SSWF – INhance IT! Home Staging

Introducing Liz Connolly and Courtney Schomburg with INhance IT! Home Staging serving the Greater St. Louis and St. Charles metropolitan and surrounding areas.

How long have you been in business?

We started in January 2007.

Are you solo or have a team?

My daughter Courtney Schomburg is my business partner. We have an Operation’s Manager, Jon Schomburg, my son-in-law. We have a full time logistics manager, lead stager, two staging assistants and two movers.

Describe any specific challenges you are facing.

Our biggest challenge this year is the plethora of “stagers” who have entered the market in our area. Many are coming into the industry with little to no training and charge such minimal fees that they devalue the entire industry. We are continuously updating and crafting our unique value proposition and promoting the fact that our team holds an array of industry designations and that we have received numerous national awards from top staging organizations. We have had to restructure our offerings (one, two, four month programs). In conjunction with the influx of “stagers” homes in our area are selling before they even hit the market. We have been working hard to schedule as many jobs per day as possible (generally 3, sometimes up to 4) to get listings staged before they sell. On the flip side, we continue to educate agents and sellers on the importance of staging, even in a hot market.

What got you into staging in the first place?

I have a varied background encompassing marketing, design and home building. The 7 years prior to beginning INhance IT! I was employed as Director of Marketing for a major home builder. In 2006, when the housing market began to stall I began seeking creative ways to market our move-in-ready inventory homes. That is when I first learned of home staging. At that time there was really only one other staging company in the market. I contracted them to stage several properties…the result was less than fabulous! In late 2006 the planets aligned…I turned 50, Courtney graduated from design school and the market tanked even further. At that point, with $5,000 and a dream, INhance IT! was born. We were blessed that through our long-standing relationship with the Home Builder’s Association, our phone began ringing off the hook and we were immediately staging 3 homes a week. Since that time our company has grown from its humble beginnings in my basement & garage to a 8,100 sf warehouse/office space and 9 employees.

What was your previous career?

Most recently Director of Marketing, Centex/Pulte Homes. Director of Marketing & Product Development Plaid Enterprises. Director of Marketing & Product Development Charles Craft, Inc. In the 1980’s I owned an image consulting firm, Professional Images.

What do you know now that you wished you knew on your first day of business?

PROFIT FIRST! At this point in time, we have purchased over $2M in furnishings and accessories. I have been so focused on growing the business that I did not take a salary the first several years. The book Profit First changed the way we look at finances and I am proud to say that we are currently debt free!

What has been your biggest business challenge and how did you overcome it?

One of our biggest challenges over the years is finding reliable, intelligent, professional movers. Moving furniture is a tough job, especially in Missouri summers and winters. Even when paying top dollar and offering financial incentive programs, we were still experiencing significant furniture damage, late arrivals and “don’t give a darn” attitudes. The best thing we ever did was hire a Logistics Manger. This person trains, supervises, and communicates with the moving team here at the warehouse and on-site for staging installations and de-stages. It is another expense, but in the long run his salary pays for itself now that damages have been significantly reduced.

What objection have you heard from a client and how did you overcome it?

Over the past 11 years we have heard them all! The biggest objection we hear is “Susie Stager charges less, why are you so high?” We will generally come back with our track record (days on market, education, superior furnishings, etc.) but it all boils down to “Which do you prefer for a $200 price difference a Malibu or a Mercedes? That usually gets them thinking.

See more of Liz and Courtney’s work on her Facebook page and Instagram page.

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