Interview with Home Stager Lori Carbone
Each month, we interview a Socialite Influencer, one of our members who has shown exceptional skill at marketing her business in the interior design, home staging, or workroom spaces. We cover the emotional, strategic, educational, and brand-based facets of running a business in the fast-paced home industry.
Meet Our Guest
What is your name?
What is the name of your business?
Spaces That Speak Home Staging
Where are you located?
Bergen County, New Jersey. We service in New Jersey-Bergen, Morris, Hudson, Passaic, and Essex Counties and Rockland and Westchester counties in New York.
What services do you offer?
Home Staging Consultation for realtor and home owner, Furnished Home Staging, Occupied Home Staging, Color Consultation, Interior Redesign, Home and Accessory Shopping, Open House Preparation, Model Home Staging, Soon to come ~ E-Design.
How long have you been working in the home industry?
I’ve been helping realtors and homeowner’s -styling, staging and selling homes for 5 years, including 5 of my own properties. I have 25 years of sales and merchandising experience in the fashion industry as well as formal education. I understand the staging process from every angle, and I know what an emotional relief it is when a home sells quickly and for profit.
A note from our Socialite Influencer of the Month:
Lori Carbone, the Owner of Spaces That Speak Home Staging, is an accredited home staging professional with 20+ years experience in real estate, marketing, corporate sales and merchandising in New York’s competitive fashion industry.
The years of experience in these sectors has given Lori and her team insight into the marketing power of demographics and psychographics that allows her to facilitate targeted lifestyle staging at Spaces That Speak.Lori’s years of experience, industry accreditation, knowledge of color & fabrics, time management and marketing strategies has helped catapult Spaces That Speak from friends and families homes into multiple states in just five years.
Lori has a deep understanding of the process from every angle, including the emotional toll selling ones home can be. She is most happy when she can help her clients achieve their goals regarding their home, whether that is a timely sale or increasing their selling price.
Her passion is what drives her and loves to help homeowners so they can move to the next chapter of their life. Accreditations include: Degree from Fashion Institute of Technology, and the formal training from Staging Diva Home Staging and Stagedhomes.com, an Accredited Staging Professional.
This distinction is the only nationally recognized staging accreditation, and is regarded highly among the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Lori is also a member of the International Association of Home Staging professionals (IAHSP) and RESA member (Real Estate Staging Association).
The Emotional Side of Biz in the Home Industry
When you first started your business, how confident were you?
Being a female entrepreneur isn't easy. It takes a lot of drive and motivation as well as blood, sweat and tears as they say :) As woman, we juggle a lot with work/business, home and family life. When we start something new there are always doubts and some people that will say it won't work. That's when you have to tell yourself "you can do this". "You" have to be your biggest cheerleader. When you get down…and you will... it happens to the best of us. When the little voice in your head is telling you this won't work. That's when you have to step back, take a breath and do something positive for your self and get your spirit strong again. I remember hearing a saying...Things always look different from the outside looking in...Don't compare someone else's middle to your beginning. It's true, if you do that you will lose confidence thinking other competitors business may be more successful than yours, but maybe they have been doing it longer than you. Every entrepreneur has a journey, and paths to take, some rocky and some smooth, just buckle in and go with the adventure. If it were easy everyone would do it. Take as many classes and educate yourself as best you can, talk to others in the field, pick peoples brain, you will find out you are not alone. If it's your passion you'll find the strength to stick with it.
What fears did you have as a new business owner in the home industry?
There were and are so many aspects of running a business that you don't realize you will need to be successful. As a creative type your brain is wired to do certain aspects of the business better than others. The busier you get- the faster you realize this. That's when you need to call in specialists in the fields you are lacking in. It could be accounting /financial, IT computer stuff, social media, websites etc or whatever your weak area is, it's tough to have the time to focus on all of it. It's very important to take the time to set up systems in the beginning to make your business run smooth. When you first start you think you can do it all but "it takes a team". Everyone’s skill set is different.
What part of your experience or education helped you grow your business?
I have always loved to decorate; it started when I was a kid. I always loved color and had a good eye for it. Even at Christmas time I loved to decorate the tree. We have bought and sold 5 home/properties and I think it was during those times that I realized I had the skill set to become a home stager and interior re-designer. I could envision rooms restyled to look better. Our houses always sold quickly because of the way they were styled. But to take that skill of home staging and redesigning and make it into a business you do need training. My college education is from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for buying and merchandising. With this education, I worked in the fashion industry over 25 years. But prior to starting my home staging business, I took many classes and training programs to become certified and educated in not only staging but the business aspects of it. This gives you the road map on how to set yourself up for success. I don't think you are ever done learning. There are always new things to learn, new techniques to master, new training to attend.
How have you grown as a person since, and because of, starting your business?
I have become more focused, stronger and determined to succeed. Failure is not an option. I may not get there as fast as some others but I will get there. I want my children to see with hard work and fortitude you can achieve what you set your mind on and you can always reinvent yourself. It may not be an easy road but it is one that is worth working hard for. You should never let age or circumstance stop you from pursuing a goal.
Some skill sets still pose a challenge, Computers and the systems are still my nemesis and at times and my family laughs and says I need my own IT department.
Advice for New Interior Designers, Stagers & Workrooms
If you could give yourself (and any other new business owners in the home industry) a piece of advice, what would you say?
Educate yourself, set up systems in the beginning and be prepared to work long hours. There will always be people that will be negative but your true fans will encourage you. Surround yourself with like-minded people and stay positive.
Do you have a business mentor or idol?
My idols are my dad and my two brothers. My family is very entrepreneurial and had many restaurants. We were raised in New York where my dad had a pizzeria and then a coffee shop. We then moved to New Jersey and as my brothers got older opened their own restaurant with my dad. A few years later sold that one and opened a new larger restaurant.
Now 25 years later, my brother opened another restaurant with his two sons’: next generation of entrepreneurs. Neither my father nor brothers had any formal education. They had hands on experience, learning and perfecting their craft while working at other restaurants. In those days not many had a college education.
My dad and two brothers worked very hard, knowing failure is not an option, having a strong work ethic, fortitude to work long hours and a “roll up your sleeves and you do what it takes” to succeed attitude. The restaurant industry; where 1 out of every 5 fail within 5 years –their length in the business is a testament to their success. Today’s thinking and thought process may be different then years ago but the same core value of hard word, determination and will to succeed with endure.
Secrets to Success in the Home Industry
What is the #1 problem you seek to solve for your clients?
Every home looks different and can look better –even multi million dollar homes. My goal is to make my clients home show the best it can. Attract the target buyer and sell at the highest price. I strive to make my client’s home stand out from the crowd in the sea of MLS-multiple listing service.
Spaces That Speak Home Staging was founded on the belief that every property has a story to tell potential buyers — the story of their future home! This story creates the emotion that inspires high offers from buyers and sells your property.
What type of project brings you the most joy?
I love to see the transformation- be it occupied home staging or vacant home staging. In Vacant home staging you are creating something from an empty space. Knowing the target buyer and styling the home to resonate with them is so great. The way furniture and accessories can tell a story and immediately "Speak" to a buyer so they can envision their family living there.
Occupied home staging is even more amazing because the homeowners usually can't believe the transformation and that with the changes is their house. They usually say...I wish I had done this year’s ago. It's a great feeling to help people "see" their home again. It's giving back a quality of living that now shows in the home.
How do you spot and avoid a potentially ill-fitting client?
All people have distinct personalities. While doing a client’s consultation you need to be mindful of red flags. Personalities have to work for the project to work. Managing client’s expectations is a good way to avoid personality conflicts.
Setting clear expectations of project and all the specifics that go along with it. Agreeing on all aspects of project in advance helps. In the end, it comes down to a vibe or gut feeling. Sometimes if personalities clash, to save yourself heartache and headaches you may have to walk away from a project.
How do you handle people who say, "You're too expensive" and expect a discount?
Some people just price shop and want the cheapest. There will always be someone who says you are too expensive. You need to show your value, your skill set and your work. During your meeting show the potential client your results, your portfolio shows the products you use.
Not every couch is the same etc. Some potential clients just want to fill a room and the cheapest staging company will get the job. The question is...Do you want to work on volume and make a little $ on each job or work less jobs and make more $ on each job. This is your business and you need to know your $ numbers and to price accordingly so you can maintain and grow your business.
Some of the cheaper companies may not be in business next year. However, you need to know your industry pricing and your competition.
In what ways have you intentionally set yourself apart from competitors?
Spaces That Speak Home Staging offers “Affordable Luxury” staging. We help all homes/price points get the affordable luxury look that they should when selling. Staging doesn’t have to be out of reach for home sellers or realtors. Our selection of services can help all homeowners and realtors at any stage in the selling process and within their budget.
We have often been called into stage multi million $ homes that have been on the market for over a year. So it’s never too late to stage. We offer a variety of services where some staging companies only offer vacant or only occupied staging. We offer home staging consultations as part of the realtors selling package-not all staging companies offer that.
Our staging consultations are a highly sought after service. Our realtors and homeowners love this service. It’s a great starting point and helps the homeowner from being overwhelmed. I will soon be adding E-Design service as well because many of my home sellers saw their home transformation and now want me to style their new home.
Sometimes your business services will change based on customer requests and new industry technology and techniques.
What is your big dream or goal for your business within the next 5 years?
This business as with some other types of businesses has seasonality to it. The volume of business is busier some months than others. The goal is to grow the volume and have a more consistent flow of projects.
Marketing Tips to Use & Avoid
What is the biggest marketing mistake you've ever made?
My marketing is still in its infancy stage and needs work. I am taking more courses to continue educating myself on it but I am now working with a marketing company who can assist in this area.
What is one marketing tactic you use now that you wish you had used "back in the day"?
I feel like my marketing is still "in the day" lol! I’m working to market with strategy and consistency. There are so many different layers and types of marketing. It takes a while to get the right marketing strategy and platform to work for you and to see results.
What is your favorite way to market your business?
Right now that's a work in progress but I am using monthly newsletters. Kate's Socialite [Socialite Vault] newsletters are wonderful. I also love her podcasts on different marketing subjects ~ very informative. It opens your eyes to the things you don't know and that you are missing in your marketing plan.
How do you use Socialite Vault to help market your business in the home industry?
What is your web address?
What is your Instagram handle?
Socialite Vault is marketing platform for interior designers, home stagers, and workrooms.