Issue Date: 2018 APRIL, Posted On: 4/21/2018

04212018 Augusto Fine Rugs a Winner in 2018 American Small Business Championship
By Carol Tisch

Anna Augusto of Augusto Fine Rugs in Boise, Idaho, says  her passion for ethically and sustainably sourced rugs got the attention of  judges in the 2018 American Small Business Championship. 

BOISE, Idaho -- Augusto Fine Rugs LLC, a luxury area rug showroom in the Idaho Design Center here, has been named a winner of The 2018 American Small Business Championship by SCORE, the nation's largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors.

In round one of this year's championship, Augusto Fine Rugs' owner Anna Augusto was among 102 entrepreneurs nationally who earned the American Small Business Champion title - and the only owner of a rug business among the winners.  She receives an all-expense-paid trip to a special training and networking event as well as mentoring and publicity provided by SCORE throughout the year. What's more, in round two Augusto has a chance to win one of three $15,000 grand prizes, made possible with the support of Sam's Club.

Augusto Fine Rugs caters to interior design professionals with transitional and updated traditional area rugs in fashion colors. 
In this exclusive interview, Augusto talks about her three-year-old company's mission and the unique point of difference that caught the attention of judges.  She also reflects on today's business climate for small rug dealers and showrooms competing against Internet retailers, and where she sees the market going. 

"A lot of rug purchases today are driven by price point and fashion," Augusto explains.  "The rugs are inexpensive and the customer is only interested in keeping them for a few years so they probably buy their rugs online and that's great. That's really not my client.  I see the future of the rug business in differentiating yourself and focusing on custom. I am confident there will always be a market for that.
"We specialize in area rugs woven in a rich and ancient tradition spanning back more than 2,500 years. And, in this age of fast, disposable fashion, I believe more strongly than ever in a more holistic approach by offering sustainably and ethically sourced area rugs. We want to create and maintain that important connection between the weaver and the home owner."  

Clients get personalized service from owner Anna Augusto and a curated hand-picked selection at Augusto Fine Rugs in Boise, Idaho. 

Augusto also believes strongly in giving back to the community. She serves on several non-profit boards and recently led an effort to remodel and redesign a local non-profit called Boise Hive, a resource for musicians in need. "The love of ancient rug making led me to this business, and my passion for the business and being able to share that with clients allows me the platform to continue to make a difference in my community," she says. 
After working in the area rug business for nearly a decade, first as a rug specialist at Macy's in Boise and then as manager of a local area rug showroom, Augusto felt the time was right to leverage her experience and knowledge to better serve clients through her own business. 
She founded Augusto Fine Rugs in October 2015 as a home-based business. Just a few months later, she moved into her current location inside the Idaho Design Center in Boise. Today the full service rug design studio and showroom specializes in luxury carpets, rugs and custom projects. Her interior architecture training at The Academy of Art in San Francisco informs her client relationships, which include not just members of the local design community, but high end design firms in nearby resort communities like Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Sun Valley, Idaho.
"I've developed relationships with design firms in resort markets that are not actively being serviced by other showrooms.  A good majority of our luxury custom business comes from this segment, and it's an important area of both our current business and growth opportunities," she explains.  In effect, she treats herself as a rep with the resort designers, having courted them and built relationships since 2008. "They're only a four or five hour drive away, and they don't have the option of working with large design centers. I just load up my car with rugs and drive over."  
Kalaty is a top vendor for Augusto Fine Rugs' Anna Augusto, who snapped this photo at the rug maker's World Market Center showroom, a must-see stop for hand-knotted rugs at Las Vegas Market. Hanging rug is EQ-582 from Kalaty's Equinox collection.

Although Boise is one of the fastest growing markets in the United States, it remains a smaller market, Augusto says.  Her showroom is the only one in the demographic area, and as a result clients look to Augusto Fine Rugs for a variety of price points and constructions.
"My top vendors are Tufenkian, Kalaty Rugs, Jaipur, Nourison, Loloi, Oriental Weavers and Surya.  My observation, after over a decade in this industry, is that it is less important for me to have accounts with every vendor in the business. Instead, I find vendors that carry a large breadth of selection in their category and develop that all important relationship.  The ability to partner with vendors, and have mutual support is vital to our business.
Augusto says she has recently begun a relationship with Tamarian and an importer of one-of-a-kind Afghan and Persian rugs. "I also fabricate a lot of cut and bound carpet for area rugs from Antrim (Stanton). With our lineup, we are confident we are able to service a variety of projects and clients."

"My passion is in custom.  I have found custom to be an important distinction to our showroom, and I intend to continue to grow this area of our business. Whether we simply order a custom size or a few different color positions, or completely redesign a piece, I have found the majority of our vendors do a wonderful job on our requests."
Perhaps more important, Augusto says custom nearly takes client objections off the table. "We are able to offer solutions for sizing, colors and sometimes even price point through value engineering," she explains.
A contemporary open plan room at a private residence in Meridian, Idaho is anchored by a Tufenkian area rug from Augusto Fine Rugs in Boise. Credit: Cy Gilbert Photography
Augusto Fine Rugs carries 600-700 SKUs in its showroom in a variety of sizes, including one large stack of rugs, a 10x14 platform, and a 4x6 rack. "The rest of our SKUs are 2x3- or 18" samples.  I have made an effort to stock more hand-knotted SKUs and to sample tufted and machine made. 
"Our room sized inventory is a mixture between owned and consigned.  I order small rugs for clients constantly.  Over the years, I have gotten accustomed to selling off of samples, and have found that between a sample of the rug and a full rug vendor image, there is enough there for a client to make a decision -- especially with the design trade."
When it comes to styling preference, Augusto reports that the Boise market "seems to be is all over the place, yet overall I am seeing less and less traditional.  Texture and neutrals seem to be strong," she says.

"Regardless of the design and styles consumers are requesting, I do believe the consumer, regardless of age, will invest in a quality rug. At the end of the day, our clients come to us for specialty rugs and are looking for a value that both performs and pleases.  This combination never goes out of style."

This philosophy leads her to believe that to successfully compete against Internet rug sales in today's market her rug showroom will move even more toward the luxury high end business.  "That's where my passion is and I find I am able to perform better," she confides.  
The strategy is working, and Augusto has been pleased with growth since the official showroom opening in May, 2016.  "In 2017, we saw a growth rate of about 20 percent. Based off of the business already booked for 2018, backorders and the jobs I am projecting, I am expecting another large growth year. Our goal is to steadily grow our business, while maintaining the level of customer service, professionalism and personal attention our clients deserve," she told RugNews.com.

Augusto Fine Rugs' client Vicki Gregerson Design chose to layer rugs from Surya's Zahara and Verve collections for this elegant nursery at a private residence in Eagle, Idaho. Credit: Makayla Madden Photography

Augusto Fine Rugs earned the title of American Small Business Champion by submitting an online application describing what makes its small business one of the best in their community, and how they plan to use the prizes to grow their business. Nominations that garnered at least 100 votes were then presented to a judging panel of small business experts that determined 102 winners, including Augusto Fine Rugs. 
Augusto Fine Rugs is also eligible to win one of three additional $15,000 grand prizes, by being named Grand Champion. A judging panel of small business experts will select three Grand Champion winners from the group of small business champions this summer. Selection will be based on how effectively Champions utilize their prizes to grow business revenue or operations, as well as how effectively the winners promoted the Championship in the media and social media.
"I am so grateful for this recognition and feel strongly that having more women leaders in our business community is a good thing," said Augusto.  "SCORE's commitment to supporting and celebrating small business in America is making a positive difference.  I use a lot of their resources, especially for budget forecasting.  They have great tools for that. A lot of new business owners really aren't familiar with how to budget out a business, and how much you need cash flow. SCORE's tools are extremely helpful."  
"SCORE congratulates and celebrates these 102 American Small Business Champions, who represent some of the best small businesses in America," said SCORE CEO Ken Yancey. "We are proud to reward these passionate and hardworking entrepreneurs with business mentoring, publicity and additional networking and training opportunities, and we look forward to watching them utilize these tools to further grow their business success."
"Supporting entrepreneurs has been a part of who we are for nearly 35 years," said Tracey D. Brown, Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Experience Officer at Sam's Club. "Many of our members own a small business and we appreciate having the opportunity to help them as they find creative solutions to problems they face on a day to day basis. The 102 winners celebrated through the American Small Business Championship are excellent examples of how innovation, persistence and knowing your customers can help an entrepreneur overcome obstacles and we congratulate them on their accomplishments."
To learn more about The American Small Business Championship and to view the complete list of Champions, visit www.championship.score.org. To learn more about Augusto Fine Rugs, visit www.augustofinerugs.com.
Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs. Each year, SCORE's 10,000 volunteer business experts provide 450,000+ free small business mentoring sessions, workshops and educational services to clients in 300 chapters nationwide. In 2017, SCORE volunteers provided 3.6+ million hours to help create more than 54,000 small businesses and 116,000 full-time, part-time, owner and contractor jobs.

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