Catching up with Mel Jamieson and Suzy Piani, who are just entering their third year in business, was an absolute joy. Their business is unique and so is their story. It’s a partnership that works and the business is going from strength to strength, after breaking even in their first year and growing 50% every six months since.
What do they do? They are at the bespoke end of a house styling business; that is, if you want to sell your house, they will make it so much more attractive, that it sells faster and for a lot more.
Their backgrounds and how they came together also makes for an interesting story.
Both women started their working careers in different creative industries. Mel was attracted to the world of television and by the age of 25, she was directing news at Channel Ten. By 30, she became the first female full-time director for the Nine Network and went on to direct a myriad of different programs across all the networks in a career spanning 25 years. After her marriage to Mat Trinca (currently the Director of the Australian National Museum), and completing an Arts degree at ANU whilst having her children, she felt she needed to reinvent herself.
Suzy Piani trained as a secondary science, maths and dance teacher originally (mainly as a fall-back option), as she was passionate about developing her dance career, which she did after intense training and being invited to join a talent agency in Melbourne. Then, with the help of the agent, she worked extensively in Australia and travelled the world with her dancing to some exciting destinations in Singapore, Germany and France. Back in Melbourne, Suzy even worked on television at Channel Nine, interestingly enough. But the women had not met at that time, even though Suzy worked part-time at the Bridge Hotel where the Channel Nine staff always drank.
Eventually, both women ended up in Canberra, both with Italian husbands and all of their children attending the Yarralumla Italian/English primary school. That’s when the serendipity occurred.
Suzy and her Engineer husband were selling their house, and the estate agent commented that the way they had prepared their house for sale (which was exceptionally styled), made such a difference to the price they achieved. Conveying that conversation to Mel, the women started to discuss a potential business opportunity. It was a business they could do during school hours, and they both had the skills to contribute to making it happen.
‘Sold on Styling’ was thus born.
The women learned from the ground up, starting with meetings with estate agents to gauge how it all worked, and to explain that they wanted to be in the bespoke end of the market, “styling, not staging” the houses in preparation for selling and with the aim of getting top dollar for their clients. The agents agreed that styled houses not only sold for considerably more money but that they sold quickly as well. It was a dream job for the two of them as they wanted to make a difference in what is quite often the biggest decision in people’s lives.
During their research, they were offered their first job and they remember what a buzz it was for them (do you remember your first client? I certainly do). The job was not an easy one, as the client was an elderly gentleman suffering dementia. They met him on a Thursday, did the appraisal on Friday and started work on the Monday, project managing the preparations for bringing the house to the market. It was a ten-day process and the results were astounding. Mel and Suzy were hooked. This was the business to be in. This was where their people skills, artistic and visualisation skills, along with strong skills in project management, all came together, and they still had time for their children after school.
They arrived at the fast realisation that this job took a lot of empathy. It was such a personal thing, selling a house, often after many years of living there, and sometimes after a spouse had died, the discussions needed to be deep and empathetic. People needed to be guided through the unflattering process; they needed help with deciding what things needed to be passed down to family, what needed to go to charity and what needed to be disposed of too. Not easy when emotional connections and memories are involved.
But, the business thrived as the women developed and honed their already considerable skills, and recently, they have also started to take on staff, all of whom had approached them for work. This year, they hope to concentrate on their clients’ needs and have a small team do the physical tasks they used to do themselves. Additionally, they are keen to establish connections with local artists, hiring their artwork to hang in homes for sale.
“It’s a way of connecting artists with potential buyers who can then visualise how an artwork looks in a home setting. It’s a win/win/win arrangement for the client, for SOS and for the artists who need recognition and sales,” Mel said.
“The young, emerging artists often can’t afford to stage their own exhibitions, so this is a good avenue for them, and quality artwork makes an enormous difference to the look and feel of a home.”
Suzy added that “our philosophy is about creating an emotive response and have the potential buyer imagine living there”.
As for the future, hiring bright young things is desirable, as young people can have fresh ideas as well as the ability to hone their skills.
“When I was at Channel Nine, I always wanted to encourage young women in their careers, and this is no different.”
We all know that selling your house is an all-out affair (much like a wedding). After all, it’s your biggest asset. You want to pull out all stops and you want people to develop an emotional attachment when they walk in – a house is bricks and mortar, but a home is how it makes you feel.
I could so relate to this, as I recalled all the houses I have owned and how they felt ‘just right’ the very first time I walked in.
So, if you care about your house, you want it to look the best it possibly can, and sell sooner and for much more, I would venture to suggest that ‘Sold On Styling’ is for you.