Katy Shah and India Mayer make moves to influence the influencers during a pandemic
By Hollie Deese
Photography by William DeShazer
In the midst of Nashville’s exploding growth and rise as a national “It” city, Katy Shah and India Mayer had a great idea. Build a community around the area’s social media influencers by providing them a space to create content, cultivate brand relationships and connect with others in their community so they didn’t feel so alone in building their own brands.
The idea seemed solid before the tornadoes ripped through East Nashville — thankfully sparing the house that was the center of their new business — and a global pandemic took hold of the nation. And months later, it seems just as solid as ever, if not more so. They had the foundation and commitment to build. And when things are chaos around you, that is sometimes all you need to succeed.
Shah, left, and Mayer.
Shah and Mayer first met working for The Callaway, learning from boss Libby Callaway that you could have a successful company without having rigid guidelines, and that it is okay to always be changing. And they also learned from Callaway how to get larger cities to take Nashville brands seriously.
“The idea had been evolving for the past couple of years,” Shah says. “We both had the experience of living and working in bigger cities in public relations and influencer marketing — I was in New York, and she was in Chicago — and when we moved to Nashville we quickly realized that brands had a hard time talking to people in regional markets outside of New York, LA, Chicago. And with our previous job, we started trying to think of ways to fix that.”
With their company Of Note, they plan on expanding that concept, together, supporting each other as they create a company that works for them now and as they grow their families. Shah is expecting her first child in January.
“We also did this because we love one another, and it’s a huge risk going off on your own,” Shah says. “And this is how we want to operate our lives. Supporting each other.”
Building Note House
The pair had initially been looking in Germantown for something they thought would be more central for area influencers, but they just couldn’t find the kind of house they wanted. Then their Realtor found the 11th Avenue South home before it was on the market.
Katie Vance with Powell Architecture and Building Studio led the design/build process, working with Shah and Mayer to create a space that would appeal to influencers looking for different backdrops and textures, but also those who really understood good design and quality materials.
“When they approached me about this concept, I was like, ‘Well, I love it.’ It is so different, but I instantly got it,” Vance says, who immediately began concepting ways to make the entire house Instagrammable.
“It was really important to give people a lot of different options for photographing in the space,” she adds. “So giving a marble countertop, giving a wood countertop, giving all kinds of options to shoot different products.”
Powell has mainly done commercial work in the past — Eleven Willow, The Russell Hotel, The Green Pheasant — but would love to do more residential work. Note House was the perfect introduction.
“We do architecture, interiors and construction,” Vance says. “This was a great project to take through that whole process from start to finish. It has been a great collaboration on the construction and everybody working together.”
Vance, who also runs Porter Flea, loves to put local makers into her projects, especially now as small business and Nashville’s entire hospitality industry struggles through a pandemic.
“I think that’s important to have that woven into the fabric,” she says, inspired by how people have had to redirect their energies and find new ways to stay in business, thinking out of the box with new ideas while knowing it is imperative that they do so to have a chance to make it through to the other side.
Katie Vance of Powell, shot by Emily Dorio.
“I drove by Marche the other day and couldn’t believe we won’t be having brunch there again,” Vance says. “We’ve got to remember what we’ve lost, but then we also have to keep going and keep building these cool projects and doing these cool things. I have always been so proud of Nashville for having such an incredible hospitality industry and the clients that I’ve worked with. They’ve got to keep pushing so we can get out of this.”
Downstairs is a plethora of visually appealing spaces perfect for shooting all kinds of content — a textured wall, an architectural fireplace surround, a graphic mural by artist Ellie Caudill in an ADA-compliant bathroom.
One room is just for podcasts. Another is soundproofed for shooting video. A fashion closet is filled with items from brands like H&M for influencers to take and create content. A bathroom was specially designed to be able to shoot long-angle pictures.
“If they’ve got a Pantene commercial, they know most influencers don’t have a giant bathroom that has a perfect angle to shoot it,” Shah says. “We do.”
A spiral staircase — visually stunning for pictures — leads from the downstairs hub to the upstairs coworking space.
“So the influencers would shoot their content downstairs and then come up here to their desk and sit and post,” Mayer says.
And just like downstairs, there are sponsorships upstairs. One corner is filled with two big LoveSac beanbag chairs, and plants from Zion Botanicals are in almost every room.
“We really thought, even in this space like everywhere else in the house, how many photos could they get? How many different textures? We have seven kinds of chairs just upstairs,” says Shah.
For influencers there is a membership model, a monthly fee that gives them access to the house, including the fashion closet, the podcast room and the co-working space upstairs. Daily rates are available for things like booking the kitchen for a photo shoot or staging the house with a client’s products.
“We heard a lot from influencers and content creators that they really felt like they were on an island, and no one really understands what they do,” Mayer says. “They were feeling like it was kind of like the Wild West — they don’t know what to charge brands. They don’t know how to communicate with other influencers and be transparent about the brands they’re working with. They are their own mini brands, which is so Nashville. Everyone’s working on their own. So now we’re bringing the community together.”
So in a time when brands are looking for innovative ways to create content and connect with their audience, Of Note and Note House are just the kind of things they are willing to try to create new partnerships.
“Let’s say H & M sees a photo that gets a ton of engagement, and they love that content. They can reach out to us if they really want to work with that man or woman aside from the house,” Shah says. “It’s a good testing period where they can see the content before having to pay that person, then hire that person for a bigger program.”
Andrew Denny with Textures provided all of the flooring at Note House. He was introduced to the project by Vance, whom he had worked with many times in the past for other Powell projects.
“It felt like they wanted to create a world-class environment that would be appropriate for influencers to be able to come in and have a shared workspace. What that meant to us was more of a modern design, not necessarily contemporary, but modern in the process,” Denny says. “I think they hit everything they were looking for.”
Note House Build Partners
Powell Architecture and Design Studio
Jeff Wells Landscaping
Red Rocks Tileworks
PDI Kitchen & Bath
Mesa custom cabinetry
Ellie Caudill, muralist