Saturday, December 22, 2007

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.


Shavonne said...

I saw this on TV not too long ago. Very interesting.

Amina said...

Amazing, amazing, amazing dear. I fell into that same rut when I was laid off from...duh, duh, duuuuuh....Worldcom. I took a year off (while on unemployment) and figured out what I really wanted to do.

I'm still working towards my goals, but I am stronger, more focused, and (surprise!) happier than ever doing what I do now. While I know that this is not the last step in where I want to be, I also acknowledge that I would have NEVER made the jump to where I am now if I had the "luxury" (yeah right!) of staying in that ugly little cubicle.

Congratulations on your decision, and many, many blessings of happiness!

Oh, and thank your parents for giving you such a wonderful example of financial responsibility.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! I saw this on television as well. If you can't be happy pr at the very least content with your career/job, which is what you spend the majority of your time doing excluding sleep, then there really is no point. Sadly, I'm no even content but have no idea where to begin...

2008 will be a wonderful year for you!

blackrussian said...

Shavonne, did you see a story about Showhomes, or was it about the concept of staging?

Staging has actually been around for a long time...even SH has been in existence since the mid-80's (when some of us were in diapers or elementary school!), but I feel like this is an excellent time to get in on the business because it is really gaining recognition with the popularity of real estate and design related television shows on HGTV, Fine Living, and TLC/Discovery.

I still have to explain to a lot of people what it is, and more and more people are becoming informed, but still not confident enough about their own skill to do it themselves so they're willing to pay someone else.

It is also a great time to join the company, because as a franchise, they're re-positioning themselves for greater growth and making a lot of changes. I expect they'll really take off in the next few years, and franchisees won't be able to buy in like I did. I expect the territories to become smaller and more expensive.

Not that they let any old body in on it now, but I also expect they will become more selective and stringent about the franchisee application process.

Thanks Amina!

Do you mind me asking what you're doing now? You can e-mail me and tell me about it if you like. I love talking to people and finding out what they're involved in. I'm a natural at networking - not because I'm trying to find an angle, just because I'm curious and interested.

You have NO idea how much I owe my Dad. First for teaching me fiscal responsibility and the importance of managing credit wisely. (He's a retired accountant.) But secondly for investing in me. Without his help (actual monetary contribution) I would not have had the working capital required.

I can't fail for my own reasons, but I also feel an incredible responsibility to succeed so that I can pay him back. He gave me half the money I needed to start. I literally couldn't have done it without him!


I'm going to go out on a limb here, but have you ever thought of doing anything with food?

You seem to really enjoy it and you're good at it. Plus you take such great pics and you're obviously a writer as well...there's got to be some career op in there somewhere!

What else do you like?

Seriously. That's how I found this. I just kept asking myself over and over again: what do I like to do? What am I good at? How can I get paid to do it?

It was always in the back of my mind. I just kept reading magazines, watching tv, and searching the internet.

And you know what? I spent a lot of time in self-doubter-ville thinking: I'm wasting my time on the Internet. I'm loafing here in Barnes and Noble. I should turn the TV off and DO something. Get a real job again. You're not facing reality. Get a grip. Grow up already!

But there was a little part of me that kept saying: No! This is NOT a waste of your time. This is leading you somewhere important.

And I started the review process with Showhomes in early November, so it was within 9 months of losing my job....

Nine months from layoff to new career and business-ownership. That's the same amount of time it takes to create a new little person who is born into the world.

I am so happy with my choice now that I cannot feel like any of that time was wasted or should have been spent differently.

Anonymous said...

I am so excited for you....I swear that I in my former life I must have done something with home remodeling, design or crafts...I am neither either but I love to death...HGTV, Fine Living network and Do it your self home magazines...I am going to venture out over my Christmas holiday and make me a head board for my new bed as my Christmas present...I have stalked many websites to find just what I want...It is ironic but you said that you didn't want to work for the man anymore and get a better grip on yourself financially...I am starting myself on a financial bootcamp this new year...My goal is to have at least 1800 saved by the end of the year, pay off bills as well as paydown and just know where I am financially..I'll keep you updated on my progress....All of my friends trip on me because I am not the creative one but the brains of a lot of my friendships but by taking that leap and venturing out to new and different things...I am setting myself up for success, no matter how you look at it...I look at tons of things I can do around the house and say...that would be great..I just need this, this and this.....I am so proud of you for following your dreams...A lot of times we don't follow our dreams we just dream about the dream...

Renea said...

I will pray that your endeavor is financially as well as spiritually successful. Over the years I have had many people and experiences push me toward entreprenuership, but I still haven't gathered the courage to do what you did--ask YOURSELF what you want to do.
I admire your courage and faith in yourself. No matter what comes that will take you far. I look forward to reading about your venture.

muslimahlocs said...

what a great service. i have used a stager before and it's like having an instant interior design consultation. all the best to you.

RedDredPrincess said...

Congratulations to you! It is so much easier to work hard when you are doing something that you love!

You know that I, of all people, can relate to the frustration that you were feeling after your lay-off. And I admit that I have been feeling more entrepreneurial myself these days, or rather more open to less traditional opportunities. We have witnessed how corporate america is not the stable place it once was. I wish you the best of luck!