Maria Stapperfenne Talks with KBB

Published: June 2, 2023

Maria Stapperfenne CMKBD, CLIPPS, leads Tewksbury Kitchen & Baths in New Jersey. A 25-year veteran of the kitchen and bath industry, she shares the experiences and influences that have shaped her career.

KBB: How does your background influence the way you approach the design business?
Maria Stapperfenne: My background was in education, and my hobbies include music, theater, volunteerism and fishing. As a person who always has lots of irons in the fire at any given time, I’ve always been very direct in my communication. As a musician, I’m used to performing and feeling the energy of a crowd. I understand the importance and skills of entertainment, and I’m never afraid to be handed a microphone. Clear expectation management keeps our business and services delineated. We educate our clients about the options that best suit their needs after our assessment and fact-finding process, which I believe is still best done as an in-person dialogue.This is important to me because I not only hear but see and feel their answers to our questions. I don’t “own” my client’s selections – they proudly do.

KBB: What has been your biggest business challenge, and how did you resolve it? 
Maria Stapperfenne: Charging what I’m worth. When my business division was established, I brought everything I knew to it, but that was still a tangible, product-based business model that was product-dependent for its only revenue. Intellectual property was only beginning to pop up as something I needed to address. Thanks to all my industry mentors (I’ll call them friends) who have provided conversation and thoughts over the years, I’ve reached a comfortable balance of what I believe to be a complimentary consulta- tion versus giving away my unique intellectual cur- rency.This has helped shape us into the successful practice we are today. It can be a very delicate line to walk, and I know many in our industry struggle with it until they find their way.

KBB: What is the most important career lesson you have learned?
Maria Stapperfenne: Nothing trumps your wellness. Stop, breathe and take care of yourself, so that you can always remember that you actually enjoy this and that there are people who love and depend on you! Helping people make their dreams come true is not only intrinsically satisfying, but it also allows me to contribute to keeping the roof over my family’s head. This is why I don’t know if I’ll ever retire. Another important career lesson: Do what makes you happy and fuels your spirit. You don’t have to do it all – it’s okay to focus on the skills that make you your very best you.

Get the latest kitchen and bath products, trends and news delivered to your inbox.

KBB: What advice would you give someone entering the design business?
Maria Stapperfenne: Go all in. Put your nose to the grindstone and work – a lot. Continue to network with other pros and be a good listener because hard work, determination and perseverance win every time. When I started, I worked seven days a week shaking hands and meeting people. The design industry is still a people-based business – for now – and people buy people. The biggest complaint I hear is that no one wants to really work, but it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone is meant to be a CEO. One designer I know loves working for her firm, as she feels her professional network showcases her best skills, yet another designer friend says he must be the boss, because he needs to control everything and could never take that kind of ‘direction’ from another. There’s a business model to fit you, or get educated enough to create one!

KBB: Who or what are your design inspirations – and why?
Maria Stapperfenne: My clients are my inspiration. Listen to them tell their stories. Ask for their ‘why.’ Sometimes a couple each shares the same story from a different perspective, and I find that enlightening. Then, using their wants, wishes and desires – both directly communicated and inferred – I can create solutions that genuinely create excitement and happiness. This really moves me. I wish I could sound more intellectual about this, but it is the simple truth. It truly inspires me to create happiness for others.

Tagged with: Maria Stapperfenne

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
B2B Marketing Exchange
B2B Marketing Exchange East
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Campaign Optimization Series