Making Order Out Of Chaos

3 friends head to the garage to help customers get their acts together.
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This story appears in the May 2008 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

Plenty of businesses can remodel your closets, kitchens and bathrooms, but the garage, says Michael Osman, is "the last frontier." HouseWall Garage System, which is based near Osman's hometown of Miami, ventured into that frontier in 2004. The company installs wall panels on which homeowners can hang hooks, racks and shelves to help themselves get organized. And Osman took note of the local business's growth.

Osman mentioned HouseWall to Dustin Myers and Chris Poplin--friends he attended college with in Nashville, Tennessee. When HouseWall began franchising in 2006, Osman, 27, Myers and Poplin, both 26, jumped aboard and opened a franchise in Nashville that September. "You have to recognize these opportunities and take advantage of them," says Osman. "Don't be afraid to take the risk."

Having the backing of a franchise with proven products and an established business model helped mitigate that risk. But Osman points out, "They don't do everything for you. You still have to put in all the long hours and elbow grease." By juggling in-home consultations, installations and the behind-the-scenes work between them, the trio hopes to exceed $500,000 in sales this year.

They have had surprises along the way, including their customer base. They assumed the garage was a man's domain, but they've found that women are more likely to seek out their services. To get their company in front of customers, they attend home shows and women-oriented events, and they even have a mall kiosk display. Though they've also run print and radio ads, their best marketing tool is to let potential customers see their system--and them--firsthand. "The product will sell itself," says Osman, "but your clients are buying you."

Edition: July 2017

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