Coupar recently caught up with SFDC's marketing maven, Rhonda Hirata. As VP of marketing Rhonda handles the brand development, social media platforms, website traffic growth and publishes the annual journal for the design center. Over the last ten years, she has produced diverse events for the design center. These range from informational such as "Design San Francisco", "Fall Into Fabrics", and "Designer Wednesdays" to the fanciful "Design Meets the Divas of Drag" and "Haute Dog."
Both the Divas and Dogs events benefited charities. Philanthropy is dear to Rhonda's heart, one of her proudest accomplishments was the completion of the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. She helped coordinate 48 interior designers who volunteered their time to create beautiful, healing spaces for families with critically ill children.
What attracted you to the SFDC?
RH: The SFDC was attractive as it challenged me to apply 20+ years of marketing skills and experience to an incredibly creative industry with lots of moving parts among manufacturers, showrooms, interior designers, and the end client. As the design community was so foreign to me, I presented a 90-Day Action Plan at my interview to demonstrate how I would approach the Marketing position and learn about the industry from scratch. But it was Tim Treadway and Martha Thompson’s unwavering commitment to the showrooms’ success that was infectious. Their enthusiasm and long-standing dedication to the SFDC sealed the deal. I knew I would be in a supportive environment committed to the health and well-being of the showrooms.
How have you seen the SFDC change over the last decade?
RH: We evolved. We have become more productive in communicating with interior designers and industry partners regarding education, inspiration, and bringing smart and timely commentary on San Francisco design to the forefront. We rely on social media more and more over conventional press as it is cost-effective and highly targeted. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that rising rents among our showrooms have necessitated consolidations, smaller showroom footprints, and even closures. We continue to experience showroom expansions and new showrooms who are excited to be a part of the SFDC – so it’s a bit of a roller coaster – but I am highly optimistic the SFDC will continue to serve the design community well as our industry further progresses.
What are your thoughts on the future of design?
There will always be those skilled in the art and craft of making who will inspire designers and consumers to appreciate – and want to purchase – their wares. Because people value the beauty and provocative in design, it will always play a significant role in our present and future lives. Designers, particularly younger designers, are sourcing online over visiting showrooms – we have to acknowledge this and become smarter about working in this new environment. It is a significant reason why the SFDC has partnered with Dering Hall – to meet designers as they source online and drive them to the SFDC showrooms.
What is one item you could never live without?
A Pilates reformer machine. A Pilates workout is my moment of Zen.
What are your top 3 favorite restaurants in San Francisco?
RH: Café Jacqueline, whose light-as-air savory and dessert souffles are the best I’ve ever tasted, and Jacqueline – truly a San Francisco treasure -- still makes each souffle by hand. Be prepared for a leisurely three-hour experience (definitely not a first-date restaurant!). Waterbar, whose fresh seafood, ambiance (those floor-to-ceiling fish tanks are a visual marvel), and Bay views are intoxicating. And finally, Red’s Java House, the best place for a nosh on your way to a Giant’s game. This modest shack serves up home-cooked fare that will please any palate. Their burger is served on sourdough bread, with pickles and mustard (no lettuce or tomatoes) – a classic since 1923.
Favorite place to travel?
RH: I’m still traveling far and wide, so I haven’t found a favorite … yet. Ask me again in 10 years!
What is your favorite leisure activity?
RH: Walking my dog on the beach – Carmel, Stinson, Santa Barbara – it warms my heart to see her run and romp and helps me achieve my 10,000 steps a day.
Who do you admire and why?
RH: Other than my lovely mother, it has to be Madeleine Albright who said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Other women are your relatives, your friends, your co-workers, they could even be strangers … it is a motto I truly believe in.
Describe yourself in 1 word.
What is one thing on your bucket list?
RH: To retire with the love of my life, and our dogs, to Portugal.