Young People in Business: Darren Bart's love of design
Quiet, candid and confident are just some of the qualities one can immediately glean from interior designer Darren Bart.
Bart, who launched his company, DGB Concepts, about five years ago, did what many aspiring young entrepreneurs dream of but few actually dare to do – he gave up his day job, took out a tiny loan, and started his interior design company with simply his passion, creativity and intuition to guide him.
Bart says the move was out of character, even for him.
“A few years ago I started working at a commercial furnishing company and I realised I really like this, transforming spaces and making people happy. And then in 2012, I decided it was time to start my own company, and September will make it five years.”
“I thought I was insane,” he laughed.
He said prior to starting his company he visited New York and liaised with an established interior designer in New York for advice and guidance.
"I grilled her to find out everything I could," he said.
"I took out a loan, started out with $21,000, bought my first laptop and that was it…I really thought I was crazy. I had one project for my first chance, it came out great.”
“Then I had another project for a client who works in the oil and gas industry, he was not here for the majority of it. I think when I realised that I had the potential was one day he came to see the work and he said, “Wow, I’m impressed”, and that made me realise I could do this.”
He said at that point his confidence began to grow.
“After that I realised I need to push myself, this is what I have to do.”
Bart is currently finishing up his certification with the New York Institute of Design, however his experience in interior design spans seven years, and his work shows it.
(Photo: One of Bart's recent projects)
For him, the certification will be simply proof of the years of work he has put into his passion.
“Of course the work speaks for itself; the more work I do the more I have to show for it, this will just give me that ‘paper’ to go with the expertise,” he said.
The contractor conundrum
Bart said his experience has not been without its challenges, a big one being contractors.
“I’ve had some terrible experiences with contractors. There are some contractors that I’ve worked with for many years that I’ve had to stop working with…you know the saying, familiarity breeds contempt? It’s like that, sometimes they think they can do whatever they want because we are ‘cool’.”
“But the client is not cool with that, and I’m not cool with that. I’ve had experiences where they don’t come to the job, they’re late, instead of the contractor coming he sends his guys, and of course the work is subpar,” he said.
“There have been quite a few disasters (because of this), and of course it was very disappointing, heartbreaking because it’s not their reputation it’s mine, but I just continued building.”
He referred to a recent project he has done for a large business and was able to work with the contractors to ensure the job was completed on time and in line with their expectations.
(Photo: Bedroom upgraded, courtesy DGB Concepts)
He said even though there were some difficulties he was able to ensure it was done to his requirements.
“I was able to guide the work, it was a huge job and I didn’t want to run the risk of somebody messing up the job. It’s unfortunate that I have to be as hands-on but it’s important. Of course, I have to understand the difference between micro-managing and being hands-on, so that’s my journey right now,” he said.
“My last client is very happy with their space and I’m really happy about that,” he said.
(Photo: A breakfast bar and kitchen island merge in this clever design by DGB Concepts)
DGB Concepts: The next stage
Moving forward, Bart says he’s much more confident about what he wants and where he sees his company going.
Bart has now signed on with a business partner who has a background in project management, branding and business management.
“My new partner brings at least 30 years of experience in project and business management, and of course I bring design, so he is basically helping me understand the business side more.”
“We’re hoping to be able to expand and have a showroom to be able to provide more options for clients,” he said.
He added that they will need to hire more staff as well as the number of projects grows.
Eventually, Bart says he dreams of his business expanding to other Caribbean countries such as Barbados or Jamaica.
“Hopefully one day,” he laughed.
Passion is key
Bart’s tips for other entrepreneurs is simple yet compelling: passion.
“If this is your passion, follow it. It’s very easy for us to be disappointed and then decide ‘this is not for me’. I’ve had friends who knew I was in a business when I was just starting and they would share job listings with me because they didn’t think I could do it,” he said.
“I think it hits us. You feel like ‘ok, is it that we are not good enough for this, is it that you don’t see us being progressive? And many people take offence to it,” he said.
“I began listening to other people who said ‘you should find a job’, but I realised that if I did that then my business would suffer. So if you are passionate about it, stick with it.”
“Find ways to market yourself, find ways to be confident, I lacked that it in my earlier years," he admitted.
(Photo: Redesigned bathroom courtesy DGB Concepts)
Nevertheless, Bart’s passion remains strong for his craft and he says there’s simply no stopping him now.
“I am now making up for it, it’s not too late. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs push and push, burning the midnight oil, because it’s their brand.”
“Just continue pushing and continue working towards you and your brand, you and your goal, because it’s for you, first and foremost.”