A Truly Sticky App
Faced with a decorating challenge, the founders of Blik invented the hottest new thing in interior design.
(Business 2.0) – Management consultants talk about the big white elephant in the room, but for designers Scott Flora and Jerinne Neils, it was a big white wall. In 2001 the couple moved into a loft in Los Angeles, and for about a year they tried to live with the blank, 5-foot-wide, 18-foot-high monstrosity in the middle of their apartment. Finally they decided to decorate it, but wallpaper would have been too traditional; large artwork, too expensive. So Neils, in a playful mood, composed a poem, and Flora printed out the words in large, stylish letters, which Neils taped to the wall. Problem solved.
Or so it seemed. After a few days, the paper began to curl, and the tape eventually yellowed. Instead of an artistic decoration, the couple ended up with an eyesore.
Not long after that, however, Flora was driving down Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Calif., when he noticed several newly opened boutiques. He glanced at the letters in the shop windows. "It hit me like a rush," he says. "Thin film like the kind used for signage would be ideal for our wall."
Flora drove home, giddy over the possibilities of decorating with computer-etched graphic film. After drawing shapes and patterns on a PC, he and Neils decided to market removable wall decals as building blocks of affordable interior design. They spent $1,000 on prototypes, and a few months later made a $4,000 down payment on a film-cutting machine. They named their product Blik because the word sounded catchy. (Later they learned that it means "glance" in Dutch.)
Friends were skeptical: Many said they would never put stickers on their walls. But the duo was vindicated when Los Angeles magazine mentioned Blik in its October 2002 design issue. Orders started rolling in as soon as the magazine hit newsstands, and within a year the decals--which cost about $40 for a set covering one wall--were selling at Design Within Reach and Seattle's Velocity Art and Design. Mattel hired Blik to create an inspiring environment for the company's 500 designers, pointing the way to opportunities beyond consumer applications. Flora and Neils were soon decorating walls at the headquarters of Warner Bros. Online and the hot advertising agency 86 the Onions. They also developed custom designs for a Gap Kids promotion, for the W hotel gift shop in New York, and as souvenirs for a Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution. In May 2004, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition showcased the company's flower-power collection. "They're perfect for commitment-phobes," says Emily Sinclair, a producer of the show.
Privately held Blik's revenue reached $500,000 in 2004, according to Flora, who hopes to double that by 2006. The company is working with the estates of Keith Haring and of Charles and Ray Eames to develop designs based on well-known art, and it now makes small decals for glassware and dinnerware. "We hope to inspire creativity in lots of people," Flora says. He reminds entrepreneurs to appreciate a blank slate. "You don't have to look far for great ideas," he says. "You can work with what's around you." -- SIRI SCHUBERT