There's not many places in Athens that you can find a shiny Triumph motorcycle, a Marie Antoinette bust, a jungle's worth of house plants, and a ceramic middle finger all under one roof. Metal + Petal, Athens favorite interior design company, was founded by husband and wife duo Graham and Jade Joyner. We dropped by to talk with CEO Graham about entrepreneurship, growing up in Athens, and the future of their business.
What does the CEO do here at M+P?
I actually don’t do anything with the design. I do all implementation - Everything from construction and project management, to delivering furniture from the warehouse ... all the things it takes to make the design come to life. They give me what the vision is supposed to look like and I hire and manage the right people to get it done.
So, what inspired Metal + Petal?
Jade had been doing interior design for 20+ years, and her mom was a designer. When I met her, I saw that there were a few inefficiencies in the way she could get products to customers and the availability of products. She was having a hard time trying to round up a good base of subcontractors - she was so client-facing that there was a lot of back-end work that needed some help.
So, we changed over the business name to Metal + Petal. Metal represents me, and Petal represents her, kind of hard and soft. We started with a retail store and found some brands that were not represented anywhere else, and just kind of grew from there.
Your retail space is beautiful. How long have you been here on Baxter?
We’ve been here since 2019. The first 5 years were very fast, we were spread out everywhere, we had 5 different warehouses. But now we have our studio and it’s all here in one place and it’s helped immensely. We have better conference rooms and actual offices. My first office was a closet…no one wants to come in your closet and look at your presentation. Now we have virtual presentations where they can see walkthroughs of the final product, and a sample room where you can feel the fabrics and materials.
You run this with your wife - do you have any advice on working with your partner or your significant other?
Yes. You definitely have to have defined roles…we call it “stay in your lane”. Respect the other person’s lane, and they respect your lane. It took us 2 years to figure that out. When they say “you’re in my area” — that’s hands-off. There are things that you collaborate on - the broad strokes of the business, where you want it to go. But on the day-to-day, I don’t want to pick paint colors, I don’t have to worry about the design - she’s got it and she’s way better at it than I am. She doesn’t have to worry about scheduling people to be on a job site or if they’re getting the job done. It takes a lot of pressure off each other when each person is holding their space. That’s the biggest thing. And, leave your briefcase at the door. When you’re at home, it’s about the kids, it’s about vacation. We don’t wake up and talk about work, we don’t text about work. We have parameters about where work is.
What is coming up that you’re excited about?
We’re expanding into the market in Charleston so we’ll be working on projects over there and all over Georgia now. Also, we’ve gotten into the hospitality field, that’s something we’re adding. We want to do boutique hotels and keep [those projects] a certain size.
You probably lose creativity when you do bigger chain hotels.
Yeah, we want to do unique places — that gives Jade the freedom to have her artistic side come out. It gives us all a challenge to make something of that size happen, it pulls in everyone from the team. It connects so much of our business together.
What is your favorite piece of clothing you have in your closet?
I’ve had a denim shirt that I’ve had for years - it just keeps getting better and better and better. I also have some flannel shirts - I used to buy 1 every year, so now I have like 10 of them. I used to do a bunch of hiking and camping, so all my gear was very technical and dry-fit, so I would bring one of those flannel shirts with me to have a comfort piece with me while sleeping. That’s a lot of attachment to them.
Your parents owned a retail store here in Athens - was that your first business experience?
Well, we always had the store growing up. My step dad owned the store, and my mom was a teacher. My dad was an entrepreneur as well - he was a landscape architect and a real estate agent, so I had that background of building.
Did you work with your dad a lot growing up?
Oh yeah. I was like free labor as a kid. I started cutting grass when I was 10.
Yeah, I feel like that’s what happens when your parents are entrepreneurs - you’re like their first interns.
Our kids start working at 14, and then start being paid at 16, when they’ve learned. We believe in learning those skills and customer interactions at a younger age. You learn how to build a rapport with people - that’s not just important if you want to be an entrepreneur, but shows you how to act in school and in life.
Also, it teaches you what you don’t want to do. I don’t want to cut grass for the rest of my life.
What’s your favorite part of living in Athens?
Everything is convenient. And, I’ve only ever lived here. It will be interesting starting in Charleston, in a new town. Athens is easier because we have all our connections - a lifetime worth of relationships.
Learn more about Metal + Petal