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Kristen Dettoni, A Journey to Entrepreneurship

When Kristen Dettoni was in first grade, she played Susan B. Anthony in a school play. Horrified that there had never been a woman president, she decided then and there that she would be the first female president. As she got older, she still had ambitions of being president, just of a company and not the country.

Kristen Dettoni sitting in front of the fiber studio at Snow Farm craft school.

Growing up, Kristen was always creative and constantly making something.

Kristen Dettoni’s interest in art drew her to study textiles at the Kansas City Art Institute, followed by graduate school at Cranbrook Academy of Art, studying under Gerhardt Knoedel. Yet, upon graduation, it wasn’t a career in fine art that called to her. It was designing for the textile industry. She spent the ensuing years working for mills in the United States and Canada, designing woven and knit textiles for the automotive and contract textile industry. In every job she had, she was always looking for opportunities to advance, still wanting to be president.

Yet, as she got higher up the ladder, she was disillusioned with what she saw at the top. Opportunities were limited, and it was hard to get ahead, especially for women. While she tried to take this as a challenge, it often felt like she didn’t know the rules of the game or was purposely being left out. (Like the time all her male colleagues were invited to a golf outing while she stayed in the office and worked.) Eventually, she realized she didn’t want to play in their game; she wanted to create her own.

If she wanted to be a president, it was time to start her own company.

Luckily, she had an idea that had been brewing for years. She’d been watching the DIY community embrace digital, on-demand printing for personal projects and customization was changing how we shopped. She saw the opportunity to use this technology on a bigger scale in commercial applications. From her time in the industry, she knew firsthand the vast amounts of waste created by developing new materials and bringing them to market. And not just physical waste that headed to the landfill, but intellectual waste in the way of beautiful designs passed over quickly and never seen again. Yet there was also the constant request to knock off a bestseller, even though there had been lots of designs to chose from initially.

She knew there was a better way to bring materials to market using on-demand manufacturing. One that was better for the planet and respected good design. But that meant disrupting the system and convincing interior designers to try a new business model to source their materials. Would they? In 2019, Kristen decided to find out. She took the leap and launched Design Pool.

Kristen Dettoni recording a video with a pile of Design Pool swatches next to her.

Becoming the head of a startup is different than climbing the ladder within a well-established company.

You get to make the rules, but starting your own company can be daunting and exhausting. “It’s not a 9-5 job. I’m thinking about my business 24/7,” Kristen Dettoni explained. “It can be overwhelming to constantly make decisions every day. You need to build a strong support system into your business.” She strongly believes that to run your own business you need to be confident in the areas where you know you are strong, and seek out assistance in those where you’re not.  

She’s also learned to surround herself with the right kind of people to help her grow. When working with other people, she “looks for people who are excited about the concept and willing to deal with the uncertainty of a startup.” The perfect people are independent, with a self-reliant streak. “Management can be frustrating,” Kristen reflects. “I believe the best manager hires the right people and creates the best environment for everyone.” Only in a healthy environment can people do their best work.

Selfie taken at the HiP Awards 2023 at NeoCon with Kristin Crane and Kristen Dettoni from Design Pool.
Design Pool team, Kristin Crane and Kristen Dettoni at the HiP Awards at NeoCon 2023.

How does Kristen Dettoni keep motivated at Design Pool?

Kristen is proud that Design Pool turned five at the beginning of the year. Yet, the reality of a startup is that it’s a roller coaster with very high highs and low lows. Celebrating the little wins along the way, and knowing those wins change as the business grows, is essential to moving forward and staying focused on your goals. And sometimes, it helps to look back at what inspired you to start your business in the first place.

“Forget conventionalisms,” Susan B. Anthony once said, “forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.” It takes courage to only look to your own conscience for approval when you’re running your own business. But it helps if you can channel the confidence of a six-year-old stepping on stage in her first school play.

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Kristin Crane

Kristin Crane has designed jacquard designs for the home furnishing and residential jobber market for many years, with mills in the US and in China. Today, she writes about pattern and design trends for Design Pool from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing about fabric, she can be found weaving in her home studio or hiking along the Rhode Island coast.


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