Mitchell GoldIf you don’t recognize the face, you’ll recognize the name of Mitchell Gold. He’s the well-known maker of stylish furniture that anchors living rooms across America. There are a growing number of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams branded “Signature Stores” in such cities as Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, and now more. Since they showcase their comfortable, stylish and value-conscious collections, it got me thinking about furniture as “investment” and helped start a nice conversation about money. As you’ll learn, there’s a lot more to Mitchell than making a buck. I hope you enjoy his candid thoughts on furnishings, consumerism and how his money is doing the world some good!

1. When twentysomethings are conditioned to fill their apartments and first homes with IKEA, how do you convince them that well-made furniture is a good investment?
We just share knowledge with people. If you buy a sofa that is $900 and lasts for 3 years versus one that is $1200 that lasts for 8 which is a better investment? If you buy a chest of drawers that last 5 years for $499 versus one that costs $1250 and lasts for decades, which is a better deal? It’s also about a sense of style and proportion. We sell our products through retailers that have well trained staff so they can give honest and good information.

2. What is your most significant memory about money?
Over a dozen years ago Bob and I went to buy a car. I negotiated the price down really well. Then when we went to talk to the finance person, Bob advised me we’d be paying cash. He told me he didn’t like banks, they were not your friend… that if you bought a $20,000 car you’d end up paying $26,000 if you financed it. Unbeknownst to me, he had squirreled the money away and believe me, we did not have much money then at all.

3. What is your worst habit around finances?
It really is probably giving too much of it to political candidates and causes. I wish we had more to show for it after giving away so much for so many years.

4. Is good decor only for the wealthy? Are fewer, nicer things worth the price?
Of course not, anyone can have a sense of style with little money. I saw this guy a couple of years ago who looked incredibly sexy. Ends up he bought these seer sucker type pajama pants at Kmart and wore with a white t-shirt and sneakers. Cheap and great looking, AND no one had ever seen that outfit before. What we try to teach in our book “Let’s Get Comfortable” is about collecting things you love regardless of their price and combining that with simple colors in seating pieces, and warm pictures of family and friends. The key to it all is balance, not too much stuff and not too little.

5. As business partners do you and Bob see eye-to-eye on money?
He’s tighter than me. We give a good balance to each other. But for sure, he is generous in all ways.

6. Give some tips from your book, Let’s Get Comfortable, on how the consumer can stick to a budget without sacrificing style.
We suggest people make sure they have a great sofa that works for their needs because that will get the primary use. They can save lots of money by buying inexpensive picture frames that are all the same or the same color for their pictures of family, friends and memories. Putting them all together on a table or chest, they will look unified and uncluttered, and one then is focused on the pictures that let people know who you are.

7. A favorite topic of mine is the debate over big vs. small homes. I suspect that big homes are better for business, but what’s your personal philosophy with regards to space and filling it with stuff?
My home is only 3500 square feet which for my income and where I live is not that big. I love it because each room is cozy and not ballroomish. I think you have to have something that makes you feel warm and cozy when you come home, and the same for your guests as well. The size also simply has to function for your needs.

8. What did your parents teach you about money?
They lived beyond their means for many years and always struggled. We were not poor but because of the way they lived they were always tight. Understanding your net income, knowing what you can and can’t have is really important to piece of mind. I often find that people that have money problems are in a thought process where they’ll buy something they can’t afford but feel because they work hard they are entitled to it. The reality is that you’re not entitled to what you can’t afford. I know this might sound ridiculous to some but Bob and I would really REALLY like a private jet because we travel so much. But we know, even though we are not poor, that we cannot afford that luxury.

9. The success of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as a company has obviously made you rich. How has wealth enriched your life beyond material things?
Well, first I want to make it clear that it has not made me as rich as my mother and many people think(!!!!). But it has given me the ability to contribute to making life better for others be they gay or not gay. I would have to say that the two things that have enriched my life most is our on site daycare center and starting Faith In America. Bob and I invested a half million dollars to build the daycare and now it runs as a non profit each year. We have 74 beautiful children from 6 weeks to 5 years old thriving in an education based environment. And we’re investing a similar amount to create Faith In America to educate America about the harms of religion based bigotry. As well, we are educating that the history of discrimination in America … the world!!!… is too often rooted in people’s misguided religious beliefs.

10. Money can buy a lot of furnishings and accessories, but can it buy happiness?
If those furnishings and accessories are Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, than YES (wink)!!!! I’m sure most people realize material possessions can’t buy happiness, but it can create an environment that relieves stress and makes people feel welcome, and that can give you happiness.

More about Mitchell Gold
Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chair-man of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is a different kind of man running a very different kind of business. In every aspect of his personal and business life, Mitchell strives to make a difference.

Besides running a $100 million company, Mitchell is a founder and significant benefactor of Faith in America — a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about religion-based bigotry and how it is being used to justify discrimination against GLBT people. In fact, Mitchell was just named one of Advocate Magazine’s 2006″People of the Year” for his work with Faith in America.

In 1989, he teamed up with Bob Williams, then the promotions art director with Seventeen magazine and together, they started the company in Taylorsville, NC. Riding the combination of Bob’s design talent and Mitchell’s savvy business skills and connections, an industry force was born.

Today, Mitchell is the co-founder and chair-man of a renowned company with 700+ employees that operates out of 600,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space. With over $100 million in sales, products sold through America’s most popular retailers and catalogs, branded retail stores from coast to coast, a first book released in March ’07 entitled “Let’s Get Comfortable,” along with media exposure in publications like Time, Fast Company, Inc., The Wall Street Journal and virtually every shelter publication of note, Mitchell, and his company have the very real expectation of redefining what a great brand really is by being a different type of brand…one with meaning and depth.

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.