(Editor’s Note: Below is the 11th installment in a new series promoting Women of the Flooring Business, a social media group that provides a platform for members to share their experiences, observations, and best practices.)
Michelle Bayer – I’m not cut out of the ordinary. I have a virtual store called Floorstuds.com. My shop sells floors, kitchen cabinets, backsplashes and more. I entered the flooring industry in 2015 after quitting my job as an employee compensation expert. My husband worked for Empire Today and I applied to act as his administrative assistant. Becoming well versed in floors came easily under my husband’s tutelage. I learned the industry by buying products, showing samples to customers and managing installations (run errands for installers, making sure the installation was perfect and the site was clean after installation).
I soon realized that I could have my own business and expand it to include all home improvement products. However, having a brick and mortar store would be a huge investment and I didn’t think it was the best or necessary option. What I decided to do was find companies I could work with and prove that I could help them market online and ultimately make money for everyone. I’ve been creative since I was little and I knew this skill would be the key to my success.
Fast forward to 2020, I have become an affiliate and referral partner of kitchen designers, home improvement retailers and flooring stores. My concept is unique in the home improvement industry, such as a personal shopper for renovations. I’m not afraid to pick up the phone, sell myself and sell my online concept. As a result, I have gained partners across the industry and expanded my business. In fact, I recently got in touch with a major broker who has agreed to include Floor Studs as a partner to potential clients.
In business it always pays to distinguish yourself in a busy market. However, there are still lessons to be learned, especially when it comes to differentiation. I don’t have a showroom and my retail and concierge concept is difficult for people to understand. What I’ve learned is how to be clear about my business and its value without revealing the trade secrets – the competition can be fierce. And while I’m juggling kids, school and my own business, Floor Studs is growing.
That doesn’t mean the company is without challenges. Although I am a seasoned professional, like many of us, I can still have issues when it comes to gender. When I pick up or buy materials for clients, I am somehow still a “girl” or “just a housewife” to many of them, not a business owner. I like being in the Women of the Flooring Business Facebook group because women think differently. Women have a better overall picture in the way they connect. We can talk about other things that are important, such as being everything to everyone and raising children and doing the housework while running a business.
I am happy to share my ideas online with all my “sisters” in the group. I love to share my story about differentiation and how I found success through hard work and standing out.
Michelle Bayer is the owner of Floor Studs, an online home improvement concierge that sells floors, cabinets, countertops, backsplash, hardware, vanities, tubs, showers, and more.
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