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Meet Kim Chapman of Urban Environments in Lincoln Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Chapman.

Kim, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Like most entrepreneurs, I came from a family full of business owners and knew one day I would own one as well. In 1999, at the age of 19, I entered the interior design industry and talked my way into a position selling window treatments, wall covering & custom upholstery for an established family company in Chicago’s North Shore. There, I learned the fundamentals of project management, developing strong relationships with clients, contractors & vendors, and how to appropriate both manufactured & custom goods into solutions for our client projects, especially those with challenges.

In 2004, I moved on to work for one of Chicago’s most highly regarded furniture & accessories showrooms, Jayson Home & Garden, and assisted them with the startup of their window treatment department & design atelier. While managing this department, I returned to school to obtain my degree in Interior Design from Harrington College of Interior Design.

In late 2008, my graduation from design school collided with the country’s recession and a scarcity of jobs. This positioned me, like it or not, for self-employment. I gathered my professional contacts, my savings, my creativity and desire to open my own shop, and in 2009 opened the doors of Urban Environments.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
While most people might assume growth happens months or years into owning a business, it actually happens immediately. In the early days, I used to ask myself if I was self-employed or just a circus act juggling everything from project management to cleaning the bathroom.

Working hours upon hours around the clock feels like success when business is coming through the door, but it isn’t sustainable. To become successful, you have to get a little ahead of yourself, and set forth to meet goals that make you grow into your own shoes.

Today, my business is truly a daily exercise in knowing yourself. You will need to see yourself as both a leader and an employee of your company, and will need to know when to lead, follow, get out of the way and delegate. You will also need to get in close touch with your integrity, so that when there are bumps in the road, you can learn and improve and manage conflicts well.

Urban Environments – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Urban Environments is a retail shop located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, dedicated to designing and fabricating window treatments, custom pillows, headboards, and window seat cushions. We also are carry one of our city’s largest collections of commercial and residential wallpapers. Each textile, wallpaper collection, and manufactured product is hand-picked, so that we may offer the most creative and innovative offerings our industry has to offer. We work with residential clients as well as interior designers, architects, home stagers, and real estate agents to create beautiful interiors and offer solutions for all types of design challenges.

I am very proud of the level of personal attention we provide to each and every one of our clients. It is rare these days to work directly with the owner of any type of company and their customer service is often lacking. I make sure to meet with every one of our clients, even if it is a job I am not overseeing myself. I can be found at the shop most days, and I can confidently say that I know about every project that comes through our doors and make I make a point to build a personal rapport with each client. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to many of our projects and it is our job to make sure the project runs smoothly and is put back on track immediately if we run into a snag. We want clients to see that our dedication to their project runs all the way through to completion.

When I entered this industry at only 19 years old, I knew very little about window treatments, interior design, or home ownership, but I learned quickly, that to effectively help my clients, I would have to learn my products well, and then distill that information into beautifully executed solutions, within my client’s budget. Many clients who visit us are not well versed in our products and services. They might not have clear objectives or design inspiration, or possibly they do. In either case, we take the time with each client to learn about their needs by asking questions, and we then share our experience and our creativity to provide them with the best and most fabulous options our industry has to offer.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Defining success can be tricky when you’re a small business owner because in so many ways, your business is the embodiment of your spirit, hard work, and ingenuity. It’s failures and successes are very much yours. Running a profitable business is often the first objective, and marker of success, but once you’ve survived beyond that, you may find yourself questioning if your business meets your needs as an individual and if you’re able to extend your personal ethics and business practices to each and every client and vendor interaction.

While my definition of personal success is ever changing as I have made my way through 8 years of owning a shop, my vision to offer excellent services has not. I’m very proud to own a business that people can trust and believe in, within a globalized economy where quality and integrity do not always reign.

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Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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