Every business has a story. We want to share yours.
The International Association of Home Staging Professionals is proud to highlight business owners and companies in an around the business of Home Staging, Real Estate, Design, and Short-term Rental, though our IAHSP Articles Features.
Our goal is to highlight and explore the various business models and services that are offered throughout our ecosystem and community, giving both the public and our membership the ability to learn more about the businesses and services available through our vast network of service providers and businesses.
Let's dive right into our latest IAHSP Article.
Q. Thanks for taking the time to sit with us to share your story with our readers. Can you start out by sharing a little bit about you and your company?
Thanks for this opportunity! StagingCraft has been in business since 2010, and until 2019 I was doing almost exclusively consultations, with an occasional vacant stage using rental-company furniture. In 2019 I decided to provide full service staging services, and so I acquired inventory. I now also have a team of four freelance stagers and a network of moving-company partners, which keeps overhead costs low and enables me to work flexibly and nimbly when Realtors need us.
Q. Everyone has a story about how they got started, what was the inspiration or the catalyst for you starting your business?
In 2010 a Realtor friend said she loved my decorating style and asked if I could advise a new listing she had taken over from a different real-estate agency whose contract had expired. I was a former corporate communications manager and current stay-at-home mom to a toddler, so I jumped at the chance. The sellers were older, in poor health and understandably distressed that they'd been on the market for a year. I visited and immediately saw that the house needed to be more neutral, with decor that needed refreshing and rooms that were overfilled with furniture. When I returned a day after my initial visit, my SUV was filled with furniture, decor and art from my own house! An adult grandson of the sellers helped me move a lot of their furniture to the garage. The lady of the house and I packed and cleared for five hours, while the somewhat grumpy husband abandoned ship for the afternoon. When we finished, he returned, looked around the house, and quietly said, "I wish you'd come here 10 years ago to do this." Their house sold six weeks later, after a lot of foot traffic, for full price. I was HOOKED. I immediately sought out training from reputable staging organizations, and I chose StagedHomes.com's ASP(r) program. Just this year, I earned my ASPM(r) accreditation from Jennie Norris and Sandra Hughes. That program is invaluable! I can't recommend the ASPM(r) program--and Jennie and Sandra as instructors--highly enough!
Q. What services do you offer? And why did you choose to offer those particular services?
I offer Walk and Talk consults, what I call "occupied stage and style sessions," and full vacant stages. The stage-and-style service is a refresh of an occupied listing by supplementing the sellers' furnishings with modern art, rugs, lighting, decor...whatever their property needs to look more up-to-date and on-trend.
A growing part of my business is what I call project management/staging. I tell Realtors that StagingCraft can oversee or do almost anything needed from the time the listing agreement is signed to the day the house goes active on the MLS. I have a trusted network of excellent, well priced, and truly nice tradespeople who can tackle any condition or cosmetic fix a house or landscape needs. I can marshal them to competely prepare a property in a few weeks for a reasonable price. I've had plenty of folks tell me I should be charging a referral fee to those tradespeople, but I don't want there to be any question about integrity issues, and so I don't take a fee from them. However, when I'm hired to oversee repairs, painting, and other work prior to my staging installation, I charge the client a project management fee, and they're happy to pay it.
But what I love the MOST is my work in Realtor education! I offer complimentary home staging education sessions to Realtor sales teams. The sessions include teaching Realtors about what home staging is, how to work effectively with a stager, how to talk productively with their sellers about the need to make improvements prior to listing, and more. I know some home stagers might disagree with my sharing so much information with Realtors--and even letting them accompany me when I do consults with their listing clients--because they say I'm "giving too much away." My experience is just the opposite! I find that the more I share with Realtors, the more they understand how knowledgeable I am and are comfortable putting their listing clients in my hands. I'm showing them that I'm the expert they need. I tell them that including me on their team elevates their reputation and their brand.
Q. Did you ever have a project or customer, where everything was going wrong or the project was challenging? Can you share about that time, and how did you find a solution, or over-come the challenge?
While I've not yet had a project where it's all going wrong, I often have hiccups on projects in which I have to bring in tradespeople because --especially with older houses--you sometimes can't anticipate the full extent of repairs until you pull back that old carpet or open walls up.
I will say that just this past summer, I had a Jekyll-and-Hyde week. I went from a vacant staging project in which the buyers loved and bought everything we had installed in the entire home, to a long-term rental stage in which the renters loved everything we put in their condo...until 12 hours later, when they called me and told me to come take it all back. And they had literally applauded as they watched it carried INTO their front door the day before! It was a case in which I could have held them to the contract, or charged them for six months of the 12-month contract. But bad news always travels faster than good news in my area, and I wasn't willing to jeopardize my company's reputation. So I simply picked it back up, and when these very well-to-do renters offered to pay me a cancellation fee, I told them what I would have charged them to cancel, asked them to donate to my favorite charity in the area, and gave them the charity's name and address for them to mail the donation. I can only hope that they followed through!
Q. Running a business is not always easy. What have you learned about yourself and your business, since launching your company?
I've learned that while the hands-on staging feeds my soul creatively, I can't do all of the jobs myself, and so I've been training one of my freelancers as a "lead stager". She now knows my staging aesthetic and can stand in for me when needed. And I know that not being a "financial whiz" is NOT an excuse to ignore the business side of staging. I regularly log expenses, keep my P and L up to date, and try to spend at least two full days a month on the paperwork side of the business. Not a fan, but it's a necessary evil.
Q. We've all had either an employee or a customer that makes what we are doing worth it all. Can you share with us a story about an employee, vendor or customer that really impacted you and touched your heart?
I'm going to say it's that same couple who were my very first staging clients before I was even a "legitimate" stager. The husband was short-tempered when I met them and said he wasn't going to take orders from the likes of me when I returned to do the staging. Sure enough he walked out and left me with his wife and grandson when I arrived bright and early the next day! I didn't get rattled. And yet, he was almost speechless when he came home later that day and saw the results of the work his wife, his grandson and I did that day. My Realtor friend called me the day after I'd staged the house and told me that they had given her permission to call me and tell me how appreciative they were...and that the husband was sorry he had been rude, but he was in the midst of stage 3 cancer treatment. He passed away within a year of moving into their retirement property. I think of him to this day and am grateful to him for illustrating to me that it's important to bring compassion to every project because you never know what's going on in someone else's life.
Q. If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice on how to manage or grow your business, what advice would you give yourself?
I'd tell my new-stager self that I DO know what I'm doing and that I shouldn't be afraid to call Realtors because we add so much value to their listings and their business! When I was a new stager, I felt like I was asking Realtors for a favor in hiring me. It's just the opposite! Realtors are eager to use every tool at their disposal to help sell quickly and profitably. I'd also tell myself to spend more time on the things that make home stagers money. For me, that's focusing on establishing and maintaining relationships with Realtors and letting others on my team take care of things like de-staging, inventory maintenance, billing and contracts, and warehouse organization.
Q. If a potential client were reading this article right now, what would you tell them about you, your team or your business that would convince them to choose your company?
It's that I'm not a traditional home stager; instead, I'm a home stager who also serves as a subcontractor and who can speak the language of home renovation and repairs and harness resources to manage all aspects of home preparation and presentation.
Q. What is one fact about you or your business that most people might not know?
I named my company StagingCraft in 2010 as an homage to my love for theater--a play on the word "stagecraft." I'm active on stage in a number of community theaters in my region. I even had two experiences acting in one-act play competitions in Manhattan.
Q. Where do you see your business going in the next 5 or 10 years?
I wish I could say with certainty that I'll still be in business in five years. However, the twists and turns of life have shown me that it's important to make plans and to have goals, but to keep eyes open for any opportunity that feeds your soul. If I'm still staging in five years, I'll be doing the same types of projects I'm doing now--hopefully, lots more of them!
Q. It was so great sitting with you to learn more about you and your company. How can people find out more about you and your business?
I hope everyone who reads this will connect with me on Instagram at @StagingCraft! I post five or six times per week, and my focus is on educating Realtors about the difference home staging can make in their business. I have lots of fun before/after posts, with a sprinkling of personal stuff and some fun bad-real-estate pictures. My web site is www.StagingCraft.com, and I'm on Facebook and LinkedIn at StagingCraft. I love to connect with other stagers--my phone number is 215-262-7306. And I'd love to connect with more stagers in the Philadelphia region...call me so that we can network!
Q. Thank you so much for sharing your story with IASHP Articles!
This publication is a fantastic marketing opportunity for every IAHSP member. I appreciate being able to talk shop. Next to my wonderful daughter, Jillian, home staging is my favorite topic of discussion!