November 23, 2018

At DECASO, our admiration for small businesses runs deep. After all, it’s no easy feat running a small business. From sourcing product, to assisting customers, to procuring logistics, small business owners do it all. Add antiques into the equation—and all the expertise that goes along with them!—and we’re literally in awe of our dealers. To celebrate Small Business Saturday, we asked 21 DECASO dealers to share their most valuable career advice for running a small business. From the insights that got them started, to the lessons learned along the way, these antique and modernist pros reveal their ultimate keys to success.

Karen Kuo of Robert Kuo

“We are not ‘seasonal,’ ‘fashionable,’ or ‘au courant.’ We do what we do and we do it well. Take good images and maintain good records.”

Kathryn Markel of Kathryn Markel Fine Arts

“Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Stick with your own sensibility and passion, your own visual voice, and your audience will find you.”

Matthew Rachman of Matthew Rachman Gallery

“Your employees and clients are your greatest asset, not your inventory.”

George Champion of George Champion Modern Shop

“Be warm, friendly and engaging to everyone that comes in the shop. Make them feel comfortable and welcome, and try to tell them something anecdotal or interesting about anything they express interest in.”

Celia Bertoia of Harry Bertoia Foundation

“Focus on personal relationships and excellent service, and the money will follow. Our first concern is to help people achieve their goals (whether they match our needs or not). If you have an initial impact on someone, they will come back. We have a deep knowledge and passion for our products. They are not just items to sell, they are pieces of a legacy and parts of an overall education. We speak from the heart and treat each client as an important person whether they are a plumber or a billionaire philanthropist. Whenever someone is respected and honored, a lasting impression and newfound trust happens and encourages return business.”

Jamnea Finlayson of JF Gallery

“Showing work that I love and would use in my own home has always been my motto as a gallerist, and there’s a cohesive element in my gallery because of it. I have always also looked to offer other services in addition to selling art in the gallery, such as custom framing, art restoration, art installation, and art consulting. It’s important to generate income via secondary services in the art field.”

Troy Smith of Troy Smith Designs

“It may sound cliche, but never give up. Find the best suppliers and manufacturers to supply and build for you. Stick up for yourself, and if you feel something is not right, speak up. Find the right PR and marketing firm.”

Andrea Newcomer of Slant LA Furniture + Art + Objects

“Roll with the punches—there will be many. Good days, bad days. Down turns and upturns—be prepared for them. Riding out adverse times only makes your image stronger, better respected and well known. ‘No’ never means ‘no.’ ‘No’ is merely the challenge.”

Alain Hens of Galerie Alain Hens

“What you do not buy is at least as important as what you do buy. Don’t go for fast cash. Dare to go for the long run vision and buy what moves you. Steer on that intuition.”

Judy Frankel of Judy Frankel Antiques

“Continually updating the way I do business has been critical to my success. I started out selling at regional antiques shows and pop up sales. My first commitment to a brick and mortar store was a multi-dealer space, which eventually became my own store. My first website had few visitors so I branched into online sales via my own site and through other antiques specialty sites. The way my clients search and shop for antiques has changed a lot in 25 years, and my business has changed along with them.”

Gustavo Olivieri of Gustavo Olivieri Antiques

“For years, we’ve been doing our own ‘thing’ which means, being true to our own style and not caring what everyone else is doing. Know your audience.”

Patricia Pingree Clouet of Patricia’s Gallery

“Photos are worth a thousand words! Descriptions should be very precise and accurate.”

Robert Zizzo of Modlife Home

“We are in a business that is driven by the emotions of beautiful things. While aesthetics are key to our success, profitability is what keeps the doors open. Whether buying or selling, stay committed to making a deal, but know that sometimes it’s not meant to be. Don’t beat yourself up if a deal falls through. Another will come. A successful business must evolve with change. There are always obstacles that require reinventing a business model.”

Sandrine Farges D’Lightus

“Have faith in your own taste!”

Gil Melott of Studio 6F

“The one constant that I can honestly say has helped me create a successful business, is egoless collaborations. Get rid of the ego. Going without it allows me to fully develop designs with other makers and helps me enhance the interior spaces I develop with clients.”

Anouk Beerents of Anouk Beerents Antique Mirrors Amsterdam

“Try to focus, specialize, and become an expert. Buy quality. Quality will last for ever. Apart from buying and selling mirrors, I  began restoring antique mirrors early on. By restoring, I developed an even more of an eye for quality.”

Eliska Sapera of Eliska Design Associates Ltd, London.

“Create vignettes within your displays so that clients can visualize how the pieces will look in a scheme. One trick I always share with clients, is to show them how to group smaller items so that they have a stronger presence.  I also mix contemporary pieces with antiques as part of a multilayered design. The best design is that which reflects the breadth of my influences, my cultural heritage, and those of my clients.”

Claudia Juestel of Adeeni Design Group

“Find your specialty niche and become an expert. You can’t be everything to everyone. Be alert and versatile in your approach to selling. Have an attractive website telling your unique story. Research various marketing opportunities both on and offline.”

Richard Oedel of Furniture Masters’ Gallery

“Schedule your social media and bunch it for future release (Hootsuite is good for this), paying special attention to the timing of the release so it’s viewed by the highest percentage of YOUR clients. Our intention is to always keep it fresh and interesting. It’s all about the story!”

Howard Williams of High Style Deco

“Be at your store; people always love to meet the owner! Make sure that your client is happy with their purchase. Doing so ensures that they will be a repeat client and spread the word!”


“I would say that being a generalist rather than a specialist has been a very effective strategy for me. While the internet has dramatically increased our audience, that audience has wildly divergent tastes. As a result, aiming to have ‘something for everyone’ has been an effective strategy for Donobedian. Being a generalist means you are impervious to trends. It also means your inventory dollars are spread across more categories and price points, thereby increasing your odds of consistently making sales.”