I have the best partners on the planet! And they just relaunched The Gracie Toy Box today! Click the photo above to purchase, or check out the blog post about the relaunch....
You don’t have to be around the home furnishings industry long to realize that integrity is, well, not a must-have when it comes to design. Or management. Or marketing.
You will see copies of furniture designs everywhere. It’s how it’s been for years and designers are constantly fighting back. And in some cases, they know the fight is long and hard so they just don’t fight at all. I've fought back when companies in the US and Canada starting producing exact copies of my copywritten designs. It's pretty mindblowing that it happens as much as it does.
Now, I’m not saying I’m the poster child for integrity. At times in my life, I sure haven’t been. With that said, I've always been wired to feel guilty if I don’t put the grocery cart back in the corral, let alone flat out steal designs. When I first started out, I did build two designs that were too similar to others but I immediately took them off-line when I realized that even a box with four dividers is copywritten by someone. Since that quick design lesson in 2007, I have been uber conscious to create completely original designs. It’s one thing to be influenced by someone else’s design, but it’s another to steal one and continue to market it as your own.
Someone I know has clearly not learned his after 20+ years as an international furniture designer.
A friend recently sent me a picture of an Instagram post where my ex-partner is claiming he designed a sofa that I now know is NOT his original idea. When I was marketing the design through Mod Life—and apparently unknowingly putting my integrity and reputation on the line in doing so—it never occurred to me it wasn’t his design. I trusted him. I never looked around. And I certainly didn’t think to look overseas.
Here’s the deal:
This sofa (named Mantilla) was apparently designed by well-known Italian designer, Emilio Nanni, for Saba Italia in 2013. You can see documentation below featuring the sofa in Italian magazines, websites, and links in 2013 and 2014. My ex-partner saw it at High Point Market in 2013. He was told by a friend that showed it to him, “do not copy it.”
He had rendering artist and designer, Ari Signes, draw up his version that is so similar other designers and consumers have said it looks like the same sofa. This all came to light few months ago but it was just days ago that my ex-partner’s version appeared on Instagram with the note, “Designed by (ex-partner). All rights reserved. Rendering by A. S. Designs.” Side note: Ari rendered the entire Mod Life line for Robert on spec (upfront without payment), and never got paid. She wrote about it here. But apparently, it’s ok in his mind to use her renderings to promote his work? Unbelievable.
You decide for yourself. Is this the same sofa that Emilio Nanni designed two years before Robert launched it under “Mod Life” in 2015?
To add insult to injury, I heard a few months back he was claiming a major furniture company had copied/stolen one of his designs. Pot meet kettle.
Why do I even care anymore? Because it still affects me, it affects people I care about, and as an industry, it affects all of us. I’m just plain done. I am tired of “designers” getting away with this kind of thing. I’m tired of the lies and deceit. I’m tired of the lack of integrity.
When he and I joined forces, an industry friend of his introduced me to a US manufacturer about producing Mod Mom after the Stanley Furniture licensing and spokesperson deal died when they shut down US production. When it turned out the new manufacturer wouldn't be able to help with the Mod Mom line, talks turned to his upholstery designs and I followed along naively believing we could build up sales of his line (which we called Mod Life, to capitalize on the Mod Mom brand and reairing of Shark Tank) in order to then build up Mod Mom. I didn't see it then, but I was the perfect vehicle, work horse, pr person, website designer, financial backing, and connection he needed to launch his line with a new manufacturer. I take full responsibility for not trusting my own intuition even though it was screaming at me that I needed to stick to steering Mod Mom on my own. I've learned a lot of lessons along the way but when it comes down to it, I simply believed with all of his experience, he knew best. My parents and many others believed, too.
Not only does he owe my parents $8,000, I’m in communication with multiple ex-clients (direct consumer, Eddie Mercado, and Randolph James of Magnolia Emporium, to name two) who are wondering when or if they will ever get paid back so when this type of thing is put on social media, they question what is happening. “He’s selling a design through an American manufacturer and promoting it, why am I not getting paid?” “Kiersten, it looks like he’s in Amsterdam? Why am I not getting paid if he can afford to fly all over the world?” My personal feeling is that he's not flying all over the world but he's making it look that way. Photos can easily be traced online to reveal if they are his or not. At this point, I wouldn’t put anything past him. Being told “I’m working on getting your money back to you but I won’t be replying to any more of your emails” when Eddie asked about the thousands of dollars he was owed two years ago shows real integrity, doesn’t it? He’s one heckuva genuine guy who doesn't reach out to past clients to make a plan. He waits for them to contact him and then he shames them for asking about the payback plan.
The truth is, everyone understands when someone is stuggling financially. I've been there. I've had to make payment plans with people and do everything I can to settle up. That required pride-swallowing, vulnerable conversations and extra jobs—not ducking, not running, and certainly, not shaming those I owed or stealing others designs to make a profit.
Why do people turn their heads to this type of behavior in the furniture industry? Why do mutual friends play both sides? Why don’t folks speak up when they know this is going on? Why do others still back him, even in the face of this type of evidence? Why do companies contract with people they know do this? I wish I had the answers.
I do know one thing, though. I won’t be quiet. Good people are being swindled, lied to, ignored, and stolen from. People who believed in him. Believed in Mod Life. Gave from their hearts, never believing it could all just be one big, fat façade.
It’s just not ok. Period. And it certainly does not show integrity.
Happy Easter! Happy Passover! And Happy April Fools' Day!
I'm sitting here eating a pink peep, drinking a little coffee before the rest of the house wakes up, and it dawned on me: it's April 1st.
Somehow, this day has become a "day" for me in my life.
On April 1, 2011, Shark Tank aired my segment for the first time. What a night! We had so much fun watching the show with our friends. I was one part nervous (to see how they would edit my time in the Tank) and a million parts excited beyond belief. And I have to say, I was proud of myself for going for it. I've always known I could do "hard things" but that was the first time in my adult life that I really put my neck on the line and pushed through the fear I felt. I'm glad I did! Little did I know, I 'd learn to do harder things down the road and that was just a warm-up.
On April 1, 2014, I landed in North Carolina, excited to represent Stanley Furniture as their Young America spokesperson and finally sign the licensing deal I'd been working on for eight months. The moment I was able to turn my phone on, was a moment I will never forget. So many text messages were lighting up my phone. Apparently, while I was in the air, Stanley released the news that they were shutting down their youth division. I'd lost my job (as the main breadwinner of our family, at the time) and my licensing deal and traveled the hard road—doing hard things—for the next three years. So much growth, healing, and love came out of a mountain of pain and trauma. For that, I will always be grateful.
Today, April 1, 2018, I am beyond happy to be writing this from a new home with my beautiful family sleeping down the hall. I have the best licensing and manufacturing partner in the US. I am blessed with a wonderful family, amazing friends, and the gift of seeing all of the puzzle pieces of my life coming together.
The April Fools' joke has not been on me, even though it felt like that in 2014. I cherish this day as a day that put me on the path to a bigger purpose in life. One that I couldn't see at the time. One that I wasn't ready for, at the time.
One that I'm ready for, now.
No joke, this is just about the best day ever, in my book. It's a day honoring transformation and healing across many years, and a day when I get to eat copious amounts of potato salad with those I love. It doesn't get much better than that.
Happy Easter, Happy Spring, and Happy April Fool's Day, my friends!
I was just cruisin' down memory lane and came across this old blog post from 2009. It made me grin from ear to ear.
This one's a doosie, I promise! On Friday, Grace's kindergarten class is dressing up in the form of what they want to be when they grow up. Naturally, when she told me she wanted to dress like MOD MOM (LOVE THAT!!!), I asked what she thought she needed for her costume. Here's what she said in list form....
2. white t-shirt
3. tool belt
4. dirty fingernails
5. stain on hands and arms
6. fake toenails
7. hair in a bun with a pencil stuck through it
8. sawdust on the jeans
It's really too bad that Little G doesn't know me at all.
P.S. I'll have photos on Friday of Little Mod Mom Furniture :)
Back in 2007, when I first started Mod Mom, I also started blogging. I wrote about everything from dragging the kids to the lumberyard, to design features, to cutting bangs and regretting it. I'm going to be keeping the blog going on blogspot (it's like a life diary!), but I'll also post new blogs here on the website blog.
In the meantime, here are some of my favorite blog posts from years gone past on blogspot.....
My Welcome post from 2007
My job according to Grace
My typical day
I get by with a little help from my friends
ABC Kid's Expo 2013
Originally Published 8/4/17 on modmomfurniture.blogspot.com
Yesterday morning, I received an email from a vendor saying, “Congratulations on all of your success partnering with Robert Petril.” And several others have inquired about my affiliation with Mod Life, which led me to the realization it’s something I really need to address.
Essentially, the question is, “What is your business partnership with Mod Life Collection?”
Let’s go back to High Point, NC in 2014. After my licensing deal died with Stanley Furniture, I met Robert, a freelance furniture designer, and partnered with him on two fronts—personal and business.
After meeting Robert, he offered to come on board Mod Mom to help me scale the company (because I was now out of a licensing deal) and then shortly thereafter, suggested he hold the title of President—in name only—until the business ramped up, then he would get some kind of compensation. That made sense to me since Mod Mom was at a standstill at that point. His extensive experience in the furniture industry and our affinity for one another made it seem like a match made in heaven. I stopped looking for licensing opportunities and we started down our “mod dream” road.
We pursued getting Mod Mom produced in large quantities through a contact we had in North Carolina, since I was in need of a new manufacturer. It became apparent that it wasn’t going to be possible so the conversation switched, with Robert on board, to producing his upholstery in the US. It’s much easier and more lucrative to manufacturer sofas in the States than it is case goods (hard goods like Mod Mom). Our contact is part owner of an upholstery factory in North Carolina, so it seemed like a great way to go.
Robert came to the table with renderings of multiple sofa and chair designs and one design he produced through another company already, as well. With this opportunity at hand, he suggested we build up the upholstery brand in order to then help fund the kids’ furniture side that I had built out of my garage. We gave it a lot of thought and decided that capitalizing on the Mod Mom brand was a good idea. After all, there was the continued press and multiple re-airings of my Shark Tank episode and that would only help the sofa collection. Instead of using Robert Petril Designs for his line, we decided on Mod Life Collection—ultimately his entity because it’s his line of upholstery. I designed the logo to look similar to Mod Mom and we bought a website, and off we went. It became our focus and was considered part of the Mod Group we dreamed of building.
Mod Life is not legally part of Mod Mom in any form but it made sense to promote it as an off-shoot of Mod Mom and to think more globally about how we could grow in multiple areas of home furnishings, independently and together, as a couple.
In addition to Robert’s designs, a very talented designer in Spain, named Ari Signes, had partnered with Robert prior to he and I meeting and created the 3-D renderings he shared with our contact. They collaborated on a few designs but she also designed a few on her own called Aria, Sia and Suri. Ari created all of the gorgeous 3-D renderings for all of the designs “on spec,” meaning she didn’t get paid for them upfront and agreed to wait until his designs took off to get paid. She’s still waiting.
We managed to secure a production deal for the upholstery line and part of a showroom in 2015 in High Point, NC. The samples were built and the showroom was set up and off we went into what looked to be a very bright future. We geared up to pre-sale around the country. Robert pulled himself out of the running for a big design director job in San Francisco because this looked to be the ticket the future he’d been working towards since he left China in 2008. He put all he had into Mod Life. I think at that point, I’d probably sunk about 10K into us and Mod Life, my parents invested 8K, and my dad jumped in to help us at Market and be a Mod Life representative. That Market, we sold 13 stores which is a good start; however, production took 33 weeks and the manufacturing partnership dissolved. As you can imagine, that stopped Mod Life dead in its tracks. I was barely keeping Mod Mom going and appreciative of my dad, who helped find a new manufacturer for Mod Mom in Ohio.
We were back to the drawing board with Mod Life. Robert partnered with a California manufacturer through a friend of his in January 2016 and this time, things looked more promising. In order to better support us, I got a full-time job as a writer for the local university and rented an apartment for us, where Robert would be able to stay and work out of as we were re-launching Mod Life with the second manufacturer. He worked different jobs as well while he led Mod Life. This happened at the end of March 2016. I worked my 9-5 job and did a lot of PR/marketing for Mod Life, kept Mod Mom barely alive, and worked some contract gigs to help pay bills. The plan was for me to keep my job as long as was needed and he would go out on the road and sell Mod Life until I could join him and we could continue with our grand plan of building Mod Life, then building Mod Mom.
The Vegas Market came around and we were so excited. We were very kindly given a showroom space by our manufacturer for Mod Life and scraped together money to eat and sleep, as well as outfit the showroom. The Market came and went and despite press and accolades for Robert and Ari’s designs, the line didn’t produce sales after Market. We lacked swatch racks, which are apparently needed to sell custom upholstery. And sadly again, a few months after Market, that manufacturing partnership went up in flames for a number of reasons.
We recently split up personally (and professionally) which means a lot of changes are happening. I’m going to re-tool Mod Mom and create a resurrection plan for my little garage company/brand. While I believed in the grand plan of Mod Life first, then Mod Mom, it’s my own fault for taking my eye off the ball and not continuing to build my own brand over the last three years. I figure if I can build an international brand out of my garage with zero carpentry or design skill, I can figure this out!
So what is my role in Mod Life now? It’s non-existent. He is sole owner of his collection, as it should be. They are his designs (and Ari’s, of course) and his life’s work. From what I hear, he is re-launching all of the designs as Mod Life Collection by Robert Petril.
I’m going back into the garage and am looking for a manufacturer locally, as well as talking to a few companies about licensing the brand. I’m also in the process of writing a book. Turns out, Shark Tank wasn’t the bravest thing I’ve had to do in my life, and I’m excited to tell the story.
I will make sure my parents get their investment in Mod Life back. They are far from wealthy, as two retired teachers, and invested because they believed in my belief in us.
I’m thrilled for what the future holds and if I’ve learned anything in my 43 years, it’s to continue to follow my heart, work my tail off, believe in myself, and trust that even when the road looks crooked and long, there’s a reason for it. There’s always a bigger picture that we can’t see in the moment and lots of lessons to learn along the way.
Kiersten Hathcock and her family moved to LA for her husband’s job. She had worked outside of the home in marketing for 10 years and was struggling with the idea of putting her kids in another daycare situation. She decided she would do whatever it took to stay home with her children. Kiersten tried being a shared nanny for others as well as doing some contract marketing on the side, but the work wasn’t steady enough. Kiersten also realized she was missing something very dear to her--a creative outlet.
Not long after, Kiersten started Mod Mom Furniture. Mod Mom would lead her to a Shark Tank win and many other adventures (and misadventures) along the way. Here is a bit of her story.
Why toy boxes?
Many houses in LA (where we lived) have modern, streamlined decor, and I started wondering where all of these families were putting their toys. It was not in plastic bins or toy boxes with cartoon characters plastered all over them. With that said, Shark Tank producers encouraged me to lead with the “we needed a toy box” story—and that was kind of true. We were always needing storage. When I looked online and saw there was only one mod toy box available, the light bulb went off in my head. I realized there was a market for modern-looking toy storage that would look good in any room of the house. The only obstacle was figuring out if I could build them.
What made you think you could build toy boxes?
I grew up in Ohio. My parents were both teachers. They told us—my sister and I—we could do whatever we wanted to do, that we had within us everything we needed to succeed.
We did not have a lot of money growing up because my parents were teachers. My dad was a weekend carpenter who made a lot of our furniture. I had no interest in it, but I think it made me less scared to try it out later in life. I thought, “My dad did this. I just might be able to do this.” So, I went online to figure out what I needed to do. I figured out what kind of table saw I needed and how I was going to put it together. I have a lot of do it yourself in me, and I credit my upbringing for that.
Tell me about the early days of trial and error.
Oh my gosh. They were horrible. I was such a novice. I was using the wrong nails in the beginning. I can’t believe the early ones I built are still together. With the first few toy boxes I sold I went back to the buyers a year later and gave them new ones for free. I truly felt badly for them.
When I was designing the Owyn Toy Box I would literally cut the top panel, draw the leaf designs with pencil until the point where I got the balance right, and then I would go in with the jigsaw and cut it. There were no paper or CAD drawings involved.
What was the timeframe between tinkering in the garage and your first toy box sale?
Too fast. I would say within the first three months.....................
READ THE ENTIRE Q&A here.......
Q & A WITH KIERSTEN HATHCOCK: SHARK TANK WINNER, MARKETER TURNED CARPENTER, ENTREPRENEUR, AND FOUNDER OF MOD MOM FURNITURE
March 14, 2018
LOUISAOHMYDESIGN - ITALY
January 20, 2018
"Meet Kiersten Parsons Hathcock"
FURNITURE TODAY/KIDS TODAY
January 8, 2018
"Mod Mom Furniture Announces Licensing Partnership with Little Colorado"
DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL
January 5, 2018
"Colorado furniture company inks deal to sell 'Shark Tank'-featured toy boxes"