HANNY LERNER: Of course, thanks for having me.
JAIME TARDY: Awesome. So why don’t you first tell me a little bit about how you even got started in this industry?
HL: It’s kind of random actually. I was working for a marketing firm so completely unrelated to furniture and I really didn’t know much about furniture at all but I met someone named Sim, who is now my husband. At the time, he was working for a furniture company and he was fixing furniture. I thought it was really interesting what he was doing. I’d never met someone at the age of 24 who was doing something like that. Most people were in technology or web related and he’s fixing furniture.
So I said, “Hey, why don’t you start something like this?” He wasn’t the business mind and so we kind of decided that I was going to build a business and he was going to come onboard and it evolved from there.
JT: So how do you take that leap because number one you love him right now so that’s awesome. So you’re like okay we’re going to go do this crazy thing and use our skills. Did you know if there was a market for it? Did you know if anyone cared? Like how did you just jump into something like that?
HL: So the interesting thing about what he was doing is he wasn’t targeting regular consumers. It was only big furniture companies. The furniture companies need a service company to go into their customers’ home and repair furniture for them whether it’s for warranty purposes or manufacturers defects. So his company would go in, get hired by, for example, Thomasville, Crate & Barrel, all these big companies to go and fix the customers.
So we were targeting just the furniture companies, just insurance companies and the warranty. So there is a market because every furniture company needs service.
JT: So he was competing with the company that he was already working for.
JT: So how does that work? I mean how big was the company that he was working for before?
HL: They had one major client which was Jennifer Convertibles and we actually weren’t going after that kind of clientele. So even though we were competing it wasn’t that much of the same market. So they were doing more lower end and we were targeting more higher end. We literally got, I would say almost every single furniture company in the tri-state area to use our company.
JT: Really? So tell me about that. First, how long ago was that?
HL: It was three years ago; three years and a month.
JT: That’s great! Congratulations! You guys are three years old. That’s crazy. So tell me a little bit about how like that first year went like as you started getting into it. I mean you said you had a job. Did you quit and just go in full force or what did you guys do?
HL: I actually didn’t quit until we got our first big client which was Crate & Barrel and that happened within four months of starting. So I was working full time and then doing this MOD restoration thing full time at night. So I literally didn’t sleep. I was working 24 hours a day. It was crazy because I didn’t know anything about furniture repair. So I am coming into these furniture companies. I’m like hey use our company, we’re so great and I know nothing about nothing and I was the one doing the pitching so it was interesting.
They said this girl, she comes in, she wants our business, let’s give her a shot and that’s really how we got it. It wasn’t like we were able to give them any referrals.
JT: I know, right? Okay, so tell me about this process because number one you didn’t really know anything about the process. Did you used to pitch beforehand? Like were you good at pitching or was that all new too?
HL: Well I’m good with people. The job that I had for the marketing firm was managing big clients who were developing websites, huge enterprise level websites. So there was a lot of interaction with clients and so I guess I’m able to talk. But when you’re talking about something completely unrelated to what you know, it’s a little weird. I just figured I’d walk in with confidence and it will all work out and it does. Confidence really works.
JT: That’s huge. Okay. So tell me about like one of the first or actually maybe the first one, do you remember your very first where you had to go in and pitch and sell this thing that you’re sort of like, well I’m assuming he was your boyfriend at the time, my boyfriend kind of does this thing. You know, you could have gone that way. How did you actually do it and was it a success or not a success? What did you learn?
HL: So yes, I remember doing my first one and I walk in. I’m not a suit person but I was wearing a suit. I figured it would do something and I had paperwork put together meaning a fee structure and a fact sheet of what we do and why we’re different from the other competitors. I had it all organized with our logo and I scheduled a meeting. How did I get the meeting was a different story. I walked into the first Crate & Barrel in New Jersey and I had no meeting set up. I just said, “Hey, I would like to speak to the manager” and she fell in love with me and she says, “I’ll bring you onboard.”
This was just New Jersey, a small Crate & Barrel. I wanted the big fish so I asked her to refer us to the ones in the City, which she did and when they got referred by her they said, “Okay, come on in.” So they were receptive to meeting me.
JT: So you walked into a Crate & Barrel and said I want to talk to the manage and you sold her then and then she referred you to the bigger Crate & Barrel?
HL: Before we really were servicing her. So she just went on intuition.
JT: Wow, that’s huge! I mean most people don’t have anything like that of a story. Okay, keep going.
HL: So I walk in there and the regional manager of this Crate & Barrel, his name is Rodney, and he said, “So, what can you offer me today?” I said, “Well, I know what you guys need. I know the clientele that you have and this is what’s important to you.” Obviously I was having a conversation so he was telling me what’s important to him and what he’s not happy about with his current service provider and I said, “Well we can do all that for you and then some.”
He decided to give us a shot. And it’s like a rolling effect. Once you have a big company that you can say they are our client, then everyone else comes rolling in and that’s what happened.
JT: Was that your plan all along to just go after the really big fish and that way you can get smaller companies coming on because of that?
HL: I didn’t know what the plan was. I just knew that we were going to go after the companies that were willing to pay a little bit more than the Jennifer Convertibles of the world. So we weren’t going after the small cheap companies. That wasn’t the goal but I didn’t know how it would go down. I couldn’t say I had a definitive plan of this is what we’re going to do. It just evolved. It just happened and there was a lot of luck involved too because meeting the right person who led us to the other right person, it’s still furniture repair, what I’ve learned later on wasn’t the way to go in terms of growing the business and scaling it.
JT: Yes, so we’ll talk about that too. How was like your first year? Was it all about furniture repair your first year and you were just trying to grow that side of things?
HL: Right. That was the only thing that I knew because it’s the only thing that Sim knew so together this is all we had. So when we started getting a lot of companies onboard, we had to hire technicians to go out and do the work. Sim obviously couldn’t do everything and so we had, at any given time, five technicians on the road servicing the tri-state area and it was very difficult. Imagine like an insurance company that claims all day long and then you have to go and schedule them and service them.
The people who we’re servicing are customers of furniture companies. They had a problem with their furniture so everybody is unhappy. We’re not coming in because people are ecstatic. So there is a lot of negative all over the place and our goal was to make them happy, fix their problem. But you know you’re dealing with so many personalities and it was really tough.
JT: So tell me a little bit about going from just Sim and you to another person. Like when was that? When did you know that you had to sort of start growing?
HL: When was Sim was servicing 10 customers a day, 7 days a week, we’re like no way. I didn’t see him. It was out of control. I mean we had no life. I was sitting there working all the time making the reports, because after the work was done, we had had to submit the report to the company with the photos and invoicing. It became just 24/7 all day long. Then we said we have to hire some people.
JT: Awesome. So did you hire like one person and then it went for a couple of months and you hired another person? Is that sort of what the process was?
HL: Once we had one other person we were able to go after and get more clients and then we were servicing 20 a day and then we realized Sim doesn’t want to service 10 clients a day, he wants a life. So then we had to hire someone else to take off his load. Also the more we were in business the more people came, we actually had people coming to us and saying, “Hey we want to hire you to do our service.” It just got bigger.
JT: So you started hiring more people. So when was that realization of going I built this company and I don’t really like it?
HL: Well, after a year, I ended up joining something called EO Accelerator. It’s for business entrepreneurs and Accelerator is for people who are under a million and it’s how to get you to a million. So there is a lot of mentorship around that. I just remember sitting in a classroom and raising my hand and this is in front of a lot of people and I said, “I’m at $350,000 and I’m really not happy. I want to get to a million but I just don’t see how I’m going to get there really quickly. What could I do?”
So the guy said, “To be honest, change your business model because furniture repair is not going to get you there.” I got really insulted. But I went home that night and I said, “Shoot, maybe I’m in the wrong business.”
JT: That’s huge. That’s everything you’ve worked for, for a whole year and not being able to get you where you wanted to go. Like how did that make you feel after working so, I mean 24 hours a day, ridiculously hard and realizing that that isn’t going to get you where you want to go?
HL: So first I got defensive and then during the break I would walk around to everybody and be like could you believe what he said? They were all a little sympathetic but ultimately this is what I found out later one – they saw me suffering because I would come to these classes and I would explain what I’m going through and how many hours I’m putting in and it just didn’t make sense because there’s only so much you could charge per client, right?
But I was really happy because I went home that night and I thought about it and I thought about it and I said, “Listen, it’s not working. It’s not getting me where I needed to go.” I spoke to Sim. I said, “Sim, we’re not doing this anymore – not, not, not.” He was like okay well this is your business, your call. You’re the one running the show. Do something about it.
JT: Nice husband. Smart man.
HL: He’s good like that. I literally the next day called up all the corporate clients, like the Crate & Barrels, Ethan Allen, all them and I said, “I’m giving you 30 days notice, we’re no longer doing furniture repair anymore.”
JT: The next day you called them up. Did you have a plan of what you were going to do instead?
HL: Not yet. I just knew that this wasn’t working and I knew that whatever it is that I’m going to do, if I have no choice but to do it and to succeed, it’s going to happen. If I do things half-assed, I do furniture repair while I try to find something else, there’s always going to be that level of not putting 100 percent into anything. I just knew that this wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. It was over. I had to find something similar to what I knew which was furniture. Sim knew furniture and I’m thinking furniture what is it that I’m passionate about? Fashion, furniture, fashion, what could you do furniture? Then reupholstery just came into mind and we decided that’s what we’re going to do.
JT: So you just decided like ta-dah this is it? I mean it seemed like it was perfect, right, as far as looking in on the surface, but how did you like evaluate the business model? How did you know that that was actually going to get you to where you wanted to go?
HL: So there are few furniture reupholstery companies that I’ve personally seen just around the neighborhood and one of them, which is now our biggest competitor, so he was a really cool guy and what he did was he not only reupholster but he would sell fabrics. He was an older guy so it wasn’t a one stop shop design oriented furniture company. It was offer reupholster and look at fabrics. I thought that was really cool and he was so busy. He had P. Diddy, like all these big stars.
So I said, “Well this is an interesting angle” and we literally went to him. Spent a lot of time in his store talking to him and learning. We both agreed that this was something that we were going to do and that there was no young company doing it. I mean the youngest upholstery company I know, the owner is like 65 years old because it was just the type of industry. No 20 year old is going into upholstery. So we decided that we were going to be the youngest upholstery company in New York.
JT: To go from business to business though, right, where you were selling to businesses to business to consumer, that seems like a big jump. Were you worried about that?
HL: So we didn’t actually think about it when we were making that leap because we didn’t realize this is a whole different model and there’s different clientele and different target market. We had no idea. But the good thing that we had going for us was our website. So we realized people are finding us online from the furniture repair side, we were getting people just contacting us. So we said, “What if we start advertising reupholstery online? See what happens.”
What I was doing at my marketing firm before was managing massive enterprise websites so I decided that I’m going to take every skill that I’ve had in the last few years and put it into MOD Restoration and just change the whole website – reupholstery, reupholstery, reupholstery. Actually our biggest break, when it came to reupholstery was I contacted Groupon and I said, “Hey we want to make a Groupon deal” and this was before we had any reupholstery clients. They said, “Okay well tell us what you go.” I said, “Reupholstery get $200 for $95.” I don’t even know if we carried fabrics then but I said fabrics. We sold 95 Groupons and that was what kick started our upholstery business. We suddenly had zero to 95 clients overnight.
JT: So did you know? We hear all about these Groupon success stories and stuff like that of people going like oh this was crazy, it was nuts. Did you have any idea on whether this was going to go well for you?
JT: You’re like well I try it.
HL: I didn’t know what to expect at all and I’ve never done a Groupon deal before. Obviously no one is going to do a furniture repair deal but I figured let’s see what happens and this was the first marketing thing that we did for MOD Restoration as a reupholstery company and when we sold 95 I mean it changed our life.
JT: Tell me about, because we all want to hear about the process of Groupon too. You hear that all the time but what is it like to go through that and to deal with 95. Is it just you guys again? Did you get rid of your employees?
HL: We got rid of your technicians.
JT: So 2 people, 95 customers, ready go. So what was that process first dealing with Groupon and then dealing with the aftermath of Groupon?
HL: Right. So once we (Groupon and I) agreed on the terms and they said okay it’s going to go on this day. We knew that the phones were going to be ringing off the hook because even if your deal isn’t so great, there are still a million people calling you about your deal. So we brought in some friends to sit in on the phones. We actually added some new phones and the Groupon deal, I’ll never forget it was March 9, 2011. So a year, was it ’11 or ’10? I’ll have to get back to you on that. It’s also online.
So suddenly the phone is ringing off the hook, people had questions and we figured once the Groupon thing is over, we’ll figure out how to do the work, who’s going to do the work, how we’re going to get it done and so for the first, it was a three-day deal, so for the first three days it was just about getting people to buy, you know, answer the questions correctly. I couldn’t say that we were mavens in upholstery. We were literally learning as we go. And people bought. It was a great deal and suddenly, because people didn’t cash in right away. It’s a six-month expiration so some people did it within the first week. Some people did it two months later and some people waited to the end.
So thank God for that. It wasn’t like we had 90 people at once. But we had at least 20 the first week who cashed in and we had to outsource. So we outsourced to upholstery companies obviously that we felt would do the job. Thank God they did a great job. The clients were happy and we realized we need to have our own upholstery shop obviously. We’re going to be an upholstery company. We hired our first upholsterer.
JT: This is crazy. So number one you didn’t even do the work at first. I mean did Sim do some of the work?
HL: No, he didn’t do upholstery at all.
JT: Okay. So this is kind of crazy. So number one you do a Groupon and you don’t actually do the work that you do. That’s crazy. Did you make any money on this? I mean if you’re hiring someone else, did you actually make anything off of it? Not including your time but did you lose money on it?
HL: We made $100,000 profit on it.
JT: What? Profit? Okay, tell me.
HL: The coupon it’s toward a project. So you buy a $200 coupon. A reupholster project is let’s say $1,000 plus fabric, another $500, so we’re talking in the few thousand range and so the coupon, it’s a great deal but ultimately it’s a small percentage of the whole project.
JT: That’s huge.
HL: Yes, because we were giving so much volume to these upholstery companies, they gave us obviously a really, really great deal.
JT: So anyone could have done what you did. I think that’s crazy. Not that they would have. I mean that’s the thing. Let’s talk about risk for a little bit because that seems a little bit risky considering you don’t have a company that does this at all and yet you’re going I am going to do a Groupon and we’ll figure out how to do it later. What is risk like to you? Is it something that you are just used to or can do really easy?
HL: Yes, I would say that I’m not afraid of taking risks. I risked so many things so many times and I’m really lucky most of the time. We could talk about other risks that I have taken in business that weren’t.
JT: Let’s talk about those because what I want to know is number one some examples that you’ve gone through and then some advice that you have for some people who know that risk is really, really important but can’t get there. So tell me some examples first.
HL: So this is not related to MOD Restoration but when MOD Restoration was doing the furniture repair, I decided that I wanted to buy a building and I was 26 years old and I had just turned 26.
JT: And living in New York City, that’s different than buying a building somewhere else – New York City, sorry, keep going.
HL: And I had savings from my whole life of working and I decided I’m putting all my eggs in one basket and I contacted my friend who does real estate and I said, “I want to buy a building.” He said, “What kind of building?” I said, “Oh you know, nothing too complicated, a four-family,” I don’t know if you know anything about New York real estate but once it becomes five family and up, it becomes a commercial property and you have the City on your case, you’ve got regulations of don’t ask. But I didn’t know this because I didn’t know anything about it. How am I am supposed to know?
He’s like, “Oh I found the perfect building for you. It’s a foreclosure. Yes it has to be repaired here and there a little bit but it’s great. It’s six family.” I knew nothing about anything and I bought it. The first thing I needed to do was suddenly faced with six tenants, I had the City on my case. I had DHCR, HPD, I’ve got 76 violations. It was a completely dilapidated building. I didn’t even realize this. But I literally was suddenly faced with taking all my tenants to court for non-payment because it was a foreclosure they didn’t pay for the last year, sitting there in court with my attorney. I could have literally not only lost the building but all the money, my down payment, everything.
I fought. I won four out of six cases within the first six months. I suddenly had to renovate the whole building which was not part of the deal. Like no one told me in order for you to get new tenants in, you need to renovate. But suddenly I had to renovate the freaking building and I literally learnt every law in New York City of the regulations of how to renovate because there’s so many laws, you know, the kind of sheetrock you have to use, the rating and the kind of PVC pipe versus metal. Don’t ask. I literally spent months and months learning and I renovated it and now it turned out really well. I now have a full building with unbelievable tenants. The cash flow is unbelievable.
I’m now in middle of refinancing the building to pull out money and buy another one. But this was a risk that I took that it could have been a complete failure. I mean putting money into a building, not knowing what I’m doing. I could have not gotten my tenants evicted and then I would be stuck with literally negative every month. How am I going to keep them? But I just figure you live once and learn everything you could about the industry that it is that you’re suddenly forced with either by choice or by force and make it happen. No choice. If you give yourself no choice, it’ll happen.
JT: That’s great. What you did is absolutely crazy, number one going and buying a building being so young is awesome and a little crazy, in New York City. Can you tell us how much you bought it for or do we want to keep numbers out of this?
HL: Yeah, it’s actually public information. Like I said, it was a foreclosure and completely dilapidated. I got it for $375,000.
JT: In New York City?
HL: I pumped in $300,000.
JT: So how did you do that? Were you able to get loans for putting in?
HL: I funded it through MOD Restoration literally. Just money coming in, put into the building, put into the building. I didn’t get loans and sometimes I had to max credit cards to pay for this big huge project but, in the end, MOD Restoration, thank God I was able to fund it all the way and now that we’re refinancing it, it’s because the loan to value is so great, we’re able to pay back MOD Restoration and then still have money left over for another property.
JT: That’s so impressive. It could have gone, I mean you know this, it could have gone horribly wrong. What was it that really made you, was it just sort of keep learning and keep going or was there something about you that just made it successful?
HL: I’m a fighter. I hate to fail and I hate to give up. Trust me, there were times when I was so stressed out between running MOD and now this building and the construction. Don’t forget, contractors are crazy too. I have it all on camera, the entire construction project on video, because I was there every morning from 8:00 to 9:00. I decided that I have to be there in order for it to be done properly and thank God I was there because they could have totally screwed things up.
I was stressed as anything and I just decided that I can’t give up, I can’t give up. Like how am I going to look at myself and say oh I give up? I could have done it so many times. There were times when I literally wanted to rip my hair out and I had no social life and I am a social person. But during this time, I had no time for anything except building and business and sometimes the building preceded the business. I just didn’t have time. But I had a goal. The goal was to complete it and to make it a success and I just focused on it and focused on it.
JT: So what made you decide to do two things? Like number one, usually a business is enough stress, right, and then you went ahead and decided to do this and deal with contractors, who I’ve dealt before, and it sucks no matter what you deal. So what made you decide to take on more when you already felt like you probably had quite a bit going on?
HL: So I hated what I was doing with furniture repair. I really hated it and I needed something else and I didn’t know what I needed. I just knew that real estate was cool. I had actually bought and sold an apartment when I was 21. An apartment is nothing like a building but I knew that it was cool. I liked the renovation process of it and I just said, “Hey, you know, I want to do something else.” For me, ultimately, it’s about passion. Just running a business is great and it’s exciting but I also wanted to do something that I was passionate about and I thought the building would be it. I didn’t know what I was in for.
JT: So hindsight, right, would you have changed anything? Would you have done it the same or would you have been like no, no, no I totally wouldn’t have gotten that building or wouldn’t have done real estate?
HL: I wouldn’t have done it, if I would have known. I mean I’m happy I did and obviously I’m doing it again so it worked out. But if someone told me this is what you’re going to go through, I would have run.
JT: I’m happy I did it but I’m happy it’s over, right?
HL: Yes and I’ll do it better next time.
JT: Well now it’s funny, you’ve got so much experience now. All the codes, you’ve got tons of information. So this next time that comes up, of course you’re not going to know everything but my goodness, you’re going to be miles ahead of where you were before.
HL: Absolutely and I got rid of all 76 violations on the building! Now there are zero.
JT: You’ve got to pat yourself on the back for that one because I’m sure when you heard that first number of 76 violations you probably were like oh my gosh.
HL: I didn’t think they would ever disappear and I had money held in escrow from the mortgage bank until all those violations were gone. So also my goal was to get all the violations removed so I could get my money back.
JT: So are you going to buy more than four-unit building?
JT: Because you’ve already gone through all this, you already know everything.
JT: But your advice to probably to everyone would be like if you’re in New York City, do not buy anything more than four.
HL: Or talk to me first so I can tell you exactly what’s involved and then do it!
JT: That’s awesome. All right, let’s get back to MOD Restoration. So you’ve got his Groupon and that seems to be going really well. What was it like sort of growing after that?
HL: So the Groupon, it’s not where people are going to be like oh hey go and use MOD Restoration. So we weren’t getting massive referrals. It was just that was a deal and so that was helping us over the next few months until we figured out our next strategy. So right away was the website. It was pumping dollars and SEO into getting us found on Google and that’s so powerful. Our business right now, I’d say 90 percent of our clients find us online.
JT: Okay, so let’s talk about this because I know, I mean I’m online so most of the people that are watching this are really into internet and what we can do with marketing. So give us some tips. Like what would you focus on right now for marketing online?
HL: SEO, organic SEO, I think is key and also people, of course, spending all the dollars on ad words and Google campaigns, those are imperative as well but as long as you’re found organically, I think that you’re way ahead of the game. So I would learn everything I can about how to get myself ranked high in Google organically.
JT: Now did you do it yourself or did you pay somebody to do this for you?
HL: In the beginning, I like to learn everything and then delegate because otherwise I don’t know what I am talking about. I’m going to have to listen to what people are saying and I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. So I learnt. I learnt how to do SEO. I learnt how to run the ad words on Google and once I figured it out, I then hired someone who is way better than me to do it.
JT: So tell me about your learning process and how you did that, because there is a lot of people out there right now doing that same thing right now going okay I’ve got to figure out ad words and there’s a lot of learning stuff online but it’s sort of overwhelming at first, especially with SEO, with all the crazy stuff that’s going with SEO right now. So tell me about how you learned it.
HL: Like you said, it’s going online and just reading article after article and it is overwhelming but if you take one article at a time, then you’re just learning something and then implement it. I’m going to find something else and implement it. I love knowledge so it doesn’t overwhelm me. Actually implementing it could be more difficult than learning it so I would make a list of all the things that I liked and then I would learn, write it down and then implement. It’s a slow process. And then articles and blogging.
I’m not so good at blogging but I do blog every once in awhile and it makes such a difference. I look at the Google analytics and I see how people find us. People find us through the blog articles. It’s so important to blog, just for SEO purposes. Not necessarily because you want your personality out there. And also adding new content to the website all the time. Google, I’m not an SEO expert by no means, but I noticed that when you keep changing content or adding pages, Google will recognize it as a site that’s being active and they’re going to rank you higher as well.
For a website that doesn’t have any new content and nothing has changed in the last six months, Google is going to start putting other things higher than you.
JT: In front of you. So when you started, I mean you said people were already finding you online. So you probably had some good SEO to begin with even sort of without knowing, right, if people were finding you anyway? But now it’s different. A lot of people that are listening to this sort of know about keywords and a little bit with SEO but what it pretty much is in a nutshell is when you type something into Google, if they typed in reupholstery, New York City reupholstery or something like that, before you weren’t even targeting those keywords. So how did you try and get those keywords to come up instead of like the old stuff, the reason why people found you before?
HL: In the beginning, it was actually both. People were still finding us from furniture repair and then we would have some reupholstery but then I had to literally overtime, you just Google indexes, you change your website and it takes out the old and puts the new. It’s a slow process. So for the first I would say three, four, five months we were still getting furniture repair. Google also notices if you’re just dumping keywords redundantly just for ranking.
They know that it’s false. So just creating content that makes sense, stories, pages, you know, for every before and after photo on my gallery I have a little story. Just anywhere you could put content that just makes sense and is fun to read. It doesn’t hurt.
JT: I just want to say I loved your website. Before this, I was on it and I can’t stop, like you have tons of images of before and afters and I don’t know what it is but I was going that one is cool. I was clicking on like I seriously clicked on like 25 of them or something like that. I’m like I don’t have enough time to look at this right now. Like seeing the before and after is awesome and to see like the little story of what happened is crazy. So using that for SEO is huge but also I think anybody who has furniture that they want to reupholster, just looking at those images are awesome.
So did you start with a website background? Did you know that your website is awesome the way it is now because of your background?
HL: I designed the whole website myself. So I like to think, I focus a lot of time on it. It’s one of the things that I’m passionate about. I was telling you before that I need to be passionate. So the website part of MOD Restoration was definitely what kept me going just because it was my baby. I would look at it, change it, fix it, add photos. The before and after gallery, even though we have people here who can do it, I still say I want to do it because I like choosing the photo. The gallery, for me, it’s a fact that it’s visual, you can see what it looked like before. That’s the most important part.
JT: You can see, like everybody, I’m going to put probably pictures. I am going to steal your pictures just so you know ahead of time and I am going to put them on mine so that they can click over because like the images are just so cool. You see like dilapidated furniture that would have been on the side of the road and the after photo is absolutely amazing. So I think that’s huge for you and the fact that you see that as that’s what my target market really wants to see. That’s the essence of what my target market wants to see. Did you know that? Like how did you learn about your target market as you were going because you didn’t know anything about it at first?
HL: I figured as a consumer myself and a very picky consumer, I figured what would make me interested in using this company. Just so you know, I didn’t know anything about reupholstery before this whole ordeal. I never even knew it existed. So I couldn’t talk from experience of reupholstery but I just figured, if I am going to make a dress, who am I going to use? Why am I going to use this person? If I saw work that he did and I liked the work that he did, I would want to use them.
So I just figured that that would be a really great way for people. Also, back to my accelerator group, when we first started, I would talk to everyone. What do you recommend? What’s the way to go? How do I get more business? I just gathered and had a business mentor. Her name was Diane. She is unbelievable and she has helped me so much just in terms of understanding business. Business is business is business, you know. So it doesn’t really matter what you do but it’s understanding how to do it that’s everything. So the website, how to do we get people to be interested, how to target them and I can’t say my website is perfect.
Actually it has to be changed, especially the home page and so many things about it. As I’m getting to know more and more about people, I’m realizing that my website is not sufficient but at the time, just getting feedback, learning what attracts people, how to keep them on the page. We don’t have a very high bounce rate but it could be a lot lower. It’s a learning, it’s just constantly learning and asking people who know better.
JT: See, like listening to your story is really cool because you can see the type of person that you are – someone who has really learned a ton, isn’t afraid to take risks so you’ll go ahead and jump both feet in, which is kind of crazy, and then figure it out yourself because you’re like a voracious learner and being able to hear that feedback come back so you can make changes is huge. Like that to me and I’ve interviewed over 60 millionaires now, that is one of the key pieces. I like to say that it’s continuous forward motion, right.
So people get in it and just keep taking action, action, action and that’s what it sounds like you do all the time. So how much do you work like right now? I know before it was 24 hours a day, but like how many hours a day do you usually work right now?
HL: Well actually about seven months I decided that I need some time for myself and so I take off every Tuesday. I don’t go into work and what Tuesday was supposed to be was a day to just do Hanny things but what it actually turned out to be is more of just interacting with people in my industry on a personal level like interior designers or restaurant owners. It ends up being more productive business wise but that wasn’t the goal. And in my head, because I’m not in the office and I’m thinking I’m off, it just makes it more relaxed.
I don’t work as much as I used to and I try to be out of here at 6:00 every day when I am here and I don’t work on the weekends. I’m not perfect at it yet but I’ve learned to balance or try to balance work with regular life because ultimately I’m now 28 and I’m going to be 30 soon and I don’t want to look back and say, “Oh my God, what happened to my 20s? I worked all the time.” So I do spend more time socializing now.
JT: How is it working with your husband, because you work with your husband. What is that like?
HL: It’s not easy!
JT: Give me some tips. Give me something. I actually have clients, actually quite a few clients, I’m kind of surprised how many are married but also tons of people are out there trying to start something with their significant others and going not as easy as I thought it would be. So give me some tips.
HL: I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s my tip. Actually, Sim and I, we don’t do the same thing. He does more of the sales. He’s out in the field and I’m more involved in operations here with the team so we don’t see each other during the day too often. But I still wouldn’t recommend it because what happens is your whole life is work. I know that some people say when I get home I shut it off, we don’t talk about work. I don’t know, that doesn’t happen. So I feel like if you had a separate life and you do your thing, you do your thing and then you come home and talk about it, that’s my opinion.
JT: That’s different. I understand that completely and that’s exactly what I hear too. Trying to shut it off just doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Especially for entrepreneurs, in general, people that love their business and just want it to keep moving forward, there’s no switch.
HL: For Sim, he has a switch because he is not an entrepreneur and he finishes work and he is done until the next day. I’m so not like that so I’m constantly like trying to get him to talk and think and experiment an idea and he’s like no.
JT: The switch is off buddy. Can’t you see? He needs a little note so that way you know when it’s on.
HL: But he definitely helps me balance.
JT: That’s good. That’s really key, right? To have somebody who can step away and sort of teach you what it’s like to step away. Most entrepreneurs don’t have that at all. I understand completely where you just constantly. I mean it’s your baby. You have to constantly keep thinking and because you’re such a voracious learner and people that I either interview or people that I talk to everyday, they’re the same way and we can’t get enough and since we enjoy it, why not do it 24 hours a day?
But there is a huge balance. There’s a huge balance. It’s good to hear that you’re being able to balance, especially I love your Tuesday tip, because I think letting us step back and let ourselves relax, even if we still get to do the fun stuff at work, you know what I mean, being able to sort of say and pretend that switch is off is huge.
HL: And you’re more productive that way. I mean at least I am. So Tuesdays I am not working here but I’m working networking.
JT: And it’s fun too because like you said you’re social. It’s like yeah it’s Tuesday, I get to go have lunch with people, right?
HL: Exactly. It’s really my favorite day.
JT: That’s awesome. Was there any books you highly recommend or anything you specifically felt was really instrumental in growing for you?
HL: Have you ever heard of the book called The Four Hour Work Week?
JT: Yes I have.
HL: I love that book and although not everything obviously relates, I can’t relate to everything, but the idea of building a business that can run without you there working. They always say in the group that I’m in, work on your business, not in your business. It’s so true. If you build a business around everything being done without you there, A) you have more time to do other ideas and other ventures and B) you just can enjoy life. It’s a great book.
JT: That’s huge. I highly recommend it too. I want to interview Tim Ferriss because that would be awesome. He’s just a really, really great guy. There’s actually I think I just watched on Hulu called a Day in the Life with Tim Ferriss. So there’s a whole day with what he does.
HL: That’s so interesting. What does he do?
JT: He shoots guns actually and does a lot of meetings, like lunch meetings and stuff, but you should watch it. It was pretty cool. It’s really cool because you get to see sort of the inner workings and there was one with Richard Branson too, which I really liked too. We should chat for a long time. I’ve got to interview him too, right? So the last question that I always ask for anyone is what’s one action that listeners can take this week to help move them forward towards their goal of a million and I’d love your action?
HL: Sure. What I’ve come to realize is when you have a vision and it’s a very far away goal, it’s hard to really do things to get to that goal now but if you just separate it into milestones and say okay this week I’m going to accomplish this, not the next thing or the thing after that, just this. It’s a small part. Then it will really help you get to your goal quicker and more efficiently if you just complete this milestone this week and then next week you take on the other one. But not to just say I got to go and become a million dollars tomorrow. It’s not going to happen and you’re going to get carried away by what you’re not getting done versus what you are getting done.
JT: That’s huge. It’s crazy, like continuous forward motion, like we were saying, just making sure you are doing what you need to do this week to really make it happen. So everybody mark it on your calendar. What are you doing this week that’s going to help move you towards that goal even if it seems like it’s not enough right now?
HL: Exactly. Every Monday I literally have my week’s worth of goals and it has to get done by Friday.
JT: And I believe you! You totally get it done, I’m sure! Thank you so much Hanny. I really appreciate you coming on. I’m sure we should chat again soon and maybe when I’m in New York City we can hang out because you’re awesome.
HL: Definitely. Definitely hit me up when you’re in New York.
JT: Sweet. Have a wonderful day and thank you so much.
HL: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.
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