You know those people that are not only completely organized but they actually enjoy the organization process? Mother/daughter team Katharine Pawlowski and Ann Lightfoot have taken their talent and love for organization and turned it into a successful small business in New York.
Officially launched in 2012, Done & Done Home is a professional organizing and decluttering business that specializes in preparing homes and estates for the market as well as styling apartments for listing photographs.
The business was a natural fit for Katharine and Ann. “My mom and I are both super organized and have helped friends and family move,” Katharine says. “People in high school that needed help always said ‘Call Kate’”.
The Done & Done Home beginnings are rooted in friendship. “My best friend from high school needed inventory organized for a home that was sold. I was a little out of my element so I called my mom to help.”
Katharine and her mom next helped an interior designer who needed to declutter and then worked with a family friend who was a real estate broker. That’s when the business really took off. “We started talking to real estate agents. Now 40% of our jobs come through that industry,” says Katharine.
To market Done & Done Home, Katharine speaks to brokers about their services. The company has experienced slow and steady growth over the last four years. “It was just my mom and I at first. Then we found people to work for us and expanded our team into Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. We’re focused on additional cities where we want to grow.”
The Done & Done Home team is made up of mostly moms over 40 who are returning to the work force. “It’s a fantastic group of women, there are now nine of us. Organizing and decluttering is something they’ve done over the years for friends and family and we’ve helped them turn their talents into a job.”
The business was initially self-funded. “We put money in ourselves in the very beginning. We have hourly contractors that we work with so we don’t have a huge overhead.”
As they expanded into more cities, Katharine saw the need for more working capital and came to SmartBiz Loans to facilitate a low-cost SBA loan. “The process was fantastic and seamless. My Relationship Manager was very patient and answered all my questions.”
The company will use funds to help move into additional markets. They are currently focused on establishing branches in large metropolitan areas. “We’ll use loan proceeds to get that all set up. We’re not super interested in doing smaller towns, big cities are our area of expertise.” For now, they are focused on residential but that might change. “We’ve talked about expanding into Done & Done Work to help facilitate office moves. But for now, we’re just concentrating on expanding our home business.”
Organizing for others is not always easy, says Katharine. In addition to their core real estate clients, they also deal with big life transitions like death, divorces and moves. “We learn how people work and figure out their quirks. Of course, everyone is unique but clients tend to fall into distinct categories. There are those that buy a lot of gifts but never give them away, people with lots of DIY arts and craft supplies, book lovers and more.”
It might seem that a deep organization or declutter is a one-time job but 40% of their clients are repeat business. “We thought it would be a one-time service. However, people will use us when they move and then in a year or two they call us again.”
Mother/daughter relationships can be complex but Katharine has only had a positive experience. “It’s the best – we have so much fun,” she says about working with her mom. “We’ve always been best friends and done stuff like this together – it’s a dream come true. We have a very unique relationship.”
In addition to running a business together, the pair now has another special bond: Katharine has a newborn baby boy. While she was growing up, her mom was able to be at home with her while working as a doula with a flexible schedule. “I always knew that I wanted to have a similar set up once I had a family.” Katharine plans to concentrate on running the business out of her home and will pull back on working out in the field.
She has good advice for budding entrepreneurs. “We definitely had a few fumbles at first. Be prepared and give yourself time in the beginning. It’s expensive and takes every dollar and every minute. I’m constantly thinking about the business.” How do you get through the tough start-up years? “Do something you love,” she says. “I would happily do this work for free every day of my life.”
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