Building an Interior Design Empire

I recently had the honour of connecting with a powerful leader and an incredibly creative business owner and interior design expert, Allison Crawford. Allison is an interior designer and founder of Hotelette, an award-winning collection of luxury short-term rentals in Austin, Nashville and Dallas.

In this interview Allison shares with us about a bachelorette trip that inspired her business, why we do not need to have a huge budget to be effective in our marketing, and why the interior design doesn’t have to be a “fussy experience”.

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Your work is lovely! I am so impressed with your natural abilities to design! Where did the love for design come from and how did you know this was what you wanted to do with your life?

Thank you! I’ve always been creative… I started painting when I was five and sold my first painting (to a stranger!) at six. Creativity has always been important to me, even though I studied advertising rather than art and ended up in the corporate world for a decade! Initially, I flipped my first house as an investment but loved the creative process so much I later started Allison Crawford Design and HOTELette.

What is the story behind the brand Hotelette and its name?

After spending bachelorettes crammed into hotel rooms, I was excited when Airbnb started to take off. To me, part of what was missing in hotels was the ability to gather comfortably. But I hated the feeling of being in someone’s home – I didn’t want to have to rearrange an Airbnb host’s fridge to fit drinks and snacks for the weekend. That inspired me to create HOTELette as the middle ground between boutique hotels and short term rentals. HOTELette is a collection of short term rentals with the reliability of a hotel chain, the design-centricity of a boutique hotel and the conveniences of a home.

I arrived at the play on “hotel,” because I love how French it sounded!

I would love to hear a little bit about your approach to marketing and working with influencers. What has had the greatest impact on your business in terms of marketing?

Thoughtful influencer marketing and grassroots PR have created the most exposure and growth for HOTELette, which in turn has led to increased bookings. My advice is, choose the influencers and publications you work with wisely; considering more than just their number of followers and likes and have a specific and measurable goal for the partnership. What do you want this expenditure – whether it’s time, trade, product or expense – to achieve for your business?

I don’t believe you need a huge marketing budget to grow a business, although it definitely helps. What you need is an extraordinary product or service that you believe in. Then, marketing is the fun part of the job.

How do you hope to redefine how we think of interior design?

I want people to look at my work and understand that interior design isn’t a fussy experience reserved for interior designers and those that can afford us! I want my work to make everyone feel empowered to style and enjoy their own homes.

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What have you enjoyed about running your own business?

I love managing a team and watching each member of my team grow professionally and personally. It’s a privilege to be in a position to inspire others to grow and challenge themselves.

What’s been the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Starting a business will always come with numerous professional and personal challenges. Navigating the e-commerce aspect of HOTELette has been challenging, and it’s taken a few tries to get it right. Resiliency is essential during these obstacles, you can’t let hiccups or unmet goals keep you from trying again.

What do you believe sets you and your business apart from others?

Culture. Company culture is so important – it affects everything from workflow to customer experience. At HOTELette and Allison Crawford Design, we worked together to identify our values and principles that we want to guide us in each of our respective responsibilities.

What has surprised you most about running your own business?

How much I have learned and still have to learn! I believe that you should be versed in every aspect of your business, but if you can, you should feel empowered to outsource everything that’s not your strength – those people will teach you! I’m definitely not an expert with numbers, but I continue to learn so much about the financial side of my businesses.

Now for a few fun questions…

Where do you think has the best “vintage finds”?

I’m always looking for vintage, but Los Angeles Rose Bowl and European flea markets are the best places!

Can you give us one or two tips on how to spice up OUR living spaces? What is something simple we perhaps overlook that would turn an ordinary space into something extraordinary?

Art! Rearranging your art sounds like a simple fix, but it will totally transform your space. If you need art, frame your kids’!


About Allison Crawford

Named one of the top 5 designers to watch in 2016 by rue magazine, Allison Crawford is the founder and owner of Allison Crawford design, a boutique interior design firm located in Austin, Texas. Allison’s goal is to create beautiful and functional spaces that reflect the personality and passions of her clients. At the heart Allison’s process is the belief that design creates a balance between comfort and luxury, integrating the practical with the desirable.

Allison earned her bachelor of arts from Southern Methodist University. She also studied gothic literature at university college in Oxford and interior design at New York University. Along with owning her own design firm, Allison is an active real estate investor, licensed real estate agent and entrepreneur. Check out her new venture, hotelette.