Meridith Baer spent 18 years working as a screenwriter, but never could have scripted the course of her career.
Becoming a home stager – a.k.a. someone who dresses up homes on the market so that they sell quickly -- happened by accident. Baer needed to suddenly vacate her home and asked a friend if she could move all of her furniture (and 250 potted plants!) into an empty home he was selling. When the home sold for more than the asking price, brokers began pursuing Baer for her home-staging skills.
Today, the 67-year-old stages homes everywhere from Los Angeles to the Hamptons, is the inspiration for HGTV's staging show Staged to Perfection and boasts a client list that includes Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt. Baer says her company, Meridith Baer Home, now brings in over $1 million dollars in revenue a month.
Entrepreneur.com was able to ask Meridith a few questions about how she was able to build her brand and her business. Check out how this former-screenwriter was able to make a multimillion-dollar career switch.
Entrepreneur: How did you get into the home staging business?
By accident! The house I was renting was sold out from under me and I needed a place to store my 250 huge potted plants and furniture... so I suggested to a friend who was selling an empty home that he let me "decorate" the home with my things to show how to live in the space. The house sold in a few days for a half million over asking. Suddenly other brokers were beating down my door to do the same for them...
Entrepreneur: What was it like switching careers at that point in your life?
It was a blessing. I had been a screenwriter for 18 years and I was tired of sitting alone in front of my computer all day. Suddenly I found myself moving around non-stop, interacting with people and endlessly shopping!
Entrepreneur: How did your earlier work in film and television impact your career in home staging?
Everything I had experienced in the entertainment business was enormously useful in my new business. Like film and television, staging is all about telling a story, creating a mood. Every detail counts, whether it is in the props, the lighting, or the colors.
Entrepreneur: What are the most important lessons you've learned about home staging?
When selecting furniture, pay attention to not just the SIZE of a room, but the VOLUME of the room. If the room has volume, then the furniture needs height too. Also, ambient lighting is the key to making a home feel warm and inviting. We have learned to put table and floor lamps in almost every room. Don't forget to add humor... if you can make the buyer giggle, they will feel at home.
Entrepreneur: How were you able to attract customers – especially such high-profile clients?
We grew by word of mouth. As luck would have it we started the business with high end homes in high end neighborhoods. And glamorous clients like Elon Musk (founder and CEO of Tesla), Joe Roth (founder of Revolution Studios), and Leslie Moonves (president and CEO of CBS) started knocking.
Entrepreneur: What has been your biggest challenge in the home staging industry?
Keeping ahead of the curve, continuing to change with the times. Growing our business from one home at a time to 350 at a time and pacing the growth. Expanding our business outside of LA and operating warehouses in Florida and New York simultaneously. Growing from a $10,000 per month business to average monthly revenue of $1.7 million a month.
Entrepreneur: How has having a television show changed your business?
Staged to Perfection on HGTV really raised public awareness about the process of staging and our company workflow. It was one thing to tell our clients how big our warehouse is, how much inventory we have... but another thing to SEE it. Now wherever we go, clients know who we are. We have been contacted by homeowners from all over the globe.
Entrepreneur: What's next for your business?
This spring, we installed our first home in the Hamptons and it sold in five days to an all cash offer. Now we are exploring growing to other cities, including San Diego, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., the larger cities in Texas and resort areas, such as Cabo, Aspen and Sun Valley. Recently we were in China and were told there is a huge need for us there!
We're developing our own line of home furnishings and working on a coffee table book that we hope will become the quintessential home staging bible.