Local Champions: Laura Ellis of "Organized by Ellis"
Laura Ellis, owner of Organized by Ellis, knows exactly how you should organize that messy home office, closet, garage and more! In fact, she can put together a solid plan for how to organize just about any clutter. What started out as a hobby (and passion), became a thriving business as a professional organizer with a whole host of satisfied customers. Read about how Laura got started, why she loves what she does, and her grand plans for the future.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always loved organizing. It’s something that came naturally to me, and as a bonus, it brings me great joy. I discovered that getting and staying organized is not a skill that everyone possesses. Once I realized that, I set my mind to figuring out how I could help. It started out as a project I did for my friends and family. I was just doing it for fun (yes, for fun!), but soon after, it blossomed into a real business. When I discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), my “just for fun” business really took off.
How long have you been in business?
I was organizing part-time for quite a while, but about four years ago, I made it my full-time business.
Do you have employees? How many?
I’m a solopreneur, but I work with a team of amazing, independent contractors who help my business to meet every kind of organization challenge. It’s most effective to work in teams when you’re tackling a project, so I have a pool of talented people that I utilize regularly.
Can you describe your customers?
My customers come from all walks-of-life, but generally, they fall into two major categories: personal (residential) and professional (small business).
Personal clients tend to call me when they are ready to make a change in their life (or when circumstance has forced it) or if they are feeling overwhelmed with clutter and don’t know how to tackle it. Any change, whether planned or a surprise, welcomed, or unwelcomed, can cause upheaval in a person’s life. Even joyous events like getting married or having a baby can be tumultuous. Getting organized can help bring things back to order. Other common life changes include moving, upsizing, downsizing, redecorating, adult children moving back home, aging parents moving-in, major weight loss, or even a mental shift (getting just plain tired of the clutter). Some clients even ask me to help choose luggage and provide packing tips for their business trips.
In the professional realm, businesses call me to manage paper clutter; create filing systems, workflows and process; and to teach employees new productivity habits.
It doesn’t matter if the client is personal or professional; the common thread is that everyone is looking for solutions to live a better life. I’m here to help make that happen . . . at least where their stuff is concerned.
Where do the majority of them hear about you?
Clients find me through word of mouth referrals, internet search, or on the NAPO website. I live in Los Angeles and I’m vice president of the local NAPO Board. That’s a great endorsement for me because NAPO is the first thing to pop up on an internet search (for clients who find me that way). Of course, my existing client base is one of my greatest resources for gaining new business - a happy client is the best referral source.
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
Clients always comment on my ability to help them stay focused and feel supported. Organizing is a process where it’s easy to feel judged, but I make sure not to let that happen. My specialized training helps; I’m a Certified Professional Organizer (not all organizers are certified). I love education and training: I’m a NAPO Residential and Workplace Productivity Specialist, an Evernote Certified Consultant, and have my certificate in Project Management.
How do you get the word out? What do you do in terms of marketing your business? Online? Offline?
My professional association is my first resource and I’m in a great networking group. It’s really about building connections - building relationships. I also constantly update my website with new information and, of course, I use social media to post and show pictures as often as possible. EVERYONE loves a makeover; people just can’t get enough of the before and after pics!
What are your biggest challenges? Marketing? Business in general?
A big challenge is that many people don’t know all the ways a professional organizer can help them. They are just unaware of all the services we provide. Sometimes I run into people who say, “Wow, I didn’t know there are professionals who can organize me.” There’s also this feeling that people think they “should” know how to do it themselves. Asking for help isn’t easy, so I let clients know that it’s okay to get help and it isn’t something they “should” know how to do. It’s no different from engaging the services of a CPA do to your taxes, a personal trainer to get you in shape, or a hairdresser for a haircut.
How has technology affected how you conduct business?
Technology has had a huge impact on my business. I can take photos, use scanners to reduce paper, employ productivity apps, and research and shop for the right products, and on and on. These days, everyone has a minicomputer in the palm of his or her hand. When bidding on a job, I ask clients to snap a photo of their space and send it to me. That immediate snapshot gives me a great idea of the project and how I can help. During the decluttering process, I suggest that clients take photos of their unwanted memorabilia and extraneous items, before letting them go, and scanning paper documents to save space.
What is the most important piece of advice you could give a new small business owner, just starting out?
Keep it simple and just take it one-step at a time. There’s a lot to do when starting a business and it’s easy to get stuck in the planning part. Yes, planning is important but so is making decisions and moving forward. Taking action, however small, every day creates good momentum and motivation to keep going
Considering the majority of small businesses don’t succeed, what has kept your business afloat? What is your “X factor”?
A strong work ethic and total empathy with my clients. I emphasize to my clients that organizing is a ‘process’ that can be revisited whenever they want. I maintain a commitment to clear the clutter, but do so while trying to see the world through my client’s eyes. I’m completely committed to getting the job done and done well.
What is your biggest goal for the future of the business?
My mission is to help all people everywhere. I am presently working on a plan to spread my work to clients on a national level.
5 FUN FACTS
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A dancer, a nurse, and an artist. I like to have fun, help people, and get creative. I guess by being a Professional Organizer, I found a way to combine all three. Not too shabby.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
Hands down, helping my clients. It’s extremely rewarding. When I leave a client and I see the weight and burden of all that clutter lifted from their faces, wow, it doesn’t get any better.
Whom do you most admire?
My husband. He is the most incredible man. He’s smart, talented, funny, and operates with so much integrity.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Just do it.” It’s a slogan more than a quote, but it gets to the core so simply. I just love the combination of directness and simplicity!
What’s a fun fact about you or your business?
I have my degree in dance. I love to dance, especially after a super successful project. One time, after working with a client on big job, we turned the music up and jumped around! We couldn’t stop laughing.