Window covering professionals showed up in droves for the first day of the International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) to learn new skills, gather trend information, absorb design hacks and get experts advice on how to make their businesses stronger.

Friday at IWCE is largely focused on education, and our team of professionals didn’t disappoint. JoAnne Lenart-Weary with The JLW Company covered decorating mistakes to avoid (get a few of her tips here) and immediate gratification decorating. Welton Hong with Ring Ring Marketing(pictured at left) broke down the basics of online marketing. As always, long-time industry experts LuAnn and Vince Nigara with Window Works NJ wowed with sessions on sales, marketing and management. Trimming expert Jana Platina Phipps (aka Trim Queen) looked at the links between fashion and design—two things that may not seem like they’re connected, but do flow together, as trends in clothing and accessories tend to trickle down to décor over time.

At lunchtime, well-known Nashville designer Lori Paranjape delivered a special presentation on using social media to grow an interior design business. Paranjape estimates that 95 to 98 percent of her business comes through social media, especially Instagram. Other interior designers can use this free resource (as well as sites like Facebook and Pinterest) to grow their own companies if they just follow a few best practices.

“The pivot point for me was when I decided to make an investment in photography,” she said. Once she had good-quality pictures, she was able to post a steady stream of content to Instagram. She also made a commitment to reaching out and commenting on other people’s photographs, which put her in front of people who had a good following. That interaction helped her gain a larger fan base, and also put her posts near the top of people’s feeds so they were seeing her work regularly. From that, she started getting more calls from customers interested in working with her.

Paranjape took the stage again at the end of the day, along with Nashville designers Eric Ross with Eric Ross Interiors and Laura Thurman with Thurman Design Studio, for a lively panel entitled “From Nashville to National Notoriety.”

Moderator Jana Platina Phipps asked each designer to talk about their design style, their biggest business challenges—which included struggling with sourcing and social media—and their thoughts about window coverings. Thurman uses drapes that add texture and pattern to a space. Paranjape, who uses double pinch pleat treatments in nearly all of her projects, expects window coverings to add softness. “Window treatments are the landscaping of the home,” said Ross, a huge enthusiast of elaborate draperies, who believes soft treatments are what help transform a house into a warm and welcoming space. After the panel, Ross signed copies of his new book, “Enduring Southern Homes.”

Attendees were invited to get their first glimpse of the exhibit hall during an opening reception. To the sound of country western ensemble Brassfield, guests snacked on smoked brisket and cornbread, caught up with friends and dropped by the booths to visit with vendors.

Tomorrow’s IWCE has the same exciting features in store. We look forward to seeing everyone for more learning (including the opening of the popular Construction Zone, where you can learn to make items like those at right), more inspiration (Genevieve Gorder’s address is sure to be a highlight!) and many more business transactions.

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