Q&A: Annie Selke, Founder and CEO, The Annie Selke Companies
This interview originally appeared on Total Retail's sister site, Women in Retail Leadership Circle.
This week’s Q&A is with WIRLC member Annie Selke, founder and CEO of The Annie Selke Companies. For more than 20 years, Annie and her team have applied a spirited, design-driven approach to creating bedding, rugs, home furnishings and accessories for everyone to love. Her brand features stylish pieces that stand out and offer lasting value. Annie distills her ideas into a variety of fabulous and functional products for the home, available through the eponymous Annie Selke brand featuring her acclaimed companies Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert, and Annie Selke Outlet. The Annie Selke Companies aim to inspire people to create and enjoy happy homes.
Melissa Campanelli: Tell us about your background and what led you to start the Annie Selke Companies?
Annie Selke: I’ve always had a passion for textiles, even as a child. I studied textiles at the University of Vermont and honed my sewing skills while my knowledge and love for textiles grew. In 1994, I started Pine Cone Hill Fine Linens out of my home with one other employee. In 2004, I launched Dash & Albert rugs to round out our product assortment. Today, our products are sold in more than 3,000 retail stores nationwide and we distribute product to Europe, Canada and Australia. My very first employee still works with us today, along with over 200 other creative, hard-working folks based here at our headquarters in Pittsfield, Mass. and our offices in India.
MC: Tell us about your brand, your products, and whom you target?
AS: I aim to design bedding, rugs and accessories that marry pretension and practicality and last for a lifetime. I’m a dog lover (and owner) and always have four-legged friends in mind when designing my products. Just because there are pets or children in a home doesn’t mean the space can’t be beautiful and comfortable! With the introduction of my new, more affordable bedding line, Bed 101 (which launches this spring), we will truly have something for every customer, at every stage of life and every budget.
MC: You recently opened an inn, 33 Main. Tell us about it and what led you to expanding your brand this way?
AS: I’m a world traveler and soak up hotel experiences (the good and the bad) wherever I go. I notice the details — design, amenities, hospitality, the food, etc. As such, I wanted to bring a combination of some of my most memorable and wonderful experiences to life with the opening of 33 Main. It seems like the perfect opportunity to have a true brand immersion experience just minutes from our company’s headquarters and just a mile up the road from my own home. It’s a place where I could design every nook and cranny and fill it with my favorite tried-and-true products for guests to enjoy. Everything in the inn, from the rugs to the bedding, to the robes, towels, furniture and art, is all available for purchase on our website, catalog or across the street at the Annie Selke shop (our first official brick-and-mortar store)!
MC: What retail trends are you tracking for 2018?
AS: I’m keeping my eye on new ways for consumers to interact with and fall in love with our products. Opening the inn is one new and very personal way for customers to understand our brand. And I’m always on the lookout for how the retail experience can and will evolve.
MC: Describe your leadership style.
AS: I think I’m a terrible manager but a good leader. I like to lead by example. I work hard and I love what I do, but I’ve always made an effort to balance work with home/personal life. Also, I’ve had the good fortune to have helped a number of my extraordinary employees learn to strike that balance. Finding that critical balance is what leads to a rich and fulfilling life.
MC: To whom do you turn for inspiration in your career?
AS: I’m inspired by and make a point of reading and learning about people who have created their own destinies in their chosen fields.
MC: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
AS: Do what you love and money will follow.
MC: Can you share a productivity tip you swear by?
AS: Get enough sleep.
MC: What’s next for the Annie Selke Companies?
AS: I’m excited about growing our home furnishings offerings, including fabrics, wallpaper, furniture, art and accessories. We’re pleased to be working on some really fun product collaborations — one with decorator Mark D. Sikes, and one with artist Laura Park coming in spring 2018. I’m also thrilled to be introducing an Annie Selke licensed tile collection with The Tile Shop launching across the country in fall 2018.