AFT Construction Podcast

Ashley Stark Kenner of Stark Carpet

Episode Summary

Ashley Stark Kenner is the Creative Director at Stark Carpet in New York. Listen in as Ashley discusses how she balances her high-octane career at Stark Carpet with creating content for social media, reaching 1 million Instagram followers, all while being a mother to her three kids. Visit for more resources on this episode.

Episode Notes

Ashley Stark Kenner is the Creative Director at Stark Carpet in New York, a company founded by her grandparents, Arthur and Nadia Stark, in 1938. Stark Carpet has been synonymous with the world’s finest floor coverings since its inception and has been the go-to resource for top interior decorators for decades. Ashley is also the Sr. Vice President of Design, bringing her fashion-forward vision to the company while maintaining the classic Stark aesthetic. Her unique style and eye for the eclectic are present in her vision for the company.

Listen in as Ashley discusses how she balances her high-octane career at Stark Carpet with creating content for social media, reaching 1 million Instagram followers, all while being a mother to her three kids. She also talks about where she gets her inspiration for her product line and how social media has allowed her to collaborate with other designers at a greater scale since she began in her career. Finally, she shares the process of taking a product from idea to reality.

Topics Discussed 

Connect with Ashley Stark & Stark Carpet

Resources Mentioned

Episode Transcription

Brad Leavitt: [00:00:02] I am Brad Leavitt, host and founder of A Finer Touch Construction. We are super excited to bring this amazing guest to you of people that specialize in business, marketing, social media, entrepreneurship, and most of all, how to build a great company. AFT construction is a local, commercial and residential general contractor located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Brad Leavitt: [00:00:18] And we are continuously seeking ways to bring value to our clients and network. And please make sure and give us a subscription on any channel that you download our podcast. And of course, the big thanks to our sponsor, Sub-Zero Group Southwest. They're located right here by our office. They've been a great partner, great product, great customer service. So if you're starting a new kitchen project, the Sub-Zero Wolf and showroom as the place to start, it provides an immersive environment to help you realize the possibilities of your future kitchen, discover what it may feel like, look like, taste like all in an exploratory no pressure showroom. No matter who you are, consumer owner or remember the trade community, the showroom is ready to assist you throughout your entire project. Visit the Sub-Zero Wolf and Co showroom in Scottsdale very often, as I mentioned, it's just around the corner from my office. So it's the perfect place to meet with my clients and the designer on the project. When we arrive, we meet with a showroom consultant whose sole focus is catering the visit to our needs. They seek to understand what products may be best suited for the client and then explain and demonstrate special features and functionality. We can browse the complete line and Sub-Zero Wolf and kov appliances and then view them in beautifully designed vignettes helping my clients envision how the appliances might look like in their home. The best part is that the consumers can interact with the products, turn the knobs, open the doors and ignite the flames, discovering the best fit for them.

Brad Leavitt: [00:01:33] With the help of the showroom consultant, each visit is truly unique to the client. The relationship with the showroom does not end with the appliance selection process throughout the entire project. The showroom team is there to provide helpful solutions and offer advice and assistance. After appliances are installed, owners can expect a lifetime of support and helpful resources. The Sub-Zero Wolf & Co. Showroom is the place to start experience and bring your vision to life. Schedule an appointment at your nearest showroom. By visiting, and we're very excited to introduce our guest, Ashley Stark Kenner. And for those of you that know Ashley from Instagram, she just celebrated a million followers about a week and a half ago. So big. Congrats to her. And she also just had her personal home published by Architectural Digest. So that was just released. And so as you start as the creative director of Stark, the legendary carpet and fabric company founded by her grandparents, Arthur & Nadia Stark in nineteen thirty eight. Stark has been synonymous with the world's finest for coverage since its inception and has been the go to resource for top interior decorators for decades. Ashley Stark Kenner is also the senior vice president of Design. She brings her fashion forward vision to the company while maintaining classic Stark samples for unique style.

[00:02:47] Eye for the Eclectic are present in her vision for the company. Now, one thing that I love about a conversation with Ashley, she really dove into just how she manages social media. She runs her own content, how she balances that between being a mom and working in her role in business, and something I can relate to with all of our kids and and work and everything else. And so it's really important to find time. And you'll see the value, as you've seen her explained in this episode, about the value social media. And we also spoke heavily about, you know, her product line, where she gets her inspiration. You know how that works and you know how social media has been a connector for her working with different designers and architecture firms around the country. And then, of course, the background of the product itself and what it takes from idea and conception to reality. Very fascinating to hear all the steps in the process of coming up with the idea and the product line and then before execution and selling it. So you love this conversation with Ashley. A big thanks to her for making time. You'll enjoy.

Brad Leavitt: [00:03:45] Welcome today to AFT Construction Podcast. And we are very fortunate today to welcome Ashley Stark Kenner with us, who is the creative director of Stark Carpets. And welcome, Ashley.

Ashley Stark: [00:03:55] Hi thank you so much for having me.

Brad Leavitt: [00:03:57] Yeah, well, Ashley is is probably one of the most busy influencers there on Instagram. I know. And you just celebrated a huge milestone with one million followers. So even more lucky to have you on it on the podcast at this time. So big. Congratulations to you, Ashley.

Ashley Stark: [00:04:13] Thank you. It's a very big milestone and I really excited that I hit it.

Brad Leavitt: [00:04:17] So so let me just start there, I guess, because social media, you know, a lot of people maybe have a targeted approach. Hey, this is why I'm going to go into it. You know, they have this end goal and some people just really get momentum. They take off, I guess. What was the inspiration to really go after Instagram for you?

Ashley Stark: [00:04:31] Actually, there was no impetus. There was no inspiration. I started sharing this after I had my first child as just sort of what was going on in my head. It was sort of like my Pinterest board of inspiration. What was inspiring me was where I was getting my designs from. And I just remember looking at my husband being like, wow, I mean, like I have a thousand people just like one of my my pictures. Maybe I'm onto something here and I sort of. Developed from there, and I didn't really have a plan, and then I just sort of created goals for myself, like hit ten thousand and then hit twenty thousand, then the next thing I know, I'm like a two hundred thousand. And I was flying on and I, I really wanted to make something out of it and I loved the community and meeting all these people and the connection to the designers, I mean my everyday work, I'm connected to designers. So I loved this even more because I was reaching people that weren't just in New York. I was reaching designers and and people across the the world and the country. And it was just it became something that I loved and. Here I am today at a million followers.

Brad Leavitt: [00:05:40] It's amazing. So how long have you been doing Instagram? I guess for a point of reference.

Ashley Stark: [00:05:44] So I feel I everybody asked me this, and I'm not even entirely sure. I feel like I started somewhere around twenty, fourteen, twenty fifteen. So it's been five, six years.

Brad Leavitt: [00:05:55] So and it takes time, I think people don't realize that, and I will say and credit to actually I mean, I don't think people realize the amount of time you put in. And I know that because I know we've been following each other for a while and commenting. And you're so engaging like with so many followers. I think to myself, you know, there's so many accounts that you're reciprocating that if because most people think I'm just going to put something out there and let it do its thing, but you're actually being very proactive in the community you've built in the network and just being proactive and commenting to have that back for you.

Ashley Stark: [00:06:23] I think also a lot of people, when I tell them that it's all me and it's that they're like, what do you mean? I'm like, yeah, I fly by the seat of my pants. I post what inspires me at that moment. You know, sometimes I have like a rough plan, but usually it's whatever it is. And I think staying connected to the community, it's been like the most important thing for me. So it's people do not realize how time consuming only if you're in the game do you know how much it is. And it's it's a lot. But I love it and I love seeing all these great designers and being connected to everybody so well.

Brad Leavitt: [00:06:55] And I think the level of consistency is really important because there are a lot of people I speak with and they're like, well, how do I grow it? You know, I don't have time or, you know, they're only committee, maybe a couple of days a week. But one thing that's unique about you is you're dedicating seven days a week. I mean, it is you are very consistent, which is huge for your follower base.

Ashley Stark: [00:07:14] Yeah. You know what? I'm very goal oriented and I really wanted to hit a million. So it was like I am just kind of go for it. And, you know, I also get so many inspiring DM's every day that just like whenever I hit a moment where I'm like, oh, I cannot do this anymore, people write me, like how much it's helped them and how, especially during covid they've really been able to stay connected and they feel part of something. And they're traveling through my Instagram and know like getting a piece of somewhere else where they wish to be. And that is just kind of helped me through through this. And now I feel like I just I have some other things that I'm focusing on and I'm excited for the next chapter.

Brad Leavitt: [00:07:51] Well, that's super exciting. And let me ask you this. So I guess most people don't realize one of the benefits to social media is that, yes, you're building this account and you're building a name for yourself, but you mentioned something very important. Is that what it's done? It's been a connector because you also represent a brand that we'll get into. But now you have a direct connection and insight to these designers and architects who now it's a more personal level. So it's almost a shortcut to build that database.

Ashley Stark: [00:08:18] It's absolutely true, it's a different way to stay connected and to meet these people that I would have never met before and and I love it. I mean, I I discover different designers, architects and companies all all the time. And it's it's been such a great thing for me.

Brad Leavitt: [00:08:34] So what advice would you have, I guess, for someone that's new, that's starting out, let's say I'm starting my count today. What would you say? She's someone who's been on the platform now for six years. You've put in the time and effort, you know, where should someone start or how should they think about, you know, looking at their page? Like what? What do you think is most important?

Ashley Stark: [00:08:50] I think you have to stay true to yourself and really post what is inspiring to you or your projects and not get so frustrated by the numbers and eventually you'll get there. And my biggest thing I can say is stay connected to your followers because people really want to feel that there's somebody behind it. So just don't get frustrated. I feel like the first thousand to ten thousand followers was obviously the hardest. I mean, I didn't I wasn't I didn't I wasn't really focused on gaining followers at that time. I just was posting what I like. So I didn't really make it into a thing. But I think you just you focus on you don't focus on the followers and the comments. Just focus on you stay engaged with your following base and it'll grow organically.

Brad Leavitt: [00:09:34] I love that advice because I think a lot of us maybe I think many people are competitive or you look at someone else that they're having all the success. And you don't realize that even if you're a micro influencer, you have a small followers. If you have a good base, you know, there's value there. You know, don't get caught up in the numbers, but keep going and, you know, stay at it because the easiest thing is to get discouraged or burnout. So have you kept from burning out? Because that's always the toughest thing, you know, with the time that social media will, you know, demand from you?

Ashley Stark: [00:10:04] I think the hardest thing for me is like my kids being like, you know, I try to put eight o'clock in the morning or seven o'clock in the morning when it's like all chaotic might have.

Ashley Stark: [00:10:13] It's so chaotic. Everyone's like, I I'm like, oh my God, I have to make a post and I want to stay true, engaged in common with my all my followers.

Ashley Stark: [00:10:22] That's been like the hardest thing. But I think. I just remembered, like, I'll post and then I'll tune out and make time for my family and come back in and that's, I think, the hardest thing.

Brad Leavitt: [00:10:35] Well, I think that's really important, too, is, you know, I can relate. You know, I have a lot of kids as to you, actually. And so you're trying to balance work and your career and all the little things that we have going on. And you're trying to balance the social media side of things. So I guess my question is, as you know, is there a rhyme or reason when you're thinking about posting throughout the day? You know, I would imagine that you're very engaged as far as like your analytics, you know, when your users are are on and when they're vibrant, you know. So I'm sure there's a strategy behind what time you're posting as well. Right.

Ashley Stark: [00:11:04] And then trying to coordinate your day around that sort of the analytics. I just I sometimes have to make it work with my day because, you know, sometimes my analysts will say, like 3:00 p.m. is the best time my kids are home getting out of school or I can't, like, pick up my phone and start being on it with them around. So I don't exactly you know, I try to stay within the range, but it's just for I have to make it work for my life and it doesn't seem to flow with it as much.

Brad Leavitt: [00:11:35] But yes, I think anyone listening can relate because whether you know, the kids at home, especially right now with covid, you know, we're all doing that and trying to get to the new normal. Right. And then you're trying to balance all these things, you know, but going back to the social media, do you feel, you know, especially in the beginning when you start growing and it takes some time? You know, I'm sure in the first years it took some time. And then I've seen, especially in the last year, this momentum. I mean, you almost hit this tipping point where now it's just consistently high analytics and it's going. Was there ever a strategy to network with, like, influencers, or did you see where that tipping point came? I mean, when did you really start to see, OK, this is going to take off and it can really be a great asset to me and and to Stark Carpet.

Ashley Stark: [00:12:17] No, I think in the past year or so that's happened and everybody always asked me why and I really couldn't tell you. I'm not entirely sure. I do know that I try to. Most people that I find to be inspiring and I think they post me back and I think that has something to do with my growth, but I know a lot of people do that and I don't know why mine is so much higher. I think the biggest thing, you know, my father, who is the president of Stark Carpet, has always said to me, like, don't watch your competitors, watch yourself, try to do what you do best and not what there and look at them and try to compare yourself. And I really like hold true to that in my everyday world, whether it be Instagram or Stark or my design, I'm like I really try to focus on what I can do and not what everybody else is doing out there and what inspires me and. I think that maybe that's translated and I really try to be it's it's really me, so I think that's maybe a difference. Like I don't have a team of people commenting or running the post. It's just me. And I think people respond to that so well.

Ashley Stark: [00:13:25] But I don't really know what love.

Brad Leavitt: [00:13:27] He said that because I think the biggest takeaway for anyone listening when you think about social media, it's authenticity. Right. And you see any successful count and they're authentic writers. And like in your case, as you're behind it, you're the one running it. I mean, it's you. And so people know that they're commenting. It's you responding. If they're messaging into responding, which gives us some credence and some credibility. Right. And I love that you took the analogy in social media to business that, you know, a lot of us get caught up with things other people are doing, but we don't know what's happening behind the scenes. We don't know what they're dealing with. You know, even if it may seem successful from afar, they may be having some internal struggles as a company. I mean, but if we focus on our brand, our company, our systems, like things will begin to take root right and place and will become successful. And I think that's a great analogy. And I'm sure that's helped you in your business, I would imagine.

Ashley Stark: [00:14:21] Yeah, it really has. I always look at, you know, what, how can I be better and how can I design the next thing or how can we make the company a little bit better?

Ashley Stark: [00:14:29] And it's not necessarily like our competitors doing this or our competitors doing that. It's more of like, how can we look within and do the best that we can do? What what are our strengths? What are our weaknesses and how can we make that better?

Ashley Stark: [00:14:41] Not necessarily like, oh, they're they're doing this doesn't it doesn't necessarily matter to us. And that's not what's important. It's really look within. And how can you do better?

Brad Leavitt: [00:14:50] Yeah, I love that. And so are there any other social media platforms that you recommend they're using or mostly Instagram, you know, been the big success story for you.

Ashley Stark: [00:14:59] I mean, I really only have time for Instagram. Like, I can barely keep up with this. So I got it talking.

Ashley Stark: [00:15:06] I mean, I'm on Pinterest, but not in a way that I was originally. I mean, I really use my Instagram as like my Pinterest board. Like, if you were to, like, peep inside my insights. I have a million pages, you know, be home inspired things that I want to buy. I have a million saved things. And I really use it in the way that I used to use Pinterest. So I really just don't have time right now.

Brad Leavitt: [00:15:31] Well, and that's understandable. And the thing is, you know, that's I think for most people listening, you know, if you have something that's tried and true and working and building that brand, I mean, stick to it and put the time and effort right. Because that's going to be your best ROI anyways. And so for someone like you, that's really managing and very conscious of your schedule on time and everything you have to do, I mean, if you can focus on Instagram and it really builds your database and your company and your, you know, everything that you're doing, I mean, why rock the boat? Right. Right. Try to keep dabbling in other things.

Ashley Stark: [00:16:00] Yeah. I mean, I think then you lose focus. Focus on one thing. If I have my hands in six different things, it might not be as good on that one. You know, I don't I don't know how I'd keep up with my followers and try to tick tock and do all the stuff. And Graham has made to figure out tick tock any way I can. It's just not I cannot figure out for the life of me. I'm still working on Instagram reels. So, like, do what you can. Try to do one thing best, then do six things, half, you know, that's maybe where we start subcontracting our children.

Brad Leavitt: [00:16:33] Right, to do tick tock because they seem to pick it up fast and we do anyway.

Ashley Stark: [00:16:36] So I know luckily my kids are not on tick tock and that's it.

Brad Leavitt: [00:16:43] Yeah. There's, there's a lot of stuff in my kids. You know, we've we've we've tried to push away from that platform on Snapchat. I mean, there's just so much you know, there's some good things about social media that we all understand, but there's a lot of toxic and bad things, too, especially for kids.

Ashley Stark: [00:16:54] You know, they don't understand the ramifications. Like, we didn't grow up in this world where we put something on and it's on there for the world to see forever. It's hard for seven year old, fourteen year old, seventeen year old even to understand that this is like a permanent thing for you. Yeah, it was like a picture and you can tear it up and then there's no trace of it. Somebody can screenshot it and said seven hundred people can have it forever. I mean, it's it's a different world that they have to live in and it's trying to navigate them without being on social media. I mean, it's so far they're not on there. It's very minimal. And it's until they can make their own choice where they're saying, no, I want to be on there and understand the ramifications of having a million people see their daily lives. Yeah, I don't have any interest in putting up the mom.

Brad Leavitt: [00:17:45] I love that. Oh, my goodness. That's such a council, actually. So thanks for sharing that because I think anyone listening can relate. I mean, especially if you have young kids, you know, and I just, you know, not to get off topic, but you think about just when we're in high school, you know, and you dealt with like everyone does in high school and all that stuff. And I can only imagine, you know, just the the bullying or not the segregation, but, you know, the hoosen, you know, and the the popular crowd. And if you're not in that demo and then it's even exposed more on social media, I mean, it's just it's such a tough thing to navigate. Yeah, it's it's insane. But going back to, I guess, the topic. So, you know, Ashley, I guess over the years, you know, how has do you feel as a creative director? Do you feel that, you know, Instagram has influenced, you know, the creative side of you, you know, from inspiration and other things you found on that platform? And how has that evolved?


Ashley Stark: [00:18:36] I mean, I think I go back to saying that I'm exposed to all these designers and designs and even just creative people and other influencers and different companies and builders that I would have never been exposed to. I mean, you're so I'm a New York based, obviously. And now I. I get I'm talking to you. Who is in Arizona. I mean, that would have never happened before because I would have never had the channel to meet you and see. And then I'm inspired by your work. And then a lot of the times people ask me, like, who do I use? I'm from California. What designers do you recommend? Do you have a title company? You have a builder. And I take are these kind of questions and I'm able to then share that. I'm also able to look at that and be like, oh, wow, that's cool. What is what what the. Are doing there and then, you know, I can use that as inspiration, I mean, my biggest source of inspiration really is travel, which obviously I'm not doing right now, and I'd say fashion. So those have been the biggest things. I just now feel like I'm exposed. Instagram has helped me be exposed to people that I wouldn't necessarily be exposed to.


Brad Leavitt: [00:19:39] But yeah, and it's a big connection. I mean, that's the thing. Social media like as you mentioned, I mean, here we are connecting, you know, different in, well, some industry, but we're like different avenues of that industry, you know, and we're in different states. And, you know, here we are connected and we have, you know, a lot of common ground. And it's funny because you mentioned travel. I mean, I would imagine for the years past before social media, a lot of people found their inspiration to travel, whether it be different cultures and whether it be dining and styles and architecture and all these things, you know, because you notice as you travel. But now social media, it's almost at your fingertips where you can look at different styles, what's trending, you know, maybe in Paris and or London or New York or Los Angeles. And then you can put that together and see what's really hitting, you know, for our demographic. Exactly. And so, you know, as the creative director, I guess, what is that role until are you really involved in, you know, some of the new lines and new designs and patterns and fabrics? I mean, you know, how far do you touch as far as a creative goes?


Ashley Stark: [00:20:40] I mean, I really touch everything creative. It's also a family run business. So I also have my hand in a lot of the business decisions as well. So I guess everybody always asked me, my day is a mixed bag. You do a lot of the designing. I used to travel all over the world and country for buying and sourcing, you know, visit our factories, India, Tibet, Nepal, all over the place. So I definitely did all of that. And then it would travel to all the fairs like Maison & Objet in Paris. I'd go to London for some of their shows and then in the States I'm in every design meeting, whether that be like we take one quality and we do it in 16 different scales and patterns and colors. And then I pick, which I think is the best. And then we we pick which company we're going to distribute it in. So that's sort of my sphere. I also do the PR marketing and advertising, which obviously is very similar to my Instagram. So I developed like help develop the latest advertising campaign where we should put it, which magazines we should do, whether it's going online, sort of moving my father, my uncle or the head of the company to see like some of the newer channels that they didn't necessarily know before. And then helping with the Instagram has become sort of a daily PR for them, posting different rugs and different products. And then I do design development where I'm just like in the design with our design team and thinking, OK, I'm really into Moroccan's right now. It's like do a line of Moroccan's and I don't personally put my name on it because it's Stark. So that's the company ad and it goes through and and then that's that, that's amazing.


Brad Leavitt: [00:22:25] So where it is like, you know, going back to you think about, OK, you have this inspiration or you have this creative idea, you know, you're traveling, you see these different things. So what is the cycle from? OK, I have this idea of this pattern and texture. You know, let's getting into design and implementation and let's get it into, you know, development and fabrication. And then we've got to get to distributors and we've got to get out there and then we got to get installed and we've got to get a photograph. I mean, how quickly if you have an idea of the carpet that you want to design, you know how quickly till that's actually in production and then end on the quality.


Ashley Stark: [00:22:59] But it's usually around six months. So basically, I'll take an idea, picture inspiration, whatever it is, and work with my design team. We'll put it into CAD. We'll put it on on the computer. We're on the colorways. Then we physically pick POM's. We have like a whole wall of colours and I pick the color combinations, put them together. Then we send then we sit down. We're like, OK, what kind of quality do you think this is going to look good? And is it a Hanada Tibetan or is it a machine made Wiltern or is it a handgun from China? And then we. Usually send it off to everybody and then with six different copies, with different colorways, and then they send us back the sample, so it just depends like obviously not it in Tibet. There's something there's one person hand knotting the sample for me. So that could take, know, 12, 12, six, three, four weeks, up to 12 weeks, depending on the construction. And then handgun is like a few weeks. But it's coming from China, so they have to check it up. Then we wait till everything comes in. We lay it all out on the floor like, OK, which color combination looks great, which texture looks better? Did we do it cut or sheared or hand-woven or carved? And then we decide which construction quality you like best. And then it's, you know, it's like, do we like this medium blue or the strong blue? And then we pick it all out and then we decide, are we going to do this or stark only? Are we going to do it for some of our distribution minds? Is it going to go into different stores? Where are we going to distribute it? And then we decide on how many samples to send out and then it goes out. So it's around. It can be anywhere from like three months to six months.


Brad Leavitt: [00:24:35] That's amazing. I love you on the inside because one thing is you don't grasp. And I think the one thing about social media is you see these amazing posts, right Stark Carpet and you see your amazing product and people don't realize behind the scenes. And what's fascinating, if I understand this. Right. So if you come up with an idea, you know, the pattern and color and look and texture is going to be different depending on the process, you know, as you mentioned, if it's handwoven or whatnot. And so you're going to send it to maybe six different countries or six different methods of installation. Then when you bring that in, you're looking at that and you can really tell and hone in. So, yeah, this is going to fit this pattern and we need to go this route.


Ashley Stark: [00:25:13] Yeah, I mean, that's how it's done. It's like usually in seven different constructions and it's like the subtlest thing that maybe someone who's not in this world wouldn't understand, whether it's like even on our Wiltern, which is a machine main quality problem that you would think like, do we tip Sheere? Do we do texture or do we do it flat? Is it on a jaccard machine? Is it omnes? And each little tweak makes the pattern look a little bit different, like is the line a little bit too thick, is it too thin? And we decide which we think is the most saleable and which we like the best and then it goes out. So it's it's like such a tiny little minutia of a change that can change the look of it.


Brad Leavitt: [00:25:55] So how is that affected? Because you think about just the ability to perform. I mean, you have to have a lot of great vendors and partners, right, all throughout the world. They can keep up with the demand. You have to figure out your pricing matrix because you have to figure out, OK, what's the production cost and was the shipping and then what's our distribution here and worldwide? And so, you know, I'd imagine there's just a lot of hands involved. And over the years, I'd imagine there's a database or at least a good understanding of of the cost of goods and the production to get out there. And so that's something I would imagine you're tracking. So you have a good pulse for that. Which is amazing on time. So how do you, I guess, with covid, how is that affected? I mean, have you seen I know a lot of us have been displaced. I know you're not living you're living remotely right now. So how has it affected, you know, your showroom's how has it affected your manufacturers and shipping? Have you seen any issues there where you have to communicate with vendors and and designers and partners on delays or how is that even OK.


Ashley Stark: [00:26:57] Knock on wood, obviously. And we've really stayed on top of it and we've shifted some some things different differently in the design centers. I feel like they're not that as much as in person, but it's easy because we can just send samples to our clients and we've been able to adapt pretty well and. Hopefully everybody just stays masked and he get rid of this, but it's been OK, really has it's not been it's not been bad. We've shifted a little bit more to, like, sending out samples to our clients. But the production hasn't been affected as much, which is great.


Brad Leavitt: [00:27:33] And you have showroom's all over the country, right? Not just there in New York. And so, you know, are they operating differently in certain states, depending on the regulation? Do you have somewhere they're still coming in into the showroom or is mostly everything remotely right now?


Ashley Stark: [00:27:48] Well, they're not it's not remotely people are coming in or doing all of the precautions. Even New York City, we are considered full sale. So we were one of the first things to open up, especially in New York. And most of our showrooms across the world, across the country have been totally open. You know, we're in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, L.A., Hollywood, Florida, Houston, Dallas. I mean, we're all over. So we've been fortunate enough to be considered. We were first here to open. So and everybody is masked and it seems like we're doing fine. And we're we're also happy to send samples to whoever needs them.


Brad Leavitt: [00:28:27] Yeah, that's amazing. So are you doing what do you prefer? I mean, I would imagine you're still doing a lot of residents. You do a lot of commercial. Is there a certain field that you enjoy more? You know what? The end user is there more of a demand on either side? What do you what do you see more from what industry?


Ashley Stark: [00:28:42] We do both. We do both. I mean, I, I really we design across the board. Like I said, one design ends up in twenty five different directions and eventually ends up in hospitality. We do a lot of hospitality, we do a lot of high end hospitality. I think a lot of people actually kind of shocked when they hear how many hotels we're in. St. Regis I mean all over Paris like every every high end hotel. We really do. But it's both I mean, we do I like I enjoy both. I always love seeing the hospitality as well, because I think it's always so much bolder. Yeah, but I don't know. I do both and I love both.


Brad Leavitt: [00:29:22] And they can do that. I mean, I've seen you know, I've worked in my career doing hospitality and in know high end hotels and resorts, you know, especially early in my career. And you see that there is a need because, you know, when you're looking at it from a business owner on the hospitality side, you know, you want to make a statement, right? You want to make an impact. When people walk in to that arrival zone into the lobby, you know, you want that statement to be there. And so that's what lines up exactly with the product that you're doing.


Ashley Stark: [00:29:48] And so us sweets and, you know, we did the win and a lot of Vegas hotels, which has been fun to see apartment buildings, nice apartment buildings in New York City, we do either reporters or their lobbies.


Brad Leavitt: [00:30:02] Yeah, and there's always there are a lot of nice place in New York, so I'm sure there's a good vendor list there, you know. So do you have gone back to design now? I mean, I know you have a great influence in design and you post a lot of amazing inspiration. Is there style that suits you? If you were to say, OK, I'm going to build the ashes, start in your house, is there style that you gravitate to on a personal level?


Ashley Stark: [00:30:26] Yeah, I mean, my my first time I was ever published was in Domino magazine. I was about twenty one and they called me the rebel traditionalists. And I sort of feel like that it's kind of so accurate to my aesthetic. It's definitely not modern, it's definitely not traditional. It's somewhere in between. And I have like a little bit of a bitchy. French undertone to it all, my house is going to come out in about two weeks in a major publication and everybody will be able to see it. So you can see us.


Brad Leavitt: [00:30:59] Oh, that's exciting. So how can we follow?


Ashley Stark: [00:31:01] I mean, you probably can't tell us yet, but it's literally like a week away. Well, so we'll just have to follow your accounts so we can see how you can see it.


Ashley Stark: [00:31:12] Sometime in mid-October, it'll be newsstands and online, so.


Brad Leavitt: [00:31:17] Well, one thing I notice it's funny because I think I mentioned to you so we have a client here we're going to be doing a project for in Scottsdale. And pretty much every inspiration they have for their design is from your page. You know, they love a lot of the trim detail you do and stuff. And everything is funny because, as I said, there are preconstruction meeting is all star casino and all their images. So, I mean, there is there's I can see how that's very appealing, especially to what we're seeing. We're seeing that trend. And it's you know, it's it's a beautiful, timeless design.


Ashley Stark: [00:31:51] Yeah, I'm I'm into the more classical architecture with a little bit cleaner modern furniture inside. So I love molding and I love that kind of look.


Brad Leavitt: [00:32:03] And I was just going to say, yeah, it's just going to say that because it is you have this like you think of this ornate but very decorative trim work like you'd see in Paris and then had this modern furniture with these seven wood floors. I mean, it's kind of this contrast to that modern and that just a beautiful aesthetic, right? I mean, I think it appeals to a lot of people because you see it and it just it screams like powerful right in that design, which is really cool. So how often do you have, you know, from a I guess from a stark carpet side, do you know you have your own creative side where you're coming up with your own designs and you're working with your team and outsourcing, as we mentioned, but you get a lot of requests for a custom line, like we just want this for us. It's a dedicated design. You know, does that happen? I mean, or how often does that come across?


Ashley Stark: [00:32:53] It happens a lot. We have a lot of high end clients in New York who want unique patterns to them. And they'll come to us and they design it themselves and we give it just to them. And it stays in their library and they can use it whenever they want.


Brad Leavitt: [00:33:06] And so I was going to ask that if. Yes. So someone wants a custom design, are they are they reaching out to you to do the design that they kind of have some inspiration already and say this is what we're thinking? Can you create this for us?


Ashley Stark: [00:33:19] A lot of the times they come to our firm and they see a sample of something and they want to tweak it, blow it up, change it, take something out, and then it becomes their custom design based off of something that they've already seen. I take 90 percent of the time it's that way. And we make it completely to their liking, their colors, their construction quality, everything. So it's an easy fit with some high end custom.


Brad Leavitt: [00:33:44] Yeah, that's really neat. And it's good to have a resource for you know, we find with our designers, you know, that they like to have a resource, they like to have their imprint, you know, their style, whether it be, you know, a certain wallpaper that's catered to them or, as you mentioned, a carpet or some paint colors. Of course, you know that they've spent time researching and you know.


Brad Leavitt: [00:34:02] So how do you navigate that, I guess, from your side, as, you know, someone who's manufacturing selling this, where you may have a lot of people reach out and say, gosh, I love that carpet style and it may be custom, you know, how do you navigate when they're asking or inquiring on maybe to purchase that line? You know, how do you keep that, you know, sacred to the designer, I guess, or the custom client?


Ashley Stark: [00:34:23] We only do we only work with the designers, so a lot of the times it's fielding Matt and trying to match them. If they don't have already a designer that will match them with somebody who they're working with, who they can work with, and then they can buy our product.


Brad Leavitt: [00:34:37] So do you does do you sell a lot of retail then?


Ashley Stark: [00:34:39] No, it's mostly just another company called Prestige and a ton of retail through them. But no star is exclusively to the trade stock itself.


Brad Leavitt: [00:34:50] And how do you when you're selling to the retail on the other line, you know, are you working with installers as well? Are you subcontracting that? I mean, how do you manage that aspect?


Ashley Stark: [00:34:59] Because that's all we have. But we have a very wide installers that we work with across the whole country, custom work rooms, that we do everything onsite so we can cut the rug around the hearth. And so it I mean, we recommend our people always. And any time that people don't use it, they always burned, always like kick themselves for not using our installers just because we've been doing this obviously for eighty five years and we know, we know what we're doing, but we subcontract it out and it's hard to convey that.


Brad Leavitt: [00:35:33] I think most people don't realize, you know, just to level expertise, you know, they may think I have my own installer or I know someone that's good, but they're not understanding, as you mentioned, you know, cut around a mantle and Hanso it. Right. So it's going to perform and last over time. And just the quality, you know, to install that. I mean, there is a level of expectation unless you have tried and true vendors, I mean, you're only as good as your vendors because then you may have if they have someone else, they may to ask you to stop performing. It's failing like it doesn't look great and like, well, aren't you responsible for it?


Ashley Stark: [00:36:05] Because otherwise, you know, I mean, this happens all the time, you know, that like the fray or they put on the stairs and it'll wear out in the wrong place. And it if you use ours, obviously we can guarantee it, but if not, we can't. And it's it's definitely, definitely good to use our recommended installers and workrooms.


Brad Leavitt: [00:36:27] See, and what's nice, I mean, when you have credibility as a company, as a firm, I mean, you've been doing this for so long, you know, your brand, that there's a lot of credence and credibility where when you tell a customer, hey, we've been down this road, here's what happens, you know, and I find that very similar to us in the construction design world to that, you know, we may have clients that ask us to do certain things. We may do it early in our career and to realize that's not going to work. And so you really get these systems where you can push back and say, no, here's why. Here's what you need to think about in the now, György, that's funny. One thing that's not really related to carpet, but, you know, we you know, with online and I'm sure online shopping has affected you to some extent as it has everyone because everything's out there. Right. And so one thing that I deal with is, you know, I have a lot of customers that say, OK, Brad, you want me to buy this plumbing package maybe from colar like this colar package? You know, here's my price. It's X dollars, but I can go on Amazon and I can piecemeal these pictures together.


Brad Leavitt: [00:37:20] Right. And I'm going to save, you know, three thousand dollars. But what they don't understand is, you know, just the simple process where I tell them, OK, but if you're buying to me, this is direct from colar, from their manufacturer, all the parts and pieces, it's under warranty. So if something's not performing, the labor is covered. But if you bought on Amazon and we install it and there's parts missing or refurbished, they've got to pay the plumber to come back, take it apart, ship it back to Amazon, wait for it, pay the plumber again. And then so you get in this and it's easy to tell them because we've been through that. Right. And so how do you navigate that from your side? I mean, you from a custom line, you probably don't have to do it that as much. But do you ever have people reaching out, pushing back, like, hey, I can find a light kind or something? Or is it pretty or do you have a brand where you can say, no, this is you know, this is why the price is what it is, because here's all the resources and the creativity behind it.


Ashley Stark: [00:38:14] Let's forget the creativity is the construction. I mean, if you want to run, that's going to wear out in two years, go somewhere else. But I mean, I have people that come up to me like I have my grandmother start carpet from nineteen seventy, like in my dining room. I mean, ah, it's a different level of quality. It's just that's what you pay for. We get and yeah I you can't buy us on Amazon but you can buy it. Right. Certainly going to wear out. I mean you're going to get traffic patterns, you're going to get it to fall apart. You just can't, I mean you can't even compare the level of construction to ours.


Brad Leavitt: [00:38:46] So is there an element of the home like application or hotel application? It's your favorite. I mean, do you love to see, like, a gorgeous stair running up the stairs or maybe in the living room? Or is it a certain location in the home or the rivals on that? I that speaks to you where you want to get creative and and make that pop.


Ashley Stark: [00:39:04] I think a lot of people are scared to do powerful stories, but I think it's so fun when people do and they see the impact, like whenever I haven't posted one in a while and maybe I'll post one today. Yeah, but when you actually see how awesome a bold staircase looks, you're like, oh, that's really cool. A lot of people don't do it. They're not like they they want something neutral on the stairs. So when you do it right, it's really impactful and can be beautiful. But I also do love like a living room rug is always like the centerpiece of the house, if you like.


Brad Leavitt: [00:39:35] And it's funny you say that because I would agree. And when I was asking that question, I was just thinking, you know, and, you know, being visual myself, you know, and as I'm seeing different photos, like when you see like this amazing staircase and the stair carpet coming up, I think that has the biggest wow factor. Right. And I would imagine, especially if you're, you know, in a brownstone or in New York. Right. Even more so, because that's something that's going to be common in some of those nicer, you know, residences there where they have multilevel.


Ashley Stark: [00:40:02] Yeah, yeah, I'm going to post today so you can see how impactful they can be.


Brad Leavitt: [00:40:09] Well, that's awesome. I'll look forward to that. And, you know, I guess what is your favorite part? You know, I think one thing that's unique to your business is, as you mentioned, you're able to travel. And I know right now covid, it's temporary, but throughout your career, you've been able to travel all these different countries. You meet different people on different talents and ethnicities and cultures and food and cuisine and all these things. So I guess what's your favorite part of your business, of your role?


Ashley Stark: [00:40:36] I mean, I think definitely the travel was my favorite, getting to go to all these places, like I traveled early on in 2012 to India and Nepal and, you know, the weeks before we spent just compiling all my designs and sending them over. So when I got there, like I saw half of them looms there and then half of them already done for me. And I was able to work with the actual weavers, tweak the patterns and the colors like right there, and see these people who had been generationally passed down, like in Nepal was six women sitting on a rafter or hand nodding and they doing one inch per day. And I'm sitting there seeing my designs that I sent them like six weeks ago starting on the loom. And to me, that was just such a mind blowing, amazing experience to be able to see and then to understand what goes in. You know, I have the Internet has like everybody wants it now, but I'm like there is six women sitting there nodding this rug and this is a train to them that has been passed down from generation to generation. And, you know, it's an art to them. It's not just like their job. This is like how the women and the children they learn. I mean, this is like their grandmother, their great grandmother. They've all been doing this. So to me, that was just so inspirational to see and then be able to work directly with them and being like, I like this line a little thinner. Maybe we add a little pink here, a detailed line, or let's carve this. That was just so inspirational, inspirational, inspiring. And then, you know, to be able to go to Paris and London twice a year and like, I always just feel refreshed to see what's going on in other places because you can get so pigeonholed and stuck in your own little bubble of a world that is, no matter how many times I go, it just really opened my eyes to that. The world is bigger than New York City. So those those are definitely my favorite parts of what I love.


Brad Leavitt: [00:42:29] You shared that because, I mean, go back to I mean, London and Paris, I think. What inspired you to write? Those are such great cities to visit. But going back to your story in Nepal, I mean, that's the one thing I think our culture and society, especially here in the US, I wish that more people could travel and be more diverse to understand, you know, how people, you know, are living their daily life in other countries in the crafts and, you know, the labor behind it, because we're so conscious or I should say we're so spoiled in a way that in here, you know, things we just imagine they're here, they're platter ready, they're off the factory line. But you don't realize the you know, the quality behind your carpet line that these are people that are handling. And this is a quality trade that's been hanging out for generations. And the time and the amount of staff and labor that goes behind the production is just unlike anything most of us have seen.


Ashley Stark: [00:43:17] Oh, people tell us to rush had not arrived. You know what that entails? Adding more women. Yeah, a long line and not the rug. It's not like, OK, let's press the button and get the physical people spending more hours nodding this rug. And I mean, it's incredible to see these women doing this on the sitting on like a rafter in the middle of a room doing it so that when people are like, why can I have it now? Like, it's an art form that these people do. They're like actual person behind it, this rug. And that that's why our our our quality is higher. Standards are higher. I mean, that you can get a machine made rug that's going to fall apart and within two years it's going to walk out in different areas, which means like you'll see the traffic pattern and it just will start to fray with the hand knotted construction from Nepal using the best wool. The best is like that's going to last a lifetime. I mean, we have rugs, the whole antique world. I mean, we sell antique rugs that are from the eighteen hundreds even before that. So, I mean, those are the original hand, not it. And that's the quality we stick with today.


Brad Leavitt: [00:44:23] Well I love the you're sharing that because I think that gives a lot of people, especially our listeners, like an inside to the level of detail, because most people, whether they're building their home, designing or time, a lot of times you don't understand just the level of care and detail and time that goes into a lot of the products that we consume and use and paying for quality or at least demanding quality. Right. It's going to have things to perform over time. And it's hard to quantity quantitate that for people until they really see or hear, you know, how that is. And for you to be in Nepal and really see that, it's easy to explain. I've seen it. This is what they're doing. This is what goes behind it. So when you're in Nepal, were you able to explore it all in the Himalayas? Like, I've always been fascinated with the Himalayas and Everest.


Brad Leavitt: [00:45:04] I mean, not the high fevers, but did you ever go up at all? I was. I worked till I couldn't see straight.


Brad Leavitt: [00:45:11] So you just got to see the mountains there in the background.


Ashley Stark: [00:45:13] Then from yeah, I went to a bunch of monasteries and I was like the what's called the step up thing and the famous thing in Nepal. But no, I was like all business.


Brad Leavitt: [00:45:26] Well, I would imagine too, especially mom and traveling, you know. I mean and they're on business. I mean, your schedule's very, very rigid. And right, so you have to be conscious of that. So how does that work? I guess going back to social media, like when you're traveling, you know, and you'll be in Nepal. I mean, that's a totally different time zones. So how are you managing the social media?


Ashley Stark: [00:45:45] Well, I just did it. I just kind of posted still. I don't think anyone even sometimes they don't even realize. I mean, the last the last place I was was Paris. And I just posted. I made it work, it was off for like a few the few days that I was traveling and I probably posted when people were sleeping, but it didn't make a difference. And then I just went back to my normal schedule.


Brad Leavitt: [00:46:05] Yeah. So how so how are you balance on everything now? I guess, you know, three kids at home, you know, covid. I mean, how are you managing just the chaotic that is our everyday life right now?


Ashley Stark: [00:46:16] Doing the best I can. You know, it's you know what? It's more the personalities. Everybody wants something else to eat. Yeah, right. And again, somebody wants this. My husband wants something else. I'm like, why is everybody home? And to talk? And then I'm like, I have six Zoom's nobody come in my room.


Brad Leavitt: [00:46:34] Yeah. And the funny thing is with that, you know, and I'm sure I mean, we have six kids, but like all six of them have different palates. Right. So none of them want the same thing. So, you know, my wife and I look at each other like, OK, well, all six men want something different. So it's like so chaotic. It's so hard. And being at home, they're more hungry. Right. So you're not really trying to figure that out.


Ashley Stark: [00:46:53] Yeah. And I've had a friend like I don't understand why my child would need the hamburger. And I'm like, well, would you know, I don't like him because I'm listening to him.


Ashley Stark: [00:47:02] I didn't like to eat. Like, nobody's going to force you to eat something you don't want to eat.


Ashley Stark: [00:47:06] Yeah, you have to you have to remember there people you can't just force them to do things. So I tried to cater to everybody and it's been definitely tough with a full time working job, you know, and I'm trying to maintain like all these Zoom's in quiet, which is what you've done a great job.


Brad Leavitt: [00:47:22] I mean, you've been on the Zoom this call and it's been completely quiet. So kudos to you.


Ashley Stark: [00:47:26] That's I think the biggest thing that's taking a hit for me is my stock, my Instagram stories, because I don't have as much time to be personal on them. And and they take a lot of time. Stories take a long time like that coming back. That keeps coming back because I really I haven't wanted to put my personal life on there so much because it's so much revolves around my kids. It's, you know. Yeah. You know, that's been like a tough a tough thing for me. But hopefully I'll be in New York City in a few weeks and that can sort of go back to normal.


Brad Leavitt: [00:47:55] Yeah. So how's it going in New York City? I mean, are they starting to open up? I mean, is it getting better?


Ashley Stark: [00:47:59] They're really great. It's from normal. Look, everybody's in maskin as they should be. And other than that, it feels great. It feels normal. And, you know, people are being hopefully being responsible, especially where I live. It seems to be really great. And I've been back a few times. And now it's everybody's really respectful and everybody's really following and everything's open, so.


Brad Leavitt: [00:48:19] Well, that's great. Well, I guess, you know, being sensitive, your time outs, you know, you know, as you close this out. So I know you mentioned some very exciting news. Your house is going to be published and so we can stay tuned for that. So how do we find out more info on that and what else you have coming up that's exciting that we need to tune in for besides the million the million father milestone there.


Ashley Stark: [00:48:38] So I'm actually working on a bunch of secret things right now that are a little too early to talk about. But I definitely have something really big in the works. And I just signed on and started development phase. And I cannot wait to share with everybody what that is. And I think pretty soon I probably will because I'm going to try to film a lot of the process of what I'm doing and I'm excited for that. And the my house. I will make an announcement on Instagram, I guess, in a few days and see it.


Brad Leavitt: [00:49:15] Well, that's exciting. And we'll stay we'll stay posted, too, on your social media as you post the state run. I'm excited to see what's on your post later.


Brad Leavitt: [00:49:21] So great. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah. And what can our listeners find you actually? Ashley Stark.


Brad Leavitt: [00:49:28] Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much for making time. We really appreciate it. Have a good day. So, again, a big thanks to Ashley for making time to come on the podcast today and especially diving into, you know, that style and aesthetics, you know, on your page, you know, being inspired from what she's doing and posting and how she finds that inspiration, especially for the product line that she's doing to Stark Carpet.


Brad Leavitt: [00:49:50] And, of course, just the innovation, you know, and the work that goes behind the quality of that product. And there's a lot to be said about educating the public, about your company, understanding what makes you different than everyone else. And you StarK Carpet. They're examples, you know, just the time and resources that go into every design for each of their customers. And then, of course, the resourcing and working with different vendors around the world, you know, and just the hand applied process that goes into this, the labor behind it. And what a message and that emotional journey, you know, throughout the marketing strategy of the company and how we paint that picture so that our customers understand what it is that we're doing behind the scenes, so they see the value so important to broadcast that. And, of course, you know, the importance of being active, being consistent and engaging and responding. And, you know, it's hard to do when you have a big account. But, you know, all of us start from somewhere and Ashley started from the very beginning and and was very engaging. And that helped build her her reciprocity with her network. So big. Thanks her for making time. Thank you all for tuning in. And we'll see you next week.