One of the things I like most about Linked-in is the great connections you make. Not long ago, I met a talented home stager from San Diego named Judith Burzell. I wanted to bottle her entrepreneurial enthusiasm so I decided to interview her and share her perspective on small business success.
Mary: Judith , tell us about your background.
Judith: My background, education, jobs: I have what I think may be an unusual background for a home stager. I graduated from law school and worked for over 20 years as a management consultant, helping small businesses get off the ground. From the time I graduated I have always had my own business. My company provided the organization, administration and development for local government agencies, cities, developers & small businesses. My most interesting project was management on a job where the company designed an 11-mile stretch of 9-foot diameter water pipeline – pretty far from home staging. When working with developers I found I was interested in buying, remodeling and selling my own homes for fun. I loved the part where I was able to stage it to sell & realized that this is what I most love. I began taking classes and reading more about it.
Mary: Why and when did you get into home staging?
Judith: The remodeling, re-design & staging I was doing for my own homes led other people, real estate agents and homeowners to ask me to help them with their homes. It gradually became a larger part of my business. By the late 1990’s I was focusing more & more on helping other people sell their homes. I still maintained the old consulting company, but the staging business began to take off on its own. The concept for HomeScapes San Diego did not crystallize as my primary business until early 2013.
Mary: What do you like most about your home staging business?
Judith : What I love most about this business is that it is what I am drawn to do anyway – staging has never felt like a ‘job’ to me. It is truly my passion. I feel so lucky to have found something that I love to do & couldn’t imagine doing anything else at this point. If it ever begins to feel stressful, I take a short break and make sure I get back on a positive track with exercise & some down time.
Mary : What are some challenges you face in your business?
Judith: Every day and every job brings its own challenges – from marketing, understanding the Internet and changes in technology, to social media, pricing, keeping track of things on the calendar, contracts – even our business plan gets continual modification.
Staged by Homescapes San Diego
Mary: What has been your most successful marketing strategy for getting customers?
Judith: Our most successful marketing tool overall has been direct networking within our targeted market – that means getting out and talking to real estate agents, participating in organizations, mixers, open houses – any forum where you are likely to meet the people who will want to hire you. A sign for the business on my car has also helped, along with an active presence this past year on Pinterest and Houzz.
Mary: What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned as a small business owner?
Judith: The most important thing I have learned over the years is that almost anyone can start up a successful business. The one thing that I don’t see other small business owners do is to take advantage of what is out there to help them get started: classes, webinars, books, mentors – anything that is designed to help small businesses get started. I think the development of a solid business plan is a huge help and a step a lot of people skip over. A business plan will give you an idea of where you want to go & how to get there. It’s important to lay a foundation that includes projections, marketing strategy, background work you need to do, studies, development of tools: pricing, comps, insurance, contracts, inventory; how you will organize the business – are you going to be a sole proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, or some other entity, while understanding tax implications & getting legal advice. But the most important lesson for me at the end of the day is to make sure I am enjoying what I am doing. Our passion for our business is a huge part of what helps our company appeal to new clients.
Mary:What are your 3 words that define how you are going to work better this year?
Judith: Focus, fun, and learning.
Mary: What is your best piece of advice for anyone wishing to start a home staging or decorating business?
Judith:For anyone who would like to start their own home staging or decorating business I think the most important part is to not give up in the beginning when it seems like there are too many things that don’t appear to be working. You are going to have days where it just doesn’t seem like things are going right. Every successful business is going to take awhile to develop. If you love it, keep at it and be patient! Be willing to have the courage to invest in your business; you are investing in yourself. Keep learning, take classes, get certified, and talk to other people who have been successful in the industry. There are no failures in business, just opportunities to learn. Take part in networking groups like LinkedIn, WINK, real estate groups, investors groups – always remembering to stay professional and positive as you participate. But most importantly, enjoy!
Mary: Thanks, Judith, for taking time from your busy schedule to be interviewed for my blog.
If you are a real estate agent, investor, or home owner in the San Diego , California area, contact Judith Burzell at 760-224-5025 for your home staging, redesign , or remodeling needs. For more information about her services, go to www.homescapes-sd.com In this post check out some of her “before” and “after” photos in this You Tube video.
There were lots of secrets to small business success in Judith’s responses. How many did you find? Don’t forget – if you are on Linked-in, make sure you connect with Judith and me, too!