The 50 States Project is a series of candid conversations with interior designers across the country about how they’ve built their businesses. This week, Kansas City, Missouri–based designers Mallory Robins and Elizabeth Bennett of Kobel + Co tell us why they’ve developed three distinct offerings to meet clients’ needs, how a recent delivery snafu showed them that they’re on the right track and why their ‘design first’ approach means not relying on a markup.
How did the two of you become business partners?
Mallory Robins: In 2017, my family relocated from Houston to Kansas City, and I had the opportunity to reimagine my career. I had been working in corporate America, but I’d always loved design. When I founded Kobel + Co I didn’t have a complete sense of what I wanted it to look like, I just knew I wanted to do something in design. Then, after about a year of dabbling part-time, a college friend reached out to me and asked if I could help with their large renovation here in Mission Hills. That was the first big project I took on—it was a large-scale renovation, including an addition to the house, a full custom kitchen, multiple bathrooms and selections for the whole home. It was such an incredible experience for me, and I felt like it checked the creative box that I really loved but also fulfilled the operational side of my brain. It just felt like such a fit for me. That experience helped me realize that I didn’t want this to be something that I dabbled at—I wanted it to be something bigger and full-time. I also knew I couldn’t do that by myself.
At about that time, a few serendipitous things happened. Elizabeth and I had been friends in college, but we hadn’t