I met Tricia Kandik at the very first SmartUps Pubtalk in Eugene, Oregon a few months ago. From the very start of our conversation I was struck by her enthusiasm and passion concerning her business and entrepreneurship in general. Her business was so new, she’d just picked up her first batch of business cards.

I’m excited to share Tricia’s story about her business with the blog readers.

Chelle: So, set-up what it is you do. Is this your first business?

Tricia: I had a dogwalking/petsitting business for five years in Washington D.C. before moving out to Eugene.  So I knew I enjoyed having my own business, and could handle the various ups and downs of self-employment.

Friends had been telling me for years that I should consider cleaning and organizing as a paid endeavor, joking that it was my “hobby”.  It’s true: I spend a lot of my spare time cleaning and organizing my own home, and I truly enjoy it.  Finally, one friend “dared” me to do it, saying she would use my eco-friendly housecleaning services, and had several other friends who would also become clients.

After several months of rather steady work, I realized that housecleaning, though satisfying, was too solitary and too physically demanding to do full-time.  I scaled back on clients and started flexing my organizing muscles on friends.  After several months of practice, I registered New Leaf Organizing with the State of Oregon, and started taking “real” clients.

My method of operation is simple.  First, I help the client determine where to start.  Sometimes this is the area which causes the most grief for the client, and sometimes it’s better to start with an easy room, like the kitchen, where emotions aren’t likely to run as high.  Then I find out what works about the space, what doesn’t, and how the client envisions the space once organized.

Then we get to work.  I help the client clear out the space and stack everything in another room to be sorted.  While I clean the space with eco-friendly materials, the client starts going through the stuff, sorting it according to destination: Goodwill, friends/family, return to rightful owner, repair, keep.  You’d be surprised how much ends up in the Goodwill pile!

Then we strategize how to return the keepers (anything the client uses and/or loves) so they will be attractively arranged and easily accessible.   We also discuss systems for maintaining the order and preventing chaos from returning.  Finally, I pack as much of the Goodwill pile into my car as will fit and take off, leaving the client to enjoy her sparkling, clutter-free space.

Organizing appeals to me for many reasons.  I’m very orderly, and it’s deeply satisfying for me to bring a room (or desk, or closet) from completely chaotic to a usable, efficient space.  I like working one-on-one with people, and it’s very fulfilling to see the transformation that happens not just to the room, but to the client himself.   I’ve been called a “miracle worker” and an “angel of God”—so there’s a little ego boost in it too.

Chelle: That must be fantastic to hear after a job well done. Everyone should end their work day with being told they’re a miracle worker! Can you share what has been the greatest thing about your journey so far?

Tricia: I love how much I’ve learned and grown over the past eight months.  I’ve enjoyed meeting so many new people, both clients and peers.  Having my own business has opened a whole new world for me!

I’ve also gained a couple of fun (and true!) anecdotes:
A client found a $50 bill as we were cleaning out her home office.  When I visited my next client, I told him about this and he laughed, saying, “That isn’t going to happen here!”  Sure enough, several hours later, I came across a $50 bill.  I think he actually thought I’d planted it!  Moral of the story is: sometimes organizing pays for itself.

As a Professional Organizer, I truly believe that clearing out the old can make way for new things to come into your life.  So I was following a piece of my own advice when I noticed a fortune –you know, the tiny slip of paper you get in a fortune cookie?– I’d posted on my refrigerator several years before.  I decided I’d enjoyed it long enough, and it was time to let go of its message.

Coincidentally, I went out for Chinese that night (which I almost never do), and with the bill came the traditional cookie.  My fortune read “Your present plans are going to succeed.”  Now, how’s that for encouraging?  Not to mention that it proves my point about clearing out the old rather nicely!

Chelle: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received while starting your business and something you’d pass along to anyone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Tricia: As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get isolated and lose momentum.  I was lucky to connect with Lane Microbusiness early on in my venture phase, and they have been there for me ever since, providing classes, one-on-one coaching, peer networking, and loads of guidance and support.

There are lots of networking groups around town, including the Women’s Business Network and the Springfield and Eugene Chambers of Commerce.  Get out there and meet people!  Networking gets your name out there, can lead to clients, keeps you enthusiastic, and will keep you in good company.   You’ll be surprised how friendly and helpful everyone (including competitors!) can be.

Chelle: What kind of marketing efforts have you made to get traction in the community or make you stand out from your competition?

Tricia: Ooh, marketing… if you have any advice, I’d love to hear it!

Surprisingly, the bulk of my business has come from a craigslist ad that I post in the household section every other day or so.  I’m hoping to get a little fancier than that with some flyers and a website, once I find a graphic/web designer.  And networking is something I’m always meaning to do more of—if only I could find the time!

Chelle: Well, thank you Tricia, for taking some of that time to share your business and enthusiasm with us!