**In November of last year I offered a special photo shoot opportunity to three local women small business owners.
For the month of January I will be showcasing those women.**
Meet Lisa Baker, owner of Blue Stone Staging + Design Company, home stager, designer, entrepreneur and mother of twin boys. Lisa is an amazing designer and her work is top notch. Be sure and check out her website!
I asked Lisa to tell me about her business and share her story. Here’s what she said.
What do you do and what led you to this particular career path?
“I stage homes for sale and refresh interiors! My ‘story’ goes back about 6 or 7 years, I was a mom to toddler twin sons and was in my corporate job making good money, doing what I thought I should be doing. Eventually I started to feel burned out and was struggling with the work life balance. Around that same time, my husband and I had also purchased some land and began preparations to build, which also meant we had to get our current house ready to sell. I started researching what I should do, talked to my realtor and asked her a ton of questions because I didn’t want two mortgages! Fast forward a few months and I was in the heart of designing our new home, I was enjoying ‘staging’ our house, and I just overall enjoyed this creativity I was able to channel. I then started to contemplate how I might be able to step-away from my corporate job temporarily to re-assess things, see if there was a way to do something more creative and also be present more for my twin sons. As this was happening, the company I worked for decided to offer a voluntary separation package. I thought to myself that if I don’t do this now, I may not get another chance or be brave enough to do it any other time. I haven’t looked back since and that was 4 years ago.”
Can you share an interesting story that happened to you since you began your company?
“I’ll share the story of my first ever real paying job as a stager because honestly, it was exactly what I needed to have happen to believe that I could do this! I had responded to an online ad that someone local needed a stager. Not sure if I was the only person that responded, but they hired me to come do a consultation. I was super nervous, but that quickly dissolved once I started talking to the lovely couple that were planning to move back to where they had lived growing up, which coincidentally happened to be two towns over from where I grew up and we knew some of the same people. I had come back a week later to bring in some art and accessories and the husband ended up being my assistant as I was telling him where to hang things, move items, etc. He even offered me a root beer float 😊 They were amazed at the transformation and the house had five offers within 2 days, all at or above asking. They were so thrilled and kept saying that they could tell I was very passionate about my job and I must be super busy…little did they know this was my first gig – but they sure gave me such a confidence boost and I was just thrilled that my first experience had such a wonderful outcome.”
Will you share an embarrassing experience?
“I rent a lot of trucks to move staging inventory. One day, not that long ago, I picked up the truck, placed my storage items into the back – boxes, blankets, vacuum, took box, etc. As you can probably guess, I started driving down the road with the back wide open (at least I didn’t have any furniture in it!). The trunk rental representative saw me pull out so he quickly called me to let me know – crisis avoided! Needless to say I double and triple check that I have the back down and secure.”
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being a small business owner and how has it enriched you personally?
“The thing that I enjoy (and probably stress the most about) is just the overall challenge of running a small business – it’s totally up to me about where and how I move forward, how I position myself in the market, what presence I have online, etc. It’s exciting to think of the all the possibilities and that I can move in any direction I want.”
What are the downsides of being a small business owner? What are your biggest challenges?
“Where to begin? Ha. As most entrepreneurs know, you have to wear a lot of hats – you do sales, marketing, accounting – you name it! My biggest challenges have been knowing what to do myself versus hiring out for certain tasks and giving up control of those items. Another big challenge is keeping the pipeline filled and having consistent work. My business can be cyclical and I need to ensure I keep the cash flow coming in.”
What is the most striking difference between actually owning and operating a small business and what you thought it would be like?
“No difference – I knew it would be hard, and it is!”
Not everyone is cut out to run their own business. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful?
“I think you need to be organized and know your numbers. I’m fortunate that I learned a lot in my corporate days about finances, budgeting, and planning and can work a pretty lean and mean spreadsheet! From a personality perspective, I think you also need to be authentic and real and build up your relationships as this is what will sustain you over-time.”
What advice would you give to other women looking to start a business? What advice would you give to other women small business owners to help them thrive?
“I honestly didn’t realize how important networking, or better yet – connecting, and cultivating relationships were when I first started – I wish I would have done that sooner. Finding other like-minded women to empower and encourage you along the way is super important. Owning a small business can feel isolating at times (as I sit here by myself with my cat staring me down) so finding your “tribe” can keep you energized and you just never know what synergies and collaborations may be born through your connections!”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
“First and foremost, my family – my husband has supported me from day one and my parents and in-laws for helping with my crazy schedule; whether it be picking up the kids or being my second set of eyes on a staging job. My mom loves to come and help me on stage days – she calls it her play time – I get a lot of my design sense from her so it’s a fun way to spend time together.”
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- “Be Patient. Building a business can take time. I started out slower than some as I was also enjoying my littles before they went off to school, but even so, the cultivating of relationships and trust can take time.”
- “Know your value. Starting out this can be hard as you just want/need work so you compromise. It can be a slippery slope though and can be hard to get back to where you should be. I had a client recently tell me that I charge more than their previous stager, but they also wanted a more updated look than what they had been getting. I just said that in order to keep my inventory fresh, I need to charge accordingly. They hired us. Key is that you must be confident in your pricing and the value that you bring.”
- “You will need to push beyond your comfort zone. I get super anxious and nervous speaking in front of groups, but also realize this is a very efficient way to educate rooms full of realtors and investors about the value that I can bring them.”
- “You just never know. By this I mean, tell everyone you meet what you do (not in a “salesy” way), be open to new or different opportunities, try out different networking groups, keep posting on social media even if you think no one is looking. Sometimes I think back on certain jobs and it’s because I met so and so way back when at a random event that I didn’t feel like going to, but did.”
- “Set up systems and processes. Another thing I’m working on now that my business is busier. Have a process for quoting, invoicing, following up on leads, capturing emails, etc. It’s much easier to do this in the beginning than trying to play catch-up!”
Thank you Lisa for taking the time to share with me. I truly enjoyed photographing you!