December 18, 2014

Spotlight On Moving Mountains Design: Staging Luxury Homes for Sale

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This week we shine the spotlight on Moving Mountains Design. Those needing to sell a  big luxury home in the Los Angeles area call on owner Michelle Minch. She and her team swoop in and choose just the right paintings, rugs, sofas and even duvet covers to make a property fetch top dollar. Minch says she has 6 part-time employees in all and has been in business eight years.

WHAT THE BUSINESS IS KNOWN FOR: Being the luxury home stager for the Los Angeles market.

Very few professional stagers own enough inventory to stage larger homes. Even fewer have the kind of higher end furniture, Persian rugs, artwork and accessories needed to complete these jobs successfully. Moving Mountains Design has a warehouse full of beautiful accessories, furniture, artwork, linens, throw pillows and lamps appropriate to luxury homes. At the Real Estate Staging Association International Conference this year, Minch presented a workshop on luxury home staging to a standing-room-only audience. The conference is kind of like a Ted Talks for professional home stagers.

HOW THE BUSINESS GOT STARTED: A trip to Kansas City to wow some home buyers.

The first home Minch staged (and got paid for) was for an interior design client. They asked her to help them get their Kansas City home ready to sell. Minch was flown from Los Angeles. She did a lot of editing, rearranging and upgraded the kitchen with granite counters and new backsplash. The sellers expected the home to take six months to a year to sell, which was the norm at that time in Kansas City. It was the early 2000’s. They went under contract almost immediately and closed escrow about two months later – shockingly fast. Minch didn’t call what she did staging back then. She just told colleagues she was “getting the house ready to sell”. But back home, one of her neighbors was a real estate agent. When she heard about Minch’s success, she started calling her to stage listings. Word got out and other agents started calling. And the rest is history.

BIGGEST RISK TAKEN IN THE BUSINESS: Taking a line of credit for high end inventory

The biggest risk was a home equity line of credit on a rental property which Minch used to grow her company and keep it in the black. She says if her business hadn’t prospered, she could have potentially lost that property to foreclosure. The end result is that she has been able to purchase a very large stock of higher end inventory, furniture, artwork and accessories. This allowed her to position herself as a luxury home staging expert.

BIGGEST WINS? Professional Stager of the Year and More.

In 2010, Minch was voted Professional Stager of the Year by the Real Estate Staging Association. Being chosen as the best professional stager in the United States and Canada by her peers- over 1,000 professional home stagers- was a huge honor. This year she was voted RESA Top 10 Professional Home Stager in the U.S.

Winning these awards has given Minch “street cred.” It has given her great credibility with her peers, her clients and with the media. It has also been a wonderful marketing and public relations opportunity.

IF THIS BUSINESS WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Minch says she’s an eternal optimist. She surrounds herself with optimistic people. Her company culture is optimistic, creative and up-beat. Since the work the company does is very physically demanding, it helps to be surrounded by happy people, Minch says.

Runner up would be “High Hopes” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Minch admits her favorite version is by Jiminy Cricket.

FAVORITE TEAM FOOD:

Though Minch feels her team is a pretty diverse group, she says she’s never had anyone say no to Japanese food.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“Big doors swing on little hinges”

The quote is attributed to businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone.

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Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program.

Image: Kevin Edge

17 Comments ▼

Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

17 Reactions

  1. Hi Michelle,
    What a fascinating business! It’s a reminder of all the truly unique business models out there. I love the photo here of one of the homes you’ve staged. Working in the Los Angeles area with so many luxury homes, I’m wondering if you’ve ever staged a sale for someone famous. Is it something you could share?

    • Thank you for your kind comments, Heather. I’ve staged a few homes for television personalities, and I’ve done interior design jobs for a famous author and a famous actor, both of whom hired me multiple times for different projects.

      Thank you, Shawn, for this wonderful opportunity – to have a spotlight shown on my business. SmallBizTrends.com is one of my favorite small business websites. I read it religiously. Great article!

      • Thank YOU, Michelle, for sharing your awesome business with the members of the Small Business Trends community. It’s always a pleasure to interact with our faithful readers too and we’re glad if Small Business Trends has been useful in your entrepreneurial journey.

  2. Wow this is a great idea. They are cashing in on people who have money to begin with. I love the fact that it is creative. I also love the fact that they good with interior design.

  3. SmallBizTrends.com chose a worthy business to shine a light on. Michelle Minch is an amazing woman, a fabulous talent wrapped up in a stunningly strong work ethic, nothing stops her. Whether designing single rooms, whole houses or even websites, her results are spectacular. The professional Home Staging industry has benefitted greatly from her courage, vision and tenacity as well as her spirit. Further, she is always there to give back when other Stagers need direction. She has shown comsistantly how hard work coupled with talent can payoff in an endeavor many were skeptical of at best. We in her industry look to her lovingly as a shiny beacon.

  4. Michelle Minch: I like the quote “Big doors swing on little hinges” and I love sushi… :)

    I have heard a story from a tea shop that the Kusmi tea tins become popular as display items when people we decorating the homes before a viewing.

    How do you come up with natural atmosphere of the owner, when you are staging the homes? Then you flip through home decorating magazines or see ads for properties for sale, you wonder if the soul is missing and it has a shallow feeling about the place.

  5. Martin:

    Staging is not about fooling a home buyer into thinking someone is living there. My job is to help the home buyer imagine themselves living in the home. So we don’t fill every corner, shelf or cabinet. We leave some space so the buyer can imagine their things in the home. We are creating the illusion of the lovely life a buyer might experience if they purchased that home. We’re not telling a story about the current owner, but creating a story around a potential buyer.

    • Michelle: As an experienced buyer (I purchased raw materials for the production of welding electrodes for 8 years), I like your mindset and explanation.

      I would like to buy / build / rent / live in an house built or inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright!

      Have you read the Fountainhead?

  6. How cool that you’ve worked with some tv personalities and an actor! Sounds like such a rewarding job to do something you love while helping someoneto sell their home at the same time.

  7. Amanda: While what we do is hard work, I love my job!

  8. Michelle’s homes are always gorgeous! And until you have done this, you have no idea how much work it is. Imagine packing to move, ordering furniture, moving in and decorating in a day. Rinse & repeat. It is very demanding and takes a great deal of attention to detail. While there are creative elements, much of the work is of running the business. We in the industry do look up to Michelle. She is always teaching us to go to the next level!

  9. Michelle is a very talented and gifted home stager, probably the best in Los Angeles, and also a great role model for others in the Staging Business.
    As my mentor, she has taught me a lot.
    Thanks Michelle!

    Valerie Monkarsh

  10. Hi Michelle, I have been looking into getting into the home staging and redesigning field and I wonder if you would have any advice on how to go forward. I know that the housing market is slowly getting back and right now it’s a buyer’s market. I do not have a degree in interior design but I do have a good eye.
    What would be your reccomendation for at home training since I currently have a full time job but looking to transition to something more meaningful.

    Thanks.
    Nicole

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