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?
Yes! Happy to be sitting here with you, thank you.
So, our company TNT Staging was formed in the summer of 2017 by myself and Tatiana Murga. We actually met at the International House in Charlotte at a Russian Conversational hour and quickly developed a friendship. At the time we were both doing quite different things but looking to make some bold moves in our lives. We did and do have a lot in common. We are both proud female entrepreneurs who oddly enough transplanted to Charlotte, NC from Russia, so we had a cultural kinship we could share as immigrants. But we also complement each other really well in our differing strengths and abilities. We strike an excellent balance which is why I think we make such great business partners.
We like to think of TNT Staging as a one-stop-shop for interior style & design related services in the real estate realm. We provide exceptional home staging services here in the Carolinas in addition to real estate photography, short-term rental set up, interior design consultation and our newest e-commerce offering which is our online furniture store.
We have an incredible network of repeat clients who choose us to elevate their business through our services. As a business and as individuals we are focused on providing value and are committed to quality and it clearly shows through our repeat clients and referral business.
We’ve also been recognized as industry leaders and have even had the honor of being awarded the title of Best Staging Team by your own organization.
Q. Everyone has a story about how they got started, what was the inspiration or the catalyst for you starting your business?
Tatiana and I are both committed to growth as individuals. And this often means pushing our comfort zone and trying new things and taking calculated risks. We wanted to build something that was bigger than us and I think like many businesses, we began by finding a need that existed in the marketplace and designing a service to fill that need.
We are passionate about interior design and recognize how a space is designed and the elements in it all influence your emotions and your mood. We already had so many connections in the real estate industry here in the Carolinas that it made sense we look to see if there was a connection, we could make between doing what we love and serving a community we already had ties to. The growth in Charlotte has been upward trending for decades so we knew we were already in a great spot to feed the need of the market right here at home.
It felt a lot like we had all the pieces, and we were really motivated to flesh out how we could connect all those pieces into a strong business model with opportunity for growth. And I’m proud of how much we’ve been able to accomplish and how many people we have brought into the fold over the last 4 and half years.
Q. What services do you offer? And why did you choose to offer those particular services?
We offer four main services: Home staging, real estate photography, short-term rental set up and an online furniture store. Our core service has been in home staging. We stage vacant homes and use transitional, modern, mid-century modern & contemporary styles.
We are the only staging company in the area that installs curtains on site. This feature is important to us to offer because the visual impact of drapery in person as well as in photos makes a huge difference. It may seem like a small detail, but the addition of curtains makes a space feel more open, defined, and finished. It takes extra time and planning to add this element to our projects, but our results make it worth it. We also own our furniture and décor which means we have flexibility and control over the inventory and our clients don’t end up paying a middleman for the product.
Our real estate photography is top notch. With 41% of homebuyers beginning their home buying search online it’s incredibly important to have the visual impact of our work presented effectively in photos. This was proven to be even more critical during the early part of the pandemic when buyers were literally crafting offers on homes using only the photos available online. Our photographer understands what is most crucial to highlight for a real estate listing and how to accurately capture the interior of a space. We capture in HDR and deliver edited and formatted images directly to our clients so they can immediately use the images in the MLS and elsewhere.
Short-term rental set up is a relatively new service we offer to our clients, though it’s been in our wheelhouse for years. This was exciting because the need for this surfaced organically. We had been styling our own portfolio of short-term rental properties and started receiving direct inquiries as to who did the interior design for those properties. When we responded that we had done the styling ourselves we were asked if we would offer that as a service to others. So, we did precisely that. Now our clients can hire us to provide bespoke and turnkey design services for their own Airbnb and short-term rental properties. It’s a collaborative process and it’s a lot of fun. We create a design board for each space and will even source and install the furnishings for clients. In fact, we even dispose of the trash when we are done with the installation, so the space is clean and ready to be photographed and booked. We made it as easy as possible for property owners to increase their nightly bookings by creating captivating spaces. This equates to a higher ROI for them and so the value of this service is baked in already.
And through our collective years of experience shopping for and installing furniture we’ve become really well versed in understanding what pieces are functional, have a fitting design and which manufactures provide a quality product. So that’s where the online furniture store came into play. It’s another service we are excited to offer. Through our furniture store our clients can purchase quality pieces with the benefit of our wholesalers pricing. We also offer our warehouse for local pick-up for furniture purchases.
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?
Oh yes! I think every business owner has their fair share of these challenges. I remember one in particular that happened in our early days as a staging company. I was 9 months pregnant at the time and there was a very challenging staging project on our books. We had opted to use an external moving company to handle moving our inventory to the property.
When I arrived on site, I discovered that the movers had broken the only marble top coffee table we had that was the style and dimensions we needed for this very high-end new construction listing. I’m sure it was quite a sad sight to see me, 9 months pregnant, on the floor in desperation, wracking my brain on how to solve this problem. But in that moment, I made the decision to call on Nick and to ask him to work as our dedicated TNT in-house mover. Nick joined us and shortly after that we bought our first moving truck so we could ensure that we extended our ownership over that part of the process as well instead of relying on a third party who may not have the same dedication to quality as we do.
We have since built an amazing and professional in-house moving team. Their skill, care, and attention to detail has made a world of a difference to each and every project. It was through that very unfortunate experience though that I was able to take something negative and turn it into something undeniably positive that changed the trajectory of our business for good. Nick is still with us and is now the foreman and leader of our logistics team. It’s incredibly rewarding to watch great professionals grow within TNT. We are quite grateful.
Q. Running a business is not always easy. What have you learned about yourself and your business, since launching your company?
Oh wow, so so much! One thing I can definitely say is a good lesson is to treat your business as a business; not as a hobby...even when you are just starting out. You’d be amazed at how much this mindset shift can influence how and when you make decisions. Launching a business and keeping it going is definitely not easy, but it can be really invigorating and self-actualizing.
I’ve learned that your standards and ethics equals your business. They need to be clearly defined and shared by everyone who is representing the company name. This also relates to quality standards. It’s easy to slip into the pitfalls of doing something on the cheap, because you think you’re quickly growing your bottom line. But the fact is, without quality your bottom line will always be at risk...the work you do is your reputation. Best to make sure you treat each client like they are your only client and leave the corner-cutting to your competitors.
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?
We are incredibly lucky to have the best team and the best customers. To have the opportunity to watch our customers grow their businesses, selling real estate faster and for more through professional staging and be able to grow together with them is truly the most rewarding thing. It feels like they are our sister-teams in a way. When they succeed, we succeed.
Honestly our team as a whole makes what we are doing worth it all. We are so lucky to have our dedicated, professional, and hard-working team out there doing the amazing work they are doing. They always go the extra mile and treat TNT as their own business — it really shows in their attitude, and it shows in their work. Our competitors may get the same furniture, but they’ll never be able to have the same team working for them. Loyalty, respect, and treating each other right is our secret weapon.
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 love this one. By far, the biggest piece of standalone advice I wish I had taken to heart earlier is perfectly encapsulated in the proverb “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I think one of the pitfalls entrepreneurs can easily find themselves in is trying to go ‘fast’ instead of strategizing and planning how to go ‘far’.
If you work in a silo; trying to wear too many hats; feeling that you will grow ‘faster’ if you just do everything yourself...you can find yourself in a place of being spread too thin. And when we spread ourselves too thin it is harder to focus on quality and long-term strategy because you’re too busy focusing on meeting the timing demand of the moment.
So the advice is to build a team of skilled and supportive individuals — To plan and know where you want to go and enlist the help of others to get you there. We could not be where we are today without the incredible help of our team. Our growth and success as a business is directly tied to their skill and dedication and willingness to meet a challenge head on.
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?
I would want them to know that they aren’t simply paying for a service. They are hiring a team, a dedicated team of individuals who are expressly equipped to help them grow their own business.
Our clients are business owners themselves...they are real estate agents, investors, and builders and so when they engage with us for our services, we are very directly helping them grow their own business. Our team is their team. Their success is our success. That’s why we also tag our real estate partners in our social media posts. We have a common goal and that’s to help them sell their property for the highest value with the shortest days on market.
And in the same way with short-term rentals, we know that not only does our interior styling positively impact their nightly occupancy rate, we also know those owners are going to receive inquiries as to who created those compelling spaces — and we want them to proudly say our name.
Q. What is one fact about you or your business that most people might not know?
This is a fun one. One fact about our business that most people don’t know is that our team is composed of amazing folks all from Eastern Europe. We have team members from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and we are all a united group of warm-hearted and hard-working people.
We tackle each project as a team. And when it’s time to celebrate our wins as a company or our wins as individuals, we come together like one community and have an absolute blast. We are one big family truthfully.
Q. Where do you see your business going in the next 5 or 10 years?
Right now, we are about to launch our e-commerce branch with our online furniture store. That was a seed we planted and watered and are now seeing the fruits of that labor begin to grow, which is just so exciting.
Our vision for the next 5 or 10 years is to focus on streamlining the home staging process; really fine-tuning it so that it is largely replicable. With that we would want to then share that knowledge, experience and expertise with our fellow-stagers in the industry either via a franchise model or an online training course or both. We like to say that we see TNT Staging as being the Starbucks of the Staging industry in 5-10 years.
And I think as we continue to serve our community, we will discover new ways to expand our services to meet the growing needs of our local area as well as the industry as a whole. We welcome a good challenge and are always searching for new opportunities to serve others.
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?
It was great sitting with you as well. We have a ton of info on our website TNTStaging.com that explains in more detail about our services and showcases some choice projects from our portfolio. We also have a contact form there for anyone interested in reaching out to us for a free quote or for more information.
Also, if you follow us on Facebook and Instagram you can get inside views of our projects. We provide a lot of helpful tips and regularly post video and images of the properties we work on so people can see our projects come to life.
Q. Thank you so much for sharing your story with IASHP Articles!
You’re welcome! And thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about our business and to highlight the AMAZING team we have to thank for our success.