Like most college students, Jessica McRae moved a lot when she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
But unlike most of her classmates, she always had a specific idea of how she wanted each new space to look.
“I moved every single year, from the dorm room to the sorority house to apartments,” says McRae ABJ ’04. “I would sketch out the room before I moved in, and I would thoughtfully plan everything. Interior design has always been a hobby and a passion.”
After graduating with a degree in public relations, McRae began working in the healthcare industry as a pharmaceutical sales rep and then as a marketing professional for an Atlanta ophthalmology practice. When she had the second of her three children, she left the workforce to stay home with her kids.
But the more she was home, the more she was tweaking things around the house. One of her sorority sisters went into interior design, so McRae would text her photos to get an opinion on what to place where. Her friend would then send her links to the perfect products to complete her look, which gave McRae an idea.
“There has to be a way that anybody could work with a designer like this and just get bite-sized advice as they need it,” she thought. The idea behind her company, SwatchPop!, was born.
McRae paired up with friend Kristen Yonson, a fellow design enthusiast, to build the web-based company. SwatchPop! is the eHarmony of the design world. It matches clients with professional designers who have a similar style and allows them to collaborate on decorating projects big and small, using SwatchPop!’s “a la carte” design menu. Clients upload photos of their space and provide measurements and a budget to ensure they get a design plan that works. They can even send their designers links to Pinterest inspiration boards they’ve created and then go back-and-forth with the designers on a chat screen so that the final product is a true reflection of the client’s personality. In as little as three days, clients receive a design mock-up showing them where pieces should go, how they’ll look in the redesigned space, and a clickable shopping list of items handpicked for their space. (SwatchPop! doesn’t directly sell the products on the list, so there’s no pressure to buy.)
“It’s a realistic way for anybody, anywhere to have access to professional designers,” McRae says. “Your design plan itself is like a blueprint for your design, so you’re going to see visual images of how everything looks. You’re going to see detailed instructions. If your designer tells you to choose a piece of art for above the sofa, she’s also going to tell you to hang it five to eight inches above your sofa. It’s like the best parts of Pinterest but amplified because it’s so specific to your space and your style.”