We caught up wtih Dara Segal, Founder of Simply Framed, and discussed what drove her to start her own business as well as what helps her wind down at night.D
What inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve always loved collecting art—but the biggest obstacle to showcasing my collection was the expensive and time-consuming chore of custom framing. I had tried everything, from going to local frame shops to big-box stores to combining a big-box frame with a custom mat. The running around lack of transparency around price was driving me crazy, and I often found myself unhappy with my choices, feeling like the sales associate led me toward something trendy instead of timeless. I talked with friends and colleagues and they said they felt the same way: that it often took months—if not years—to rally the time and energy to get their artwork framed. This inspired me to create a different kind of online custom framing service that was convenient, affordable, and available from home.
How important is collaboration in your field?
In a word: very.
An ideal collaborator for Simply Framed truly cares about how their work will look on the wall. Whether they are an artist, photographer, gallery owner, interior designer, or retail customer, they see the frame as not just a necessity, but the addition needed to complete the experience of enjoying their art or personal artifacts.
It always reminds us why we do what we do when we connect with artists that might be looking for a service like ours and just didn’t know we existed. More often than not, a great partnership starts when the artist says something like: “This is such great timing, I sell a lot of art online to collectors all over the country and I personally don’t want to deal with the framing.”
How do you balance your sleep, home life, and work?
As a business owner, step one is to hire amazing people to help you that are better than you at everything. I am lucky to work with a fantastic team of self-starters. Day to day, I live by my Google calendar and I’ve started to put “must get done” tasks onto my calendar versus relying on my task list in Asana. I also aggressively block time for family, travel, and personal needs well in advance, because if they don’t make it onto the calendar, they just don’t happen. In business I also say “no” to many things that aren’t mission critical for our 3-6 month goals.
Do you have any night-time rituals that help you doze off?
I have a very hard time falling asleep at night. Even if I’m tired, it still takes a few hours for my mind to shut down. My rituals include 3-6 steps of skin care, bedtime with my son, The New York Times Crossword Mini, reviewing the next day’s schedule, setting my alarm, and reading news headlines and 3-5 articles that interest me. If I’m into a book or show, then that will sub in for the news (or I’ll skim the news while I watch the show). In short, I don’t follow any of the rules around “no phones in the bedroom” or “no blue light before bed.” I’m working on it.
What does a day in your life look like?
My son usually wakes me before my alarm clock and we have a rule that he has to wake me up with a kiss. It makes the hardest part of my day the best part of the day. We have breakfast, usually avocado toast and iced coffee for me and oatmeal pancakes for Miles. I try to get in a workout three times per week before going to the office. I feel lucky that I can walk to our Denver Showroom / HQ from home. I listen to podcasts or call my mom to catch up during the walk.
At the office each day is different, but it’s always a mix of long-range planning, short meetings, 1-on-1 consultations with Showroom visitors, completing tasks, and on some days helping to put out fires. We operate using EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System which means we have one 90 minute weekly meeting and then everything else is based on completing our “Rocks,” our 3-5 big goals for the quarter. It puts our company goals in front of everyone and ensures that we all stay focused and aligned.
I try to break for lunch but often end up getting the pre-made Ink! Coffee breakfast burritos more than I should admit. They are really satisfying. I usually leave by 5pm to have some free time with my family before dinner and bedtime. When I get home I put my phone and computer away and do my best not to touch them until after our bedtime routine. For dinner we make mostly vegetarian meals at home and have a growing collection of cookbooks for inspiration. We have friends over a lot and I can proudly whip up a colorful crudité in 5 minutes.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned through Simply Framed?
Handling our customers’ art demands customer service at the highest level. Great customer service is not easy to scale, so we have to invest a lot of time and resources to ensure that it does. The days of e-commerce without emotion are over. You really need to care about your customers and show them that you are invested in them—not just their business.
More tactically, one of the best lessons I’ve learned is that great merchandising and professional photography can allow a small indie brand to compete with, and even outperform, a big brand.
Advice you would give to your younger self and advice you want to give to your future self?
Spend less time with screens and more time with people you love in places that inspire you.