Graduate Feature: Shauna Lynn Simon
Meet Shauna Lynn Simon, founder of Beyond The Stage Homes. From a position as a Cost Analyst to becoming a successful home staging entrepreneur, Shauna Lynn’s career has taken her all over the map! We caught up with her to learn more about her love for design and the skills she uses to run her business.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.
I’m the Founder and Lead Creative Solutions Provider at Beyond The Stage Homes (a division of Style Corporation). I started in home staging following a layoff from my corporate job, where I worked as a Cost Analyst. I’ve always been a problem solver, which is why I opted to pursue a career with math originally.
I received my Bachelor of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo in 2000, and began working as an analyst for an energy company upon graduation.
What first motivated you to get into the design industry?
I’ve always been creative, but I had no idea that I could make a career out of it! When I purchased my first house, I really enjoyed updating and decorating it on my modest budget. The house was an older house, built in the 1940s, and it really got my creative juices flowing! I realized how much I loved working in houses, and I wanted to find a way to do this full-time. It was an opportunity for me to express this creative side, and it was like an adult version of arts and crafts. My real estate agent pointed me in the direction of home staging, and as soon as I learned what the business entailed, I knew that it would be the perfect fit for me. From my first home staging consultation, I was in love, and I’ve never looked back!
Your business received multiple home staging and redesign awards this year – congratulations! What’s your secret?
I would love to say that there’s a secret to it, but it was thanks to a lot of hard work. I have built my business by building strong relationships with my clients. Certainly you need all of the skills of a home stager, but customer service is the key to success. This means one-on-one interactions and continued communication throughout the process. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to hide behind a screen, but getting in front of people is what will really make you stand out. I attribute the hospitality industry teaching me all that I know about customer service.
You’ve also received some awards yourself as a female entrepreneur. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned over your career as a female design professional and business owner?
I think one of the most challenging things for any entrepreneur is balance. I would love to say that I have mastered this, but it’s definitely a work in progress! That said, I have made a conscious effort to separate myself from the business when I can, and to take time to enjoy some of the little things in life. That means making time for activities and sports, and of course friends and family. Time management is an important skill in this industry, especially since it’s common for your day’s schedule to shift at the last minute. You have to be ready for anything!
You’ve got an amazing portfolio! How long has it taken you to put it all together?
I’ve been fortunate to work in some pretty spectacular homes over the years. A beautiful house makes for a great backdrop for my designs. I started working in executive homes in the early days of my career, around 2010, and gained a local reputation for my work. We work hard to ensure that every home’s characteristics and features are displayed to their full potential with every design.
Beyond the Stage Homes doesn’t just do home staging and redesign – you’ve also got your own inventory for furniture and décor rentals. What made you decide to invest?
When I started out in home staging, the industry was still very new in my region, and my selection for furniture rentals was limited. Every time I viewed a new listing, I created a vision of the design in my head, but then struggled to complete it with what was available to me. I realized that the only solution was to purchase the items that I needed. I was very quick to revise my business plan, and business model, to accommodate the investment needed for this, and planned for my future growth and expansion accordingly.
What made you decide to pursue online education?
I was working inconsistent hours at the time in my full-time job, and I wanted the flexibility of completing the course on my own time frame. I think that online training is a great option! Many potential home stagers are often making a career change, and maintaining their current career while they receive the training that they need to make the switch. As well, we’re often juggling career, family, and other commitments, so this allows us to receive our training when it’s most convenient to us.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
The clients, hands down. There is truly nothing more gratifying than knowing that you’ve helped someone. My team and I put a great deal of focus on customer service, and ensuring that we are not just providing them with the ideas and recommendations for what they need to do, but helping them by making the process as easy as possible for them. They’re always so grateful and happy to have our help. Then when the house sells quickly, and they can return to normal life, they’re thrilled!
Many of our students dream of owning their own business, especially one as successful as yours. What’s your best advice for those who are just starting out in the industry?
Stop planning and start doing. Don’t be afraid of failure! We all make mistakes, but the only person who will really notice your mistake is you! Everyone else will only see your successes. In order to know what will work for your business, sometimes it takes figuring out what doesn’t work. Stop over-thinking every step, and start testing your strategies.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you started out?
I didn’t truly understand who my client was. I knew that I would be working with homeowners and real estate agents, but I didn’t have my market defined beyond that, so I didn’t know where to find my clients. Once I sat down to do the market research and clearly define my audience, the business really started to take off.
What does the future hold for you and your business?
We incorporated last fall in anticipation of our further expansion. We now offer business coaching and mentoring services, including the opportunity to job-shadow, as well as a training division. We’ll also be opening a separate division for our design work, and are expanding our design team. From the home staging perspective, we’re excited to be in the midst of a growing region, and the opportunities that that provides. We’re continually looking for ways to raise the bar, and be an industry leader.
Check out some more of Shauna Lynn’s amazing work!