Saturday, December 22, 2007

There's No Business Like Show Business

Check out these videos on YouTube. They do an excellent job of explaining the Showhomes concept. The third video hits a spot in the middle where it looks like it's just going to loop through the second video again, but it only has about thirty seconds of the same footage, so keep watching! As always...please leave comments! I want to know what you think!

How to Live Like a Millionnaire Part 1

How to Live Like a Millionnaire Part 2

How to Live Like a Millionnaire Part 3

Be the man....'s my brand new business!

I'm the newest Showhomes franchisee. Visit the website at They are a real estate staging and property management company. Or perhaps I should now say we.

I have mentioned before (but only briefly and in passing) that I love interior design and houses and architecture. Those of you who have read my blog from the beginning know that I lost my job in February of this year, but I saw it as a blessing. I hated that job. It was in no way helping me reach any of my personal goals.

It was boring and repetitive. All it did was pay the bills. It did not challenge me mentally. It did not teach me anything. It did not nourish my soul. However, I was living comfortably enough (financially speaking) that I was not motivated to change. Even though I wanted to work for myself and do something more creative, I kept thinking how irresponsible it would be to 'step out in faith' as some of you have said. I thought that I should have something lined up or at least a more concrete plan in mind before I left.

Yet, I was so caught up in the day to day of doing my job and living my life that I did not look for anything else with any diligence. I had only the foggiest of ideas about what I might like to do...

Write, perhaps, or maybe start my own web design and consulting business. I like that, but a lot of people are doing it and there's not a lot of money to be made on the small time gigs. I would most likely still have to work another part-time job or really hustle to get new clients all the time...or build a really, really strong portfolio and have a business plan and marketing strategy that was far superior to the competition....which I believe I could have done, if I had ever spent enough time on it, but I never did.

I did not have enough savings to live on (the suggested 6 months) if I left and didn't find something else. (Or make the business work immediately.) And in fact, like so many Americans, I had fallen into the routine of living paycheck to paycheck. I'm single and had more disposable income than a lot of my peers and was just in the habit of spending more of it than I should have on clothing and eating out...nonessentials.

Because I could pay my credit cards and other bills (pay on, mind you, not pay off) every month I didn't really pay attention to how much I was spending and the fact that I was indeed living beyond my means and not planning for a solid financial future. Because I have a house that I can afford and a car that's paid for, I just felt more comfortable than I should have.

Losing my job made me face the reality of where I was financially. It made me think seriously about how I was (not) handling my business. I had deceived myself into thinking that keeping that job was the responsible thing to do, when in fact, the stifling atmosphere and the need I felt to seek fulfillment in other ways was actually holding me back more than leaving ever would have. I had settled.

No, worse. I had painted myself into a corner.

I talked about starting a business or going back to school the whole time I was at that job. I kept saying it was temporary, but I look back now and I know I would still be there if I we hadn't lost that contract. If I hadn't been laid off, I would still be complaining about the tiny cubicles and the endless rules....still talking about how I was going to work for myself one day and feeling more and more like a liar/pretender/impostor with every week that passed with me having come no closer to my goal.

A friend of mine used to say all the time: A goal without a plan is just a dream.

And it is so true!

Working for myself was just a dream. Yes, it was something I really wanted to do. Yes, it was something I believed I could do, but I had absolutely no plan in place...just a vague sense of what I liked to do and that if I could just figure out how to get people to pay me real money to do certain things that I enjoy (that don't feel like work)...well then - then I would be on to something.

So: what do I like to do?

Talk (obviously). Write (also a no-brainer). Design things: print ads, layouts, websites, paintings, photo-collages, rooms....on and on that list goes....

I'm really good at sales, marketing, and advertising, as well as public speaking and copy-writing...but I don't actually have a degree in any of those things. Or enough documented experience to apply for anything but entry level jobs. I don't really want to do entry level anything at my age. And truthfully I knew I didn't really want a job at an ad agency or as a media planner or any such thing.

Okay, what else?

I like decorating, but I don't really want to be an interior designer.


I love real estate, but I knew I didn't want to be an agent (not as my chosen career).

So...those are some of my talents and interests. Put them in a bottle, shake them up and what do you get?

Yeah, I didn't know either....

One aimless wanderer?

I spent months feeling like my internal compass was totally broken. I didn't know what direction I should strike out in for the next part of my life, only that what I had been doing in the last 5 years or so was not working for me anymore. And that I was likely to become even more unhappy and discontented in the next five if things didn't change.

I was living reasonably well, but I knew I wasn't living my best life....and you just reach a point when you think to yourself: yeah, this lifestyle has been okay until now, but it's not what I want for myself in the next ten years. I gave myself a fair amount of room to experiment and make certain kinds of mistakes between 20 and 30, and to be irresponsible in small ways, but that is not what I want to keep happening between 30 and 40. There are certain things I have figured out and other things I feel like I should have figured out by now.

One thing I have figured out is that any job that I will deem worth doing has got to challenge me every day. It has to be a little bit demanding and difficult or it will not hold my interest, but I also must have a fair amount of freedom and flexibility. Another related thing I figured out is that I really don't like being told what to do. I like being in control and calling the shots. In the last year I have gotten lots of advice from well-meaning friends and family, even my friendly rep at the local unemployment office.

I was told I should look into property management or being an office manager. I would be good at that, so they said. I have the ideal personality. I'm friendly and outgoing, but also take-charge and get-things done. ..So I'm told.

And I believe it's true. And I gave it serious thought.

And I started thinking: why pay the man or work for the man, when you can be the man?

Not everyone can be the man...but I think I can....

I thought about how I could manage a community or real estate portfolio or run an office (like the one I currently work part-time in) and I could bust my hump working 40 and 50 hour weeks to manage, maintain, and grow someone else's business for a set salary...maybe comissions...or...I could expend the same amount of time and energy growing my own business and representing (and enriching) myself. Also a no-brainer.

So I've been researching careers and business opportunities and franchises, etc.... Studying the success of others...and then, one day I found Showhomes and it was love at first sight! The more I studied and the closer I looked, the more it seemed like a really perfect fit for me. The business model is really a unique idea. Lots of people do real estate staging, but the home manager program and marketing support really sets the company apart. I could have struck out on my own and not bought into the franchise (as some people encouraged me to do). But it was just like: why re-invent the wheel?

I don't mind giving them a percentage if it means I'm going to make more money faster and with less hassle, trial-and-error, and beating my head against brick walls, running down blind alleys...etc..... I believe working with a franchise really lessens the learning curve. As they say: You're in business for yourself, but not by yourself.

No one else in this area is doing anything quite like it, so I have a real opportunity to position myself for leadership in this market. I'm quite excited about it.

So...I know there will be moments of stress. I expect this year to be hectic and lean for sure, but I also expect the rewards and the payoff to be totally worth it. And I'm not just talking about the money...I'm more focused on the reality of having achieved a goal. I get to pursue a career that combines many of the things that I love and I'm good at. It's a true bonus that it has the potential to pay well!

Thank you so much to all of my dear friends who have shared with me great words of encouragement and advice here on my blog and by e-mail and phone calls.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Big News! thing about blogging is this...when you say you're gonna do something, you've put it out there for the world to see and then, of course, the world is expecting you to follow through...

That can be a good thing or a bad thing, right?

It can motivate you to be accountable, or it can be a source of embarrassment when the things you talked about don't come to fruition.

Let's see...what have I said I would do...hmmm...I said I was planning to 1) Lose 40 pounds 2) Participate in a marathon, 3) Visit London over the holidays 4) Organize a Sisterlocks gathering in the area and 5) Start a business/introduce a product for lock wearers.

I know some of you have got to be thinking: what about all of that? But you are too polite to ask, or have simply decided that I am one of those people who is a lot of talk and no action. is the big news that I have been sitting on. It is the ongoing project that has affected (interfered with) everything else.

Drumroll please....

I just bought a franchise!

And I am scared witless!!!

Any of you who know somebody who has purchased a franchise or ever looked into starting one yourself knows that it is quite a process. In some ways scarier and more involved than starting a business from scratch. There are pros and cons to everything. You strike out on your own and you are accountable only to yourself. You own your brand and your ideas. Typically less capital is required, but building a brand and identity is often harder and takes longer.

I started the process back in September and it has been all-consuming. Of course I had to do market research and due diligence. I had to research the company and its principles (and it's principals) and all the while I was auditioning for them. I had to prove to their people that I was worthy of representing their brand in my territory. It's a dance, I tell you...and nobody taught me the music or the steps.

I spent every spare moment doing research of some type. On applicable laws, financing, do's and don'ts, what questions to ask... And then there was the question of financing. Franchises are never cheap. And you know what? No one, I mean NO ONE wants to give you money for a start-up.

Franchises are no man's land for banks and investors alike. Every where I went I got the same answer: You've got to put up your own money. Cash out your retirement or other savings or get a home equity line of credit. Take out a second mortgage. If you're still open in a year, come back to us with your financial statements and we'll see.

What? You've got to be kidding me? I called everybody! All of the local banks, national banks, SBA. I looked up programs online.

Many websites say on the home page: this program is not for franchises, start-ups, or businesses open less than two years old.

What to do? Look for private investors? Venture capitalists and angel investors are interested in original ideas and business with a different structure and growth model from what I am getting into.

Anyhow, I finally got the last of the start-up capital I needed yesterday so I signed the papers and sent off the big check! I am scared and will be scared until the money starts coming in. I go for a week of training in January. Even though I have purchased exclusive rights to my home territory, I cannot even begin to work it until the first of February. That's how long it will take me to get all of my training and licensing set-up.

When you crunch the numbers and see how much money you have to lay out month after month before you can expect to see a return on your efforts and investment, it is a really frightening thing!

Wish me luck ladies!!!

I am not intentionally being vague, I just wanted/needed to write about my news and subsequent excitement/anxiety in this post. There will be posts forthcoming on the actual business and what it entails.


I'm scared! I'm scared and I'm happy, but for now, mostly scared.

This is scarier than buying my first house or first car. In one way, it's the same kind of commitment, but in another way, not. The contract I signed was for 10 years of exclusive rights. There are things that are standard in franchising, like your franchise fee that you pay up front for the right to use the name and marks. Because you pay that money up front, it's gone!. Whatever happens - pass or fail; sink or swim; win, lose, or draw - you do not get that money back. There are also minimum royalties. This is money (often a percentage and/or set flat fee - whichever is greater) that you must pay every month, regardless of profits (or lack thereof!) Yikes!

I keep telling myself - Hey! It's only 10 years! I have 27 years left on a 30 year mortgage and people routinely take out 5 and 6 year car notes. (Would you believe I've never had a car payment? No, not because I was rich like that. Just because I grew up in a family that was practical about not buying new cars and not spending loads of money on financing. I've always bought used cars for cash. I currently drive a '95 Honda that I bought for $5,500 in the year 2000.)

So this is scary because I have a mortgage, and now a second mortgage, and a prom note, and the royalty fees that I have to make every month. Regardless. So that can be a long ten years if I find myself struggling! Aaarghhhh!

If I had started my little business that I was thinking about, the worst that would have happened is I wouldn't have made money. I might have lost $1,000 on it tops! With this, I will not have made money and I will find myself tens of thousands of dollars in debt. If I don't make it, I will be bankrupt...I can't think about it.


But it's a business model and opportunity that I really believe in. And something that is fun that I've always wanted to though it is a huge, huge, HUGE gamble, I'm betting it will payoff. But right now there is no way to know how big, or how long it will take to see true profits.
More to come ladies...

...Pray for me!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My First Sisterlocks Gathering

So today I attended my very first Sisterlocks gathering....

And guess who was there?...My friend Carmen. Even though we had never met, I've been reading her blog from the beginning, and we've e-mailed each other, so of course I feel like I know her. She is just as adorable and funny in person as I imagined she would be!

The gathering was organized by Blessed Gem Lady...Isn't she beautiful? She was celebrating her one year anniversary, which coincidentally was today. Also in attendance were several other locked ladies from the area. We had such a good time, comparing notes on products and hairstyles.

Meet Sandra, Lynette, and Lauren, Sl'd 8 months, 4 years, and 10 years, respectively.

Here are Delores and Lauren. Delores has also been Sl'd 4 years. You can't tell from any of the pictures, but Lauren has locks she can sit on. She is also a certified consultant. With all of her experience in wearing and maintaining Sisterlocks, she had lots of good advice for all of us!

In this picture, we have the lovely Andrea and Yolanda. Andrea has had Sl's for 3 years and Yolanda has had them for a year and a half.

Carmen showed up with what seemed like about a hundred Tomoka's Twists. We couldn't decide what we wanted to order for looking at the hair accessories...all of which had beautiful matching earrings. Some of us couldn't even wait until we left to wear them..ooh...ahhh...!

*ladies who were there...I'm going from memory, so if I spelled your name incorrectly or got your stats wrong, leave me a comment and I'll correct it*