Mrs. Fixxit: Smashing the Plaster Ceiling in a Male-Dominated Industry
Everyone knows the home repair business is a man’s world, right? Better not tell that to Kerrie Peterson, the proud owner-operator of Mrs. Fixxit in central New Jersey’s Mercer County.
A strong, passionate and skilled woman in this male-dominated industry, Kerrie will tell you that home repair is not so much about the size or strength of your contractor as it is about intellect, reliability, creativity, integrity and listening to the needs of the customer. And after working for years from a small SUV “packed to the gills with equipment and materials,” she says she finally found the vehicle that’s the right match for her in the new Ford Transit Connect Van.
Growing up in rural Texas, Kerrie never gave a second thought to grabbing a tool when a job needed doing, which served her well when she and her family moved to New Jersey in 1997 and bought “a real fixer-upper.” Kerrie did most of the home renovations herself, while her husband, Pete Bussone, worked as an executive in the food-service industry.
“I started out doing home improvement jobs for my friends—making repairs, building decks, hanging blinds, things like that,” she says. With the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, Kerrie and Pete started talking about a backup plan. Her friends had been urging her to get licensed as a contractor for some time, and in the winter of 2009—in the teeth of one of the worst economies in decades—that’s just what she did.
Mrs. Fixxit’s Secret Sauce: Integrity
Initially, Mrs. Fixxit was a one-woman show, with Kerrie going door-to-door distributing flyers to drum up business. “Spending money on stamps for a mailing was just too expensive,” she recalls. But her business has prospered since then, so much so that Pete now works for Mrs. Fixxit—as do all five of their children, ages 13 to 22, at various times. Kerrie’s “secret sauce” for success is about as basic as it gets: Be honest and reliable, do quality work, and charge fair prices.
Horror stories about home improvement contractors are standard fare at any neighborhood barbecue, and from the outset, Kerrie positioned herself to be the antithesis of that image. “Let’s face it, home repair is not rocket science. You want someone who will return your phone call, show up on time, understand your needs, and do a top-quality job at an affordable price,” she says.
Her business model and marketing strategy are an outgrowth of the way she and her family live. They’ve been deeply involved in school activities and community outreach since they first arrived in Hightstown, New Jersey, and they’ve met a lot of people. “Everybody knows us,” Kerrie declares, which meshes well Mrs. Fixxit’s strategy of focusing on a small geographic area and relying primarily on referrals for new business. “We only advertise in a church bulletin and a neighborhood newsletter. All our customers are word-of-mouth. If you are going to run into your customer at the grocery store, it keeps everyone honest. We’ve got to do a good job,” she says.
Ford Transit Connect Opens Door to Untapped Potential
Even successful businesses often have untapped potential, however, and sometimes it takes a bit of serendipity for their owners to realize it. In Mrs. Fixxit’s case, serendipity appeared in the guise of a new Ford Transit Connect XLT Van. Kerrie chose the long wheelbase model, which she says is “perfect” for her.
“The size is great. I don’t feel like I’ve been swallowed by a giant truck, and it handles better than my ‘mom’ van,” she quips. “It really has changed the way I do business, from the hands-free phone system* to the incredible organization inside. I can easily carry twice the amount of materials and supplies around with me, so I’m prepared for any job, no matter what unexpected issues may arise. And there’s still plenty of room left for all my tools, from ladders to table saws to hand tools.”
Small jobs—the kind many contractors won’t bother with—are Mrs. Fixxit’s bread-and-butter. They provide a steady cash flow and make homeowners happy—which can lead to larger projects—but making small jobs profitable requires Kerrie to knock out four or five a day. “My Transit Connect Van makes that much easier. It’s really improved my efficiency,” she says. “With a Masterack® system keeping everything organized inside and a slide-down ladder rack on the roof, it’s a game-changer for me. I can now load and unload a six-foot A-frame ladder with no help. When you’re 5'4" and 120 pounds, that’s a really big deal!”
The Ford Transit Connect also helps promote the Mrs. Fixxit brand, and Kerrie has added more than 20 new customers since she started driving it. “Your brand really does reflect your image as a business. That’s obvious now, but I really didn’t see that before,” she admits.
With a white paint job, black accents and Mrs. Fixxit’s Rosie-the-Riveter logo on the side, the van is bright and colorful and draws a lot of attention—on the road and on the jobsite. “It has really affected the way our business is perceived,” she says. “We have always had a great reputation for being honest and doing good work, but now there’s an added element of professionalism. It boosts our image of being a well-run business.”
For useful tips on how you can put a Ford Transit to work for your own business, and to learn how other small businesses are putting Ford Transit and Transit Connect Vans to work for them, go to http://www.ford.com/commercial-trucks/transitconnect-commercial/. Plus, find other articles and infographics in this series to help you enhance your business—brought to you by Ford Transit Connect.
* SYNC® is an optional feature. Features/functionality vary by vehicle/model. Driving while distracted can result in loss of vehicle control. Only use SYNC systems/other devices, even with voice commands, when it is safe to do so. Some features may be locked out while the vehicle is in gear. Not all features are compatible with all phones. Message and data rates may apply. Optional Navigation System map updates cannot be received via Wi-fi® and require a separate update.