Mortarr Founder Abby Murray in Conversation With Cindy Allen on DesignBiz

Mortarr co-founder and CEO Abby Murray.

Women in design are this month’s focus on DesignBiz, Interior Design’s twice-weekly show hosted by editor-in-chief Cindy Allen (@thecindygram). Kicking off the show’s March programming was guest Abby Murray (@abbyjmurray), the co-founder and CEO of digital design platform Mortarr.

Based in Minnesota, Murray got her start by founding a full-service branding agency in 2013, helping to develop consistency across clients’ image and web presences, which now serves as Mortarr’s internal marketing agency. Murray still leads this team, directing overall branding, UX/UI designs, campaign creation, digital strategy, and communication for both Mortarr and those subscribed to it.

Mortarr itself has ballooned into a dynamic digital platform that designers and developers can use to find products, contractors, and more, filtering for criteria like region and sustainability credentials using the site’s advanced search tools. Then, users can organize their findings into ‘Design Rooms’—image folders with built-in collaboration tools that the company calls its “pocket knife.”

Mortarr’s advanced search includes filters for sustainability, region, and more. Image courtesy of Mortarr.

This content is uploaded to Mortarr by the site’s premium subscribers—the contractors and manufacturers themselves, who showcase their finished products on the site.

Mortarr also partnered with Interior Design’s sister company Material Bank in March of last year, integrating the materials-sampling platform into its site to provide users with a seamless, all-in-one experience when starting a new project. “Our mission is to connect the industry online. We don’t want to build new tools when they’re already out there and work really well,” said Murray. “We’re very much about partnering up with companies that exist already.”

“The design industry is really a relationship industry,” Allen agreed. “You want to be building upon those relationships.”

At Virgin Hotels Dallas, an installation by ActivWall expands the dining room to the outdoors. Photography courtesy of Mortarr.

This philosophy is core to Mortarr’s business model and was an advantage when the pandemic hit the United States last spring, forcing closures of showrooms and other in-person meeting spaces. The pandemic-proof digital platform was able to stay connected with its commercial subscribers, who have since collaborated with designers to create spaces that embody key health and wellness concepts.

“There are some really neat products that have come out through our platform,” Murray explained. At Virgin Hotels Dallas, for example, an installation by Mortarr subscriber ActivWall helped to extend the square footage of the hotel’s dining space to the outdoors, allowing it to stay open and safely serve customers while restrictions were placed on indoor dining.

Still, however well the company has been able to withstand the blows of the pandemic, being an entrepreneur—especially a female entrepreneur—has its ups and downs. “It’s Women’s History Month,” said Allen to close out the call. “What kind of message would you give as a woman and as an entrepreneur?”

“Hold your head up high on the bad days, try new things, and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Murray. “If you’re not failing on a weekly or monthly basis, you’re not trying enough new things and you’re not stretching yourself enough.”

Murray is a mother of three and also acknowledged the motivation she derives from her two young daughters. “Them seeing me on a bad day is important,” said Murray. “I don’t hide that from them. Oftentimes, it becomes a conversation that we have about dealing with adversity and conflict. It becomes really healthy.” 

“Younger girls are watching us,” she concluded. “So how do we present ourselves? How do we deal with conflict? How do we deal with challenges, and hold our heads high in those moments?”

DesignBiz airs twice weekly at 6pm ET on Instagram Live.

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