Having just come back from speaking at the Real Estate Staging Convention I have so many, amazing stories to tell about the people who take a leap of faith, follow their design passion (and talent), take our HSR Certification training and are now loving life! I have tons of photos to share too but I wanted to get this story out which showed home staging to be the perfect business for a new mom.
One such story, I had to share right away was Asha Thune Clarks of Haven Space Designs an Austin, TX based home stager. I love her story because it so represents what I hear daily from people wondering if they can do this. One of the things I teach in my training right away is setting goals and “controlling” your business (not letting it control you). Asha was a new mom when she started the HSR training three years ago and wanted a business that could work around her hours, allow her to contribute to the family finances and still make all the important events in her children’s lives.
Here’s her inspiring story and impressive before and after photos…
One of my very favorite childhood memories was walking into my bedroom and discovering that my mom had surprised me with a beautiful new bedspread. I can still feel the fabric and could pick that particular shade of pink out of a lineup any day. I could not have been more than four years old, but I vividly remember the beauty of my newly, lovingly designed room and how it made me feel: special, loved, and perfectly at peace (as much as a four-year-old recognizes peace).
Throughout the many years that followed, I looked at houses inside and out and loved how the built environment influenced the way I felt. My husband still finds my habit of asking him to slow down as we drive past warmly lit houses at night a bit creepy, but I just love how life happens inside a space that looks and feels beautiful.
When I was around ten, my mom started working for Any Baby Can, an amazing organization that helps families with children with special needs or chronic illnesses. I would tag along on many of her endeavors. One such trip brought us to a small house where we delivered Thanksgiving dinner. I will never forget driving up to the house and once inside, realizing that the dirt floors were not a temporary inconvenience during a remodel or construction; it was the way of life. My heart was changed so strongly that I found myself engaged in as much volunteer work during my high school years as I could find.
When I was accepted into the UT School of Social Work, it seemed fitting; however, I had this nagging voice that wouldn’t let me ignore the dream of creating interior spaces that look and feel beautiful. After all, I was the girl who introduced herself to her would-be college roommate not by saying what my hobbies and interests were but by telling her that our dorm room would be decorated in purple and to please be sure she coordinated her bedding accordingly. Miraculously, she is still one of my most treasured friends.
I completed my graduate degree in Social Work and years went by. I found myself enjoying my career at a local non-profit for several years, but the feeling of “what if I could do what I really love” never went away. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband encouraged me to take a leap of faith and make a change since we were about to embark on the biggest change of all. I wanted to be sure that whatever I did, I made it official; I started researching Professional Staging Certification programs. I found HSR and began the training.
I was a kid in a candy store going through the modules and learning more not just about how to stage and decorate but how to run my own business.
Before I even completed the training, I had my first client. I was in a total panic and made a couple frantic calls to Audra to get guidance on how to proceed as if I knew what I was doing. HSR gave me tools that helped me move confidently forward. I cannot believe that this journey started almost three years ago. My business has grown steadily, along with my family.
I specialize in Occupied Consultations and also work with design clients who want to improve their living spaces. I also now have a 10-month-old little boy. It is an amazing gift to live near my own mother who helps juggle – I mean watch- the little ones when I meet with clients. I get to plan my work around their needs and never have to miss out on special moments or events. As ridiculous as it sounds, I often find myself driving away from clients’ homes with a smile on my face.
I was recently asked the age-old “if you won the lottery, would you quit the next day” question. Without a doubt, my answer is “No!” I love what I do, I love the people I get to help, I love the realtors I work for who want the best for their clients, and I love that HSR helped turn my life-long daydream into my real-life job.
Here we are at the RESA Convention
What will your story look like?
I hear it all the time…”I need to just wait for XXX to happen and then I can pursue my dream of becoming a home stager.” Sometimes waiting for the stars to align means things never happen for us. Most of the time we let fear and self-doubt paralyze us from making decisions we know we would love to do. Will you be finally pursuing your passion in staging for 2016?
I recently asked her if she would have done anything differently now that she is living and breathing staging and she answered:
The only thing I would have done differently is doing it sooner. I believe the biggest challenge starting a new business is courage and know how. I needed a more solid business plan/model. HSR provided the guidance and direction I needed to be a Professional.So, don’t wait! If you have been rearranging furniture since you were 8, have a love of color and decor and your friends ask you all the time to help them with their house….Its time!!!
Cori graduated from the HSR training in April and hit the ground running with her business and passion! When I interviewed her originally after she signed up, she told me these prophetic words:
“My background in design and decor has always been a hobby and a passion. Friends and family have been telling me for years to do something with my gift/talent…I am looking forward to making something that I have ALWAYS done into an official business!“
I remember the day she posted a photo of all the cool accessories she purchased for her business with MUCH enthusiasm. Looking at this loot I knew she was on the right track:
I followed up with her a couple months ago and asked her how her business was doing and what advice she would give. Here is her amazing story, wisdom and photos merely 6 months later…
1. What was your background before starting a home staging business and how did it serve you well in this new endeavor?
My background was primarily in EMS. But, I have always been redesigning, remodeling and staging for friends and family. I can’t remember a time when people didn’t tell me that I should design and decorate professionally. When I finally took it seriously I searched out Staging accreditation and chose HSR. It is the best decision I could have made. HSR provided the bones for my business. The plan and direction. There really is no way I could have done it with out HSR.
Now, thanks to the training that HSR~Audra Slinkey~ provides, my new business is gaining success every day!
2. How “busy” are you today and why? Do you have any real estate agent partnerships?
As of July, 2015 I average 1 to 2 consultations (redesign and/or occupied staging) a week, 1 redesign project every 2 weeks and at least 1 vacant staging per month. And my business is growing with a new partnership…the Charleston Dream Team. AND as I was completing a vacant staging project just yesterday, that client called Charleston Home & Design whom they work with frequently and told them to do a piece on my business. None of this could have happened with out HSR!
3. Wow, that’s a steady stream of business already! How have you marketed yourself?
Lets just be totally honest here….marketing is NOT my strong point. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances that are realtor’s. That helped. My first vacant staging as The Humble Abode was basically a charity project (wanted to help a friend sell her vacant listing of 4 months and I knew I could do it!). I pilfered furniture, begged and borrowed and invested in my first acquisition of accessories. Promoted the talents of other friends who are Artisan’s and Craftsman by using their wares to fill the “Crooked House” a 1923 Charleston Single in Historic down town. It would have been easier to just deliver a yummy plate of “Pop By’s” to the nearest Realtor’s office. The home received an offer with in two weeks of being staged….it wasn’t done up fancy or lux…just felt lived in. That got folks talking about The Humble Abode.Now, I use Thumbtack, Porch, Houzz and Face Book for most of my marketing. Mailers don’t seem to work and I haven’t had a great response to email marketing. In my area it is who you know or who know’s you and refers you.Get to know your Realtors. Establish relationships, make friends. In this day and age I am finding that people appreciate the face time and that you care about them and their clients.
4. Are you glad you decided to go into the home staging field? Why or why not?
Yes!!! I was staging before I even knew there was such a thing and I have found my professional niche! I will most likely never do anything else.
5. Any words of wisdom for those just entering into the field?
I just have to THANK YOU again for HSR and the thorough extensive training you provide. I honestly could not have made my passion (or should I say fetish) into a business with out this amazing training! I recommend that others trust the HSR training and learning process. Give yourself time, confidence comes with experience. Be honest with your clients. Don’t be afraid to fail~that’s were we learn the most!
Thanks Cori for sharing! I wish I could post every interview I get that looks very much like Cori’s. If you have a gift in design, then do yourself a favor and pursue it!
I have never heard any of our HSR Members say they regret following their design passion and getting into the industry…Never!
How cool is that?! What will your story be?
Ready to Become a Successful Home Stager and Redesigner?
2016 Pantone Color(s) of the Year Rock the 80’s
When I saw the 2016 Pantone Color of the Year (which is not a single color but two colors in harmony), I was giddy with excitement! Why? Because when was the last time you saw dusty pink (Rose Quartz) and pale blue (Serenity) together? Yep, you guessed it…the 80’s!
Pantone states that it’s intent in picking two colors was to reflect “connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.” This is the first time they have ever picked two colors (which I love!) “Anxious times call for calmer colors,” said Pantone.
The reality is, the last time you saw these two colors side-by-side was over 25 years ago at a time not that much different in “turbulence” and tension than today.
Remember these guys? You couldn’t get through an episode without seeing our 2016 Pantone Colors on display in garb and interiors. Crockett is wearing our 2016 Pantone Colors. Be still my beating heart! But seriously…do you have any of this color combination in your closet or interiors?
No, probably not because I did several searches on Houzz and Google and you don’t see this color combination in interiors anymore.
When you have two prominent paint companies (Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams) choose variations of white as their color of the year, it feels as if Pantone’s made a very bold move. Not only is it unconventional to pick more than one color (something they have never done), they have specified two colors that have not been seen in unison in 25 years!
It was all over the movie set interiors of the 1980’s…notice the dusty pink couch set and pale blue rug?
The 2016 Pantone color of the year, color combination was everywhere we looked!
I feel like we should have seen this coming since lately we’ve seen increased popularity of certain “elements of the 80’s” in the last couple years. For instance, who hasn’t purchased brass (anything) and ginger jars in the last year?
What makes me giddy about moving towards the 80’s style is not only am I a product of the 80’s (class of 1989) but my love for interior design (inspired by my mother) was born in that decade. That decade represents a certain fearlessness when it came to dress, style, interiors, music and culture that has not been seen since.
My mother had designed our living room in the 80’s with pale blue carpet, dusty pink chairs, brass framed photos and standing light fixtures, several ginger jars and of course a large white couch. Pink and blue were everywhere in our house in the 80’s because it was hot, hot, hot!
It was the decade that celebrated the ridiculous and absurd while ushering in the “preppy” and “yuppy” sub-cultures. It was truly a decade of diversity in a form that treasured being unique.
It was cool to NOT buy designer. It was popular for boys to wear pink…or color your hair any color you prefer.
Is Pantone trying to usher in the carefree attitude of the 80’s or merely giving a nod to gender equality? An even better question is…are we ready for the 80’s?
So…do we hold our breath and wait and see if it catches on or do we embrace it for all it’s worth?
Personally, I don’t think it looks too bad in this more modern setting…What do you think?
It’s interesting to me that the colors picked by Pantone this year have no relationship with last year’s pick (which many people were not fond of). It’s almost as if Pantone said, “we better get it right this year and be cutting edge since we kind of blew it last year.” Whatever their intentions I love to see the changes in design, color and trends…it’s what makes us home stagers and designers super happy!
8 Reasons to Add Holiday Design to Your Business
I’ve been working on creating a holiday design and Christmas decorating webinar over the last few weeks, so that it’s very easy for my members to offer holiday decorating and Christmas design services to their clients this holiday season! I’ve really enjoyed building out this training since it gets me in the holiday mode even if the San Diego weather is still in the 80’s…ugh.
You may be asking, “Audra, why should I add holiday design services to my business?” Well, here are 8 reasons why expanding your business into holiday design could be good for you along with Christmas trees from my 8 holiday styles so pick your favorite (they can all be found in my Houzz>Holiday Style Ideabook)…
If you are one of those people that LOVE the holiday and LOVE designing your home for the holidays, then this service is a no-brainer. Here’s a secret for you…not everyone loves or even likes to decorate their home for the holiday BUT they know they should, so they are your perfect client.
It Fulfills A Need
Is it just me or does it seem like the holiday season gets shorter and shorter every year and I never have enough time to fit it all in? I know I’m not alone and people would love a service that works with them to dial in their holiday home while saving them time. We are in the era of “outsourcing” and now more than ever people are paying others to do the work they don’t have the time for.
It Attracts A Higher-End Clientele and Easily Leads to Much Broader Design Projects
The very nature of holiday design is to save clients time by doing the design for them, so typically the folks who don’t have that kind of time but do have the money are in a higher-end, income bracket. What do this mean for the designer? It means you’ve just created a wonderful referral source for multiple design projects.
It Attracts a Regular Clientele
The beauty of a holiday design service is that those client’s whom you did an excellent job for the previous year, will invariably have you come back every year! You only need to cultivate a handful of client’s to have regular, steady business every year. In fact, a stager friend of mine says that she earns almost 15% of her business yearly on only a few, holiday design client’s that LOVE her.
A Holiday Design Service is a Great Hedge to the Busy, Spring, Staging Season
Sometimes I hear stager’s complain that their staging business really dips during the holidays, so having a steady, holiday design clientele that keeps you busy, year after year, makes perfect sense!
It’s Impossible for People to Be Objective About Their Holiday “Stuff”
Yep, they are emotionally attached to some Christmas decor that really should have gone by the wayside long ago. They wonder why their home doesn’t look very good during the holiday season and many times it’s because of these older, cheaper items they just don’t have the heart to let go of…sound familiar? An expert, fresh set of eyes is such a huge benefit to sorting through home decor and getting the look we really want for our holiday home!
You Save Client’s Money by Re-purposing
Home Stagers and Designers have the uncanny ability to “see” interiors in creative ways and part of that skill-set goes toward Re-purposing items to their best showing. Why pack all of your current decor away before decorating for the holidays when you can easily to the gorgeous decor you already have and “holiday, bling it up!”
Not Hard to Market a Holiday Design Service If You Know How (That’s What My Training Teaches You!)
An hour-long training that walks you through the entire process, gives you the FAQ and Price Sheet for your website, a Pre-Appointment Form so you ask the right questions up front and trains you on how to market this valuable service is available!
Invest in your business this holiday season!
My Office Remodel – 5 Design Lessons Learned
Have you ever known that you have to do something with a space but feel a bit stumped?
I shouldn’t have shown you the “after photo” so soon because once you scroll and see the before photos, you will see why this room was the bane of my home’s existence! I did NOT want this ugly room as my office but since my kids were sharing a bedroom and turning into teenagers…it was time to remodel. Keep in mind, these photos were taken with my camera and not a professional.
Here are five lessons I learned from my office remodel…
1. You Cannot Make a Dark Space Lighter with Paint!
This room inside of my house was a constant, nagging irritation to me because I had no idea what to do with it! First off, it’s SUPER dark and gets very little natural light. In fact, there is just the one little window that emits no light and the doorway in which I am standing to take the photo is the only light source…soon to become a door. In the past, we attempted to paint the room my favorite brightening color from the Benjamin Moore Affinity Deck called Jicama but it looked drab in this space…thus lesson #1.
To combat the darkness, I added lots of artificial lighting in all of it’s forms, lots of bling from the mirrored desk, mirrored frames, table and gold lamp in order to brighten it up. The key to dark spaces is to embrace them with paint and rely on artificial lighting to do the rest. Embraced the darkness I did with Benjamin Moore’s Historical Collection, Newburyport Blue HC-155 which is the ignored color next to the very popular Hale Navy. It’s a warmer navy than Hale Navy without looking too blueberryish like Van Deusen Blue.
2. You Have to Splurge When You LOVE Something Sometimes:)
The window seat was begging for something and since you already know that I am a HUGE pillow lover, I felt it was time for me to splurge on some of my favorite Schumacher fabrics even though I have kids and animals that have NO respect for my furnishings…alas!
Splurging is hard for me since I am very practical but splurge I did on each one of these pillow (even though I got them wholesale), knowing they would probably have a lifespan of a year in my house.
3. You Have to be Practical When It Comes to Your Comfort
My office chair is the ugliest thing ever and I’m sure you noticed it right away my stager/designer readers! But here’s the thing, I have to sit there for many hours everyday and do my job, so I have to be comfortable. Have you ever looked at rooms in magazines and asked yourself whether you would FEEL comfortable there? We are staging and designing for real people in real situations, so comfort and practicality does matter.
The little brown, leather chair is a comfortable, recliner that I do use quite often at night to watch the TV in this room…who can ever agree with their husband on TV viewing preferences?
4. You Have to Get Personal
I’m one of the few staging trainers who believes your “lived in” home should NOT look staged. I have family photos everywhere in my home, as well as kids artwork and awards on display. Even in my new office you can see that I have a wall of my boys artwork and a mirror-framed, wall of my latest family photos taken on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
5. Adding ANY Kind of Architectural Element Will Boost the Space
I was on a limited budget but wanted shelves for my MANY books and cabinets to hide my ugly, office “stuff”. Here’s another tip, make sure you are crystal clear on exactly how you want those cabinets built! I was armed with photos of both the mill work and cabinet I wanted, so this was easy and boy does it make a difference!
6. Animals LOVE Animal Skin Rugs Even If They Are Fake
You know I have to give a bonus tip and it’s this…my dog and cat cannot stay away from the faux, skin rug! Isn’t Emmy Dog and Johnny Cat cute?
The truth is…now this room is my favorite spaces in the home! Thanks for reading!