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Passion Inspired 'Livable Spaces by Louise' Despite Economic Downturn

by Jill Foster on March 12, 2009

louise-home-pics

Guest post by Louise Dennis, founder of Livable Spaces by Louise LLC and also Home Improvement Network, LLC. She specializes in interior design and can be reached at LinkedIn.

Louise and I met over LinkedIn where she was kind to participate in an e-interview about entrepreneurship; her remarks follow.

A favorite quote from our e-conversation:
In a world where you hear of thousands of layoffs per day, I often think to myself, how did I get to be so lucky?

WGB:
What influenced you to launch Livable Spaces by Louise and then also your second LLC?

Louise:
My decision to open both Livable Spaces by Louise and Home Improvement Network resulted from the steady decline in the economy since 2007.

I have always had a passion for decorating and in 2007 I decided to pursue that by joining a nationally franchised company.

In the beginning, I did not think I was ready to go on my own and felt the branding and marketing [found in a franchise] was necessary [like it is] in any business.

Louise on educating clients vs ‘decorating’ them
As the real estate market declined steadily and quickly, I began to recognize that homeowners needed to be educated, rather than “decorated”, and invest their money wisely into the equity of the home, while not overextending their wallets. The end result would maximize their real estate, with sometimes little cost to them.

This did not fit the goal of the company I was working for so I decided to go out on my own and I opened Livable Spaces by Louise, LLC, in April 2008.

My primary focus with Livable Spaces was home redesign and staging.

And through my work with Livable Spaces, I became a trusted advisor and ultimately a decorating consultant to the clients I was assisting. With the needs of these homeowners in mind I began connecting them with other trusted advisors in the home improvement industry.

louise-home-bath

Louise on recognizing client needs.
Recognizing the great need for this service, I launched Home Improvement Network in December 2008. Once called Co-Marketing Developers, [my second LLC] will do business as a H.I.N — Home Improvement Network — locally and will represent the finest and most well-respected home improvement service providers in Loudoun County.

We found word of mouth referrals from community-based trusted advisors in the industry was the most effective use of our marketing/advertising budget.

Our presence should far outweigh our competition for 2009.
Companies that would not have the means to hire a full time director of marketing, event planner and/or advertising agent are able to share the cost and be visible in the community in bigger venues. With this very new concept in formation, we have not had enough time to track our successes, but have already seen a significant reduction in cost to all companies involved. Our presence should far outweigh our competition for 2009 and we hope to see an increase in their bottom line and a reduction in their marketing efforts.

WGB:
In your entrepreneurial experience, how has failure impacted your current success?

When I launched Livable Spaces there was no way to foresee just how huge the downturn in the economy would be.

As home staging and decorating business began to dwindle, I had to take a step back and reassess where I wanted to take my business. I realized that more homeowners were cutting back on their expenses, but were still looking for trustworthy sources to help in their home repair and improvements, so I decided the best use of my skills and resources would be to launch an organization like H.I.N. I am now able to maintain and grow my relationships with the home improvement service providers in the county, as well as build a client base that I will be able to assist now.

And hopefully when the economy improves, I will be able to assist them in redesign and home staging as well.

WGB:
What adjustments to your business plan (or other planning) have been most useful for your business in this current economy?

I think that the adjustment to my business plan that has been most useful is recognizing that there is power in numbers and joining all of these Loudoun County businesses together to create H.I.N. It [H.I.N.] can now help all of the participating organizations maximize their reach while minimizing their costs.

These changes have brought positive results for me.

If I had no personal challenges or economic changes in my life this past year, I would not have been forced to reinvent myself and assist in the success of not only my own company, but also the responsibility to pull currently 15 companies and their employees through these tough times.

WGB:
What’s one question regarding your career you wished would have been asked (and thus answered)?

The question I wish I would have been asked is:
Do you have regrets that you did not follow your passion earlier in life?

I used to think I wasted many years in first not attending a trade school for design in my youth and not taking the risk to go out on my own when opportunity was there. [But now] I feel my experiences in life have brought me to the decision of working for myself.

[And back then I] would probably not be as successful with out all my “life lessons”.

(images from Louise Dennis’ Facebook album for home staging)

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