop. I was shocked to learn how expensive a custom door cover would cost. Some friends and I then decided we would create our own product and make a website so anyone could upload an image or choose from thousands of designs to quickly transform their door into the gritty pirate image that we had initially imagined.

Our site now has over 50+ different categories from Christmas to Hanukkah, Halloween to Juneteenth, and of course, amazing images for Gasparilla. We give customers over 1,800+ designs to choose from or they can create their own with our online design tools.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Fabric door covers are something that most people have never heard of. In the past, if you wanted a door cover, you were limited to stickers, vinyl banners or some people even used wrapping paper to wrap their doors during the Christmas season. These products are cumbersome to install and usually used only once and then thrown away. Most of the companies selling these door banners or stickers on Amazon, are buying limited designs from China in mass quantities, and then selling them on Amazon or some other websites. Because of inventory issues, they can’t provide many designs to choose from, so you get very limited options with no customization capabilities.

A DoorFoto™ fabric door cover is made from athletic fabric that is washable, stretchable and reusable. Very similar to the yoga pants that many women are wearing or the athletic spandex shirts and shorts that you see from Nike or Under Armour. We feel we can compete and disrupt the home décor space. With new automated sewing robots and digital textile printers just now entering this market, we know that with scale, we can bring high paying manufacturing jobs back to the US. By providing a better product that only takes 28-seconds to install, can be completely personalized and requires no inventory, as we only print what is ordered, our team is carving out a new category in the door décor space.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first lease that we signed was in an office space in Downtown Tampa. The landlord didn’t ask us too many questions as we told them we were starting a design company. We didn’t know that the equipment we would be buying needed to be ventilated and was quite loud. When we found out, we brought it to the attention of the landlord, and they told us that we could not have industrial equipment running next to general office space. Luckily, we had only signed the agreement and not put any money down as they quickly ripped up the contract and told us we needed to be in a different zone for manufacturing. It’s funny to think about how naive we were (are) on certain things. As our equipment IS big and loud and would have never worked in this tiny little office space that we originally signed with.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My mentors come in the form of podcasts. More specifically, I love listening to “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. Each week, they talk to the founders of some of the most iconic companies today. You get to hear the back stories on some of the best businesses and brands and what it took to build their companies. More importantly, you get to hear the founder’s struggles, trials and tribulations. Starting a company from scratch and marketing a product that most people have never heard of like DoorFoto™ is quite challenging. I love knowing that the founders of Airbnb or Headspace had to overcome tremendous challenges before their companies started to get traction. When I am feeling depressed and defeated, I pop in a Guy Raz interview, and I’m immediately brought back from the pessimistic Jen to my optimistic self.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption for disruption’s sake in my opinion is pointless and counterintuitive unless you are moving the idea or product in a forward motion to benefit society. I think sometimes people think disruption is bad because it might take away jobs. However, if you look back on history, this isn’t the case at all. While new products, technologies or ideas can displace jobs temporarily or permanently, it doesn’t mean it is bad in the long run.

Look at the history of cars. To those that were manufacturing stagecoaches, they saw the automobile as a huge disrupter and major problem for their industry. And they were right! But the net effect is that the car industry moved things forward in a positive way for humanity. It created millions of more jobs than the stagecoach industry would have ever created. Think of all the industries that were created around the automobile industry. There are thousands of examples like this throughout history.

At DoorFoto™, we believe that by completely automating manufacturing with digital presses and sewing robots in the future, we can create a better user experience by hiring more employees in the customer engagement, sales, marketing and design space instead of having to hire people for manual labor jobs. Unfortunately, most textile manufacturing is done overseas because labor is so cheap. Hence the term “sweat shops.” US companies can’t compete with labor costs when countries are paying their labor force $243 a month!

Automated manufacturing will completely change this in the future and allow for complete customization of anything. Why buy a pair of Nike off the rack shoes, if you can design your own online and get it delivered in three days. They won’t be manufactured overseas, they will be made in the US because a customized product of one can only be made stateside. The experience is unique and provides a better end product and user experience. This is our goal at DoorFoto™. We will use automated manufacturing to completely disrupt the home décor space.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Do things that don’t scale and think small to grow big. Essentially this advice allows us to treat every customer as if they are the only customer in the world. Most of the ideas for categories and images on our site are from customer feedback. We had a customer two years ago that wanted us to print a vintage Santa Claus from the 60s. This one request led to one of our best-selling categories which is our Vintage Collection. This collection of old Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day images and more from the 40s, 50s and 60s are just timeless and make for a beautiful old-fashioned fabric door cover. Last year, one of our customers wanted us to make them an African American Santa Claus. We designed a customized image for them. From this one request, it was the 2nd best-selling product throughout the entire holiday season. We’re a small company so for now it is easy for us to do things that don’t scale. But I think unique insights like this now while we’re small, will help us stay close to our customers when we’re big!

Some other “best” words of advice would be to get a mentor, or many, as soon as possible. Mentors come in all forms including in-person, virtual or even podcasts! We recently joined a startup incubator that provides amazing mentorships and group collaboration. You need to immerse yourself with other people building companies as it is a phenomenal environment to learn and bounce ideas off of.

My final best words of advice would have to be ‘what worked for one company, may not work for you’. Sometimes you must learn things the hard way. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising. We have gone through a couple of digital ad agencies promising us the world of success through Google, Facebook and Instagram ads. For us, it has been an expensive lesson, ultimately leading me to learn about these platforms and then running my own ads against their ads to see which ones performed better. My ads ended up performing just as well as the agency ads, so we cut ties with our agency, saving us $1,000/month in admin costs that we now use for other marketing experiments.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We just got approval from the NCAA to make DoorFotos for all the collegiate teams that we decide to partner with. We have HUGE plans to create some truly unique and majestic imagery for college sports fans. Imagine if you’re a Florida Gator fan and hanging up your DoorFoto™ in 28-seconds on game day, and later that night you replace it with a Halloween DoorFoto™ for all the trick-or-treaters. Total time to install and take down both of these DoorFotos is less then 1-minute! This will be a great market for us and just the beginning as we plan to expand to more licensing deals with the NFL, NHL, MLB, Disney and others in the future!

Our simplicity makes it easy for anyone to customize their front door, office door or bedroom door into something amazing.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I have many favorite business books that I keep near me at all times for inspiration. One of my favorites is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. A simple story about a young shepherd boy on a journey to find treasure. Without giving the book away, the fact that this boy started the journey is what makes the book so magical. Those first steps and having the conviction to continue his journey are the reasons he is rewarded in the end.

I feel that many people never take the first steps in their personal or professional journeys. The journey is what makes it exciting! Win or lose, it’s the lessons that we learn during the journey the propel us forward. We try to instill in our kids that failure is ok as long as you learn something from it. People call this failing forward. The shepherd boy would have never had the chance to fail or succeed, if he didn’t take those first steps and that really resonated with me as we are constantly failing forward in this new adventure at DoorFoto!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

If you think you can do it, you’re right. If you think you can’t do it, you’re still right. That is how I always remember the saying, but the actual quote is from Henry Ford and says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t…you’re right.”

Either way, for me it sums up how important mental attitude is when determining your personal and professional successes. Having a strong mental attitude is critical to achieve the things that you want to achieve and remembering this quote during challenging times, or times of despair, always helps me recalibrate my thought process.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Smile more! This is the DoorFoto motto and I think smiling brings out the best of us and transfers that emotion to others. Smiling is the universal global language and makes everyone feel better when performing this simple act. So smile more…at your door décor or at that stranger walking past you. You will feel better, and I promise you they will feel better too! We have sold over 12,000+ DoorFotos and I read every single review that comes in. We have over 1,500+ five-star reviews and I love hearing the stories of people saying how much our product brings a smile to their face or their neighbors, through one of our designs or something they personalized.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Jen Wotsch Of DoorFoto On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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