Wow! A decade. That feels old…but great! 🙂
It’s actually been 12 years, so I’m technically 2 years late with this blog but hey, time flies when you’re having fun!
When I first got to Canada, I was asked to tell the story of what lead me here too many times to count. It was so humbling that people found my story so interesting.
Fast forward 10 years…
I was chatting with our team member, Brittany, a few weeks ago, about why I started Centre Staged and I realized that I’ve never shared the rest of the story. The chapter of how a challenging immigration into Canada, gave me the determination to start a company that has helped transform thousands of homes and their dollar value.
Thanks to Brittany’s encouragement to continue the story, here goes…
The Early Years
Growing up in North-West England, surrounded by European design, I was blessed with so much inspiration. As a teenager and young adult, it was the finer details of design that caught my eye. Elaborate ceilings and staircases of 18th century manor homes. Exterior doors and window moldings of centuries-old stone buildings. And the intricate carpentry of old churches, were frequent stimulus, subconsciously strengthening my passion over time.
I kept up with some of the usual teenage hobbies, but how many thirteen year old girls are begging to redecorate their bedroom, hang wallpaper and shop for new bedding on weekends?
At around nineteen, the furniture restoration bug took hold. I would spend hours upon hours flea market shopping and antique store hunting on weekends. Followed by countless days of stripping, sanding and painting furniture pieces in the garage to sell on Ebay…for a decent profit! When I think back, I was starting to built a pretty good side business at a young age, I just didn’t fully realize it.
Needless to say, it was inevitable that I would one day end up in a creative role and at twenty, I took the leap. I left a steady administrative job behind, to pursue my passion in Interior Design. That’s when I felt my true career journey begun.
By September 2008, I was a fully qualified Interior Designer. Gosh, did that feel amazing! But unfortunately the high didn’t last long.
Like most fresh starts, the road to success was a bumpy one. The timing of my graduation fell in line with Britain’s economic recession and after just 6 months, the company I was working for fell on financial hardship, but I wasn’t about to give up!
After weeks of relentless job searching, commercial interior design roles were seemingly the only option out there. There was only one problem, I didn’t have the qualifications or experience in AutoCAD (computer aided design), which was a consistent requirement. So back to school I went!
After another 6 months at Manchester University, a commercial interior design company took me under their wing and my mind was blown wide open, to a whole other level of creativity and construction knowledge.
When Everything Changed
In the summer of 2009, after working my way to a senior interior designer level in under a year, everything changed.
A group of friends invited me on a 5-week tour of the USA and with travel always being my weakness, I said yes! My employer was going to let me return to my position after the trip, but fate had other plans in store.
Three weeks into the trip, I met my husband, Josh, at a youth hostel beach party…and the rest is history, so they say!
After a quick trip back to the UK, to crazily rearrange my life, I booked a one-way ticket to Australia to catch up with Josh on the next leg of his travels. Four countries and twelve flights later, Josh and I were driving across Canada planning our life together.
Home Staging Who?
We purchased our first home in the west-end of Guelph later that year. A 2-storey, back-split detached home with a 45′ x 130′ lot for $243,000! Can you believe it?! A lot has changed in the real estate market in 10 years.
The next 8 months went painstakingly slow. I had submitted my immigration papers but they came back rejected. ‘More information needed’. We spent weeks gathering another stack relationship evidence and re-submitted. More waiting.
To distract me from feeling like an illegal alien in limbo, I kept busy by teaching myself how to renovate our home and then continued that learning curve by helping my parents-in-law on a seperate flip-project. Another detached 2-storey home at a bargain price!
When it came time to list the flip-project, it went on the market completely vacant and sat there for 8 long months. I finally suggested trying to stage the property. I had remembered reading an article somewhere about home staging and how it had been so successful for a home-seller in Toronto but other than that I didn’t know much about it. We agreed to give it a try and I was put in charge of finding the stager and giving them a $1000 budget to stage the living room, kitchen/dining room and master bedroom.
To say that I was unimpressed with the standards of staging furniture we had just invested $1000 in, was an understatement. Regardless, it worked like a charm and the property flew off the market for full asking price in a week.
After now over a year of being unemployed and waiting for my immigration papers to arrive, the idea of starting my own business crept creeping into my head. I just didn’t have a clue what sort of business I wanted to start. The market already seemed saturated with Interior Design companies and quite honestly, I didn’t feel ready for that. Mainly because of my lack of knowledge of the Ontario building code and the Canadian design industry in general. But home staging felt different. It felt brand new and exciting.
After witnessing the benefits of home staging, at a standard I knew I could provide better, I thought, “That’s it! I should start a home staging company!”
My permanent resident papers finally arrived in July 2011. Feeling the financial pinch of maintaining and renovating a home, I started to apply for jobs. The staging business was still constantly nagging in the back of my mind though. “I think this idea could really help a lot of people, just like it did for us”, I kept telling myself, and Josh. It felt like the most natural thing I had said in a long time.
Downtown Toronto based companies were the only ones who could offer me a comparable interior design position to what I had left in England. However, after taking the advice of many people on the busy commute to and from downtown, I decided this lifestyle wasn’t for me.
I was offered a position as Account Manager, for a Mississauga-based company that manufactures retail shelving and cabinetry. While I did gain the security I wanted, it came at a price of sacrificing my creativity and that definitely didn’t feel right.
In May 2013, rough business plan in hand and a whole lot of passion, I submitted the registration papers for Centre Staged Inc. and the company was official!
One of the first success stories was the sale of our west-end home. Through the changes we’d made to the property and the home staging, we increased the price bracket of not just the whole street, but the entire neighbourhood! Realtors were telling me “I’ve never seen that done before”. With the extra profits, we made our first investment into rental properties and everything grew from there.
Our designs and home staging projects have since won multiple awards and I’m extremely proud of the properties we’ve transformed and the success stories we’ve created for our clients. Community integration was really important to me from the start. Donating our time and talents to help others, has allowed us to significantly expand the reach of who we help and I also met some amazing like-minded entrepreneurs along the way too.
I attribute the success of Centre Staged to many factors but if I had to put it simply, it would be the five core values the company is built on – Personable, Creative, Authentic, Empathetic & Passionate.
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”
Owner and Principal Designer, Centre Staged Designs.