Kevin Francis O’Gara is inspired by a mix of traditional and contemporary design, and loves dogs, dinner parties, and big windows.
Kevin is the brother of two sisters and the best friend of one spunky wired-hair fox terrier. With a childhood love for interior environments – especially homes, and after voraciously pinning interiors throughout his early teens, Kevin decided to create a platform to write and produce his own content. In 2013, he created Thou Swell, named after the famous jazz standard and inspired by the song’s spirit and nostalgia. In just a few years Thou Swell has become a destination for interior lovers and entertaining enthusiasts, and Kevin has collaborated with over 60 national home decor brands from Target to The Home Depot. Sharing home and garden, decorating, entertaining, and a little of his hometown Atlanta, he shares his fresh eye for design and passion for beauty.
Kevin is an undergraduate in Cornell University’s hospitality management program. With a passion for transformative design and development, he brings a unique residential perspective to projects ranging from interior design to product development. In the summer of 2018, he launched his product atelier, Kevin Francis Design. KFD’s first collection is inspired by the traditional garden maze. With its roots in myths, meditation, and lush landscapes, these verdant garden designs are brought to life with luxurious wool and bamboo silk rugs that preserve the asymmetries of each maze in their patterns.
My entrepreneurial journey started before I can remember. From some of my earliest memories in school, I was finding ways to create a new product or service for my peers and sell it to them. From a custom art business called iArt to jailbreaking iPhones for my friends, I was always looking for a market need and finding ways to fill it myself. In middle school I started my first blog on Tumblr, a photoblog of inspiring design and photography. I quickly found a knack for social media growth and quickly grew my blog by the thousands. I looked for ways to monetize my Tumblr almost immediately, and set-up Google ads on my blog to earn revenue from my traffic. I was constantly redesigning my Tumblr blog, and I started picking up bits and pieces of HTML and CSS coding through working with my blog layout. As my blog “theme” customizations became increasingly sophisticated, I decided I would start making my own Tumblr themes, eventually creating designs complex enough to sell. Hundreds of thousands of blogs used my themes, and soon I started selling hundreds of my “premium” themes each month for $6 per download.
Soon I was yearning for an online platform where I could have my own voice and share original content, and Tumblr often directed me to lifestyle bloggers in L.A. sharing their homes and design projects. The lifestyle blogging scene captivated me, especially after seeing some of the brands that sponsored the larger blogs. I decided to try out blogging for myself as a sophomore in high school and set up a lifestyle blog called Kevin’s Crumbs. I after a few posts I changed the name to Thou Swell, inspired by a jazz song and the catchy nostalgic sensibility of the words. I found that home design was easiest for me to write about, and started my lifestyle content started shifting almost exclusively to home and entertaining. I remained consistent in posting, and with each post my writing, photography, and strategy developed. I started following and building relationships with other bloggers in my niche, and emulating the strategy and design of my competitors.
Over time my style became more honed and my blog gained a consistency to its content and projects. My young age gave me an edge in the increasingly competitive blogging sphere, and once again I started monetizing my platform through ad space, and now affiliate links. I joined the premiere affiliate network and starting earning commissions on the purchases made through my blog, and then started landing small brand sponsorships, then larger and larger ones. My dedication to magazine-worthy photography and styling, and my eloquent, yet succinct writing helped me stand out in partnerships.
While I am slowly losing my edge as the youngest blogger in the home design category, the competition, especially regarding social media following, has grown fierce and I am focused now on growing my platform and expanding into video channels, original product lines, and design services.
What’s in my suitcase?
My Dream in Progress
My Gallup BP10 Results
1. Confidence: Engaging with as many viewpoints as possible, and continuing to learn more about myself so I can be as authentic as possible
2. Selling: Use my persuasiveness and passion to bring my ideas to fruition, and turn my readers in consumers to expand my brand channels
3. Knowledge: Continue to engage with my industry, learn from the network I’ve established, and make note of the possibilities that I have access to by nurturing these relationships
4. Relationship: Identify my most influential contacts and work to build deeper relationships with them through authentic and meaningful dialog
The first action I will take to use my top BP10 Talents in my life is to:
Identify potential product placements for my rug collection using my Knowledge talent, then reach out using my confidence to form a connection and utilize my Relationship talent to enable me to Sell my products through wholesale orders. I will keep myself accountable by creating written documentation of the pitch process and checking off each step as I progress with each contact.
(Wheel of Life)
(Board of Advisors)
(Really Big Idea Sketchpad)
(Entrepreneurial Journey Outline)