And So It Begins...

Ladies who Build. Hang out with the owners of Simply Home - Ashley and Michelle - both renovation experts from Austin, Texas! With a decade of experience, we will discuss all of the things we have learned over the years. We invite you on our journey as we continuously learn how to be extraordinary and thrive in this industry. Now, let's chat!

In this episode, we are going back to the very beginning about how Ashley & Michelle got started in the home remodeling industry! We're inviting all current & future business owners, women in the construction industry, designers, and anyone else that would like to hear about our journey.

This Episode Will Cover: 

• The Vision: How Ashley came up with her concept for her business, planned and started her business
• Partnership: How Ashley & Michelle met and became business partners
• The Industry: How Ashley & Michelle learned the construction industry
• Processes & Systems: How Ashley & Michelle created the processes & systems in their business
• Entrepreneurship: All of the hats that Ashley & Michelle had to wear as as new business owners
• Background: About Simply Sold and the rebrand to Simply Home

Learn More About Ashley, Michelle, & Simply Home: 
• About Ashley & Michelle:
• Website:
• Podcast:
• Instagram: @simplyhomeaustin
• Facebook: @simplyhomeaustin
Episode Transcript

This is The Simply Home Podcast, Ladies Who Build, a podcast for women by women. This is Ashley Wainscott and Michelle Mullins. After spending the last 10 years revolutionizing the construction industry and raising the bar at the contracting world, we are inviting you on our journey as we continuously learn how to be extraordinary and thrive in this industry. Now come hang with us. We're kicking off our first episode. We're talking about how we got started, how and why we're here in our background. And there's so much to say, but so little time. Yes.

I can't wait. This is so exciting. Here we go. So why don't you start by going back to 2013 and take us down the journey of why you started at the time Simply Sold.

Mm-hmm. Now, Simply Home, and then why you started it, and what was the need for this company back in the day.

Oh yeah, so good. Let's walk down memory lane together. Back in 2013, I had discussed this idea with a realtor, and you know this story, so this is funny telling you. No, I love it.It's funny. Tell me, I've never heard it.It's funny telling you this. So I was talking with a realtor and my mom was listing at her house, and you remember, and we had this idea where a make ready company existed and it solved the needs of every homeowner out there where it was. A one stop shop concierge service. And the point of this was that it would take everything a homeowner needed to do before they listed their helm. And we would put that together. Like we would orchestrate everything. We would be the project managers, we would deal with the hiring of contractors, managing of contractors. We would deal with getting it all done as quickly as possible because we now make ready our boom boom, boom. You gotta move. And Shaun, I, that's our love language.

We, you know. That's us. Yeah. We speak, we speak that language. Yeah. Speed. We speak speed. I dunno if that's a language, but if it was, it would be three x on your podcast, Uhhuh. That is how we operate. Yeah. So anyways, we discussed this idea. I was in the event industry, thought that was my dream job. I thought I'd be JLo and the wedding planner.

Mm-hmm. A headpiece. And that actually wasn't fulfilling for me. So when this idea came about, I decided to stop everything I was doing and pursue this idea. I spent a summer working with this one realtor and all of his clients. So when we figured out that it could be a real business, what I had to do from there was an uphill battle, and it was more than, okay, this is a fun trial period.

Now. It was a serious business, and although I had gotten into green entrepreneurship, this was very different, right? This was real life. And we all know moving from something, from a book to reality, it's just not the same. And studying something is just, it's not the same. So taking steps to figure out how I was going to do that was the next uphill battle.

Okay. But I also want to stop and applaud you because there are so many ideas that we have that. Like 90% of them don't get acted upon, and I think it's really admirable that you had this idea, you saw a need for it, and instead of just saying, I wish that existed, you literally stopped what you were doing, tested it to see if it was even a market, and then realized it was.

But even if it had not been a market failed, you could always go back to your job or you could always find another job. Like it wasn't the end all, be all of this company at that time. And so I just love that you just did it and you still do that to this day. Like you just jump in. Yes. So, yeah, that's pretty amazing.

Thank you. Yeah. One of my favorite slogans is the Nike, "Just do it" slogan. I live it through and through. If you think too much, you're never gonna do something. Right. And now in the company, we tell employees all about, we talk about courageous action. Right. And that's a much more beautiful way of saying, "Just do it."Yeah. I mean, we think about it, we plan it. This is like this podcast. We plan it, we talk about it, and now we just have to do it. Yeah. Right. I don't know how many times we left before we started this episode. Just trying to kick it off. Yeah. But now that we're in it, it's happening. We'll figure it out.

Yeah. And we'll work through these hiccups and failures along the way.

Yeah. What do you think back then, before we met even, but like during that time as well, but like when you first started, did you even have a goal or a vision of what you wanted the company to be, or were you just kind of like, just do whatever it takes and we'll just see where it goes?

Yes. To be honest, there was no vision. There really wasn't. Yeah. My vision was moving through the day-to-day and to try and just get through the day. Right. I was living so much in the now, in the present and I actually had read a book about living in the now, and it really inspired me to focus on the moment, and I think we'll get into this later, but I think things, when you're planning out of business at this stage, living in the moment is a great thing.It's really useful. Living in the past is not helpful. But also living in the future was something that we really had to work on and we still work on living in the vision, in creating and imagining what could be, right, that creativity piece. But I was so focused on how am I just gonna get through today, right?

Because there was so much that I needed to learn and so much that I needed to do, and starting that off meant. Okay, I need to shadow vendors. I need to follow them around like their little minion and ask them, why are you doing that? What does that mean? What material is that? Why are you using that material?I mean, 21 questions doesn't even begin because you didn't have any construction background. None going into whatsoever. So you had to teach yourself.

Yes. And so, although I had a lot of project management experience, which is great because you're gonna find, and everyone. Might know this, but in the construction industry, right?

Project management, it's called project management, but the customer service and the management that's in the industry, and that has traditionally been the industry. That's not what it is. And other industries call it that. But the efficiency, the processes, the systems are really what's missing in the construction industry.

So I took this need and listened to clients. I really listen to them. I'm like, what worked in this process? What didn't work? What did you enjoy? Right? You go back to the people that are your clients and you're asking them, they're gonna give you all the answers. You don't have to go back and think about it all day and night.

They're gonna tell you. Yeah. Right. And we continuously use that today over and over again of. What worked? What didn't work? What did you see that could have been better. If something did work, how can we apply that to all areas of the organization? So that being said, I kind of went off on a tangent, but that being said, you know, I was shadowing.I had to figure out, you know, you dialed back into how to create a business, right? You work on the LLC. What are the tax implications of that? What things do you need to get set up through? You know, in our case, TWC in Texas, but unemployment, how are you gonna manage taxes? You have all of those pieces.

And then you also have the financial bookkeeping side. You have the marketing side, which. Let me go back and say I never did my own books. I learned about how to do my own books, but I never did my own books because I really utilized my resources and the people around me to help me understand how to best utilize my strengths, which was not doing the books.

Nobody needs me doing the books.No. But okay. So then did you just teach yourself how to create an LLC? How to file taxes for a business? Or did you pull under resources? Like how did you learn? Yeah, mentorship. Okay. Mentorship. I mean, and thank goodness we are a generation that has Google, right?

That helped a ton. But mentorship was huge. And to be honest, there are more res resources now for small businesses. Yes. And entrepreneurs. There's a lot more, but there still is this gap where you're starting off and you're trying to figure out, what do I need? Does that even apply to me? Right. And that's what more, where the mentorship comes into play, because you can have a list of a hundred resources and not know what's applicable.

Right. Creating a contract, working with legal and lawyers to figure out. What you need covered from clients to vendors, to employees, right? Mm-hmm. Not being in the legal world, you wouldn't know that it's, it's all these specialists that you really have to focus in on and allow them to come into your business, collaborate, invite them in to do what they do really well.

Right? All of that, of course, takes money. Mm-hmm. Which is why I worked my tail off. To do what I did really well so that other people could do what they did really well. Mm-hmm. Like imagine me writing an agreement, like,. no. I mean, I probably would've just taken a sample from online, but that doesn't cover you.

No, I think so. So as you grow and you get better with your finances and then you can know what you can afford. Right. Okay. That makes sense. So in the beginning it's just you, did you have any partners as you started? And who helped you along the way before you hired me? Most importantly, enough of that looks good to me.

Yeah, it's so wrap box. So I did have a college helping me initially that was very, very useful to have another set of eyes on things. They were hands on deck when we were in tough spots. Contractors left us hanging. We said we would deliver on something and all of a sudden I was a landscaper. Mm-hmm. Or I was the cleaner. Yep. Or I was partial handy woman. Mm-hmm. And you end up, when you're starting your business, it makes me laugh and it cracks me up when people say, I'm gonna start my own business because I want more freedom. Mm-hmm. I hear that. And there is some freedom to a degree, but absolutely not in the beginning. No, it's super hard work in what you have to do to get there and. There might be some industries where that can happen, where maybe you're consulting and you're starting your own business, but really you have to be in a very experienced position to even be there. Yeah. And I think your passion has to be stronger than your... I guess like your one, like let's say I do want a company that I don't have to necessarily think about and it's kind of just building itself, but rarely does that happen.

I think that the passion you have for the company and the vision you have has to exceed everything else because in the moment of the trenches and where it's super hard and you're upset and it's just like too much, you have to remember your why. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Which gets you, it's literally what gets you through.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, it does. Yeah. When I think about us scrubbing, houses. Well, I just can't tell you how many Saturdays we spent with like rubber gloves.

Right? I mean, there's so many hats that you have to wear. And the thing is, is when you start your own business, you will always be the salesperson because Yeah.

You know it. Yeah. You sell it. You're the only person there for the time being. Right? So whether or not you want to be a salesperson, you are. And I would never have called myself a salesperson. Mm-hmm. But here we are. Mm-hmm. Right? And it's true. It's the passion and the why. And everything else that makes the difference of how easy it is to sell.I don't know that we're ever selling Simply Home, but to sell the business. Right, right. Well, we always. And back in the day it was, we were not selling, we were basically giving a resource for a tool. Like we always say, like, we are a tool in your tool belt. And so it's more of a service that would totally benefit the client at the time was our client or realtors and then realtors would use us with their clients.And so we, we truly believed that this was a service that could actually help clients in this moment of them trying to list their house. Mm-hmm. So it never felt salesy. It never felt like I'm selling you this thing you don't need. It's like, no, you literally need us. And back in the beginning, those people got a deal.

Oh, we didn't know how we were pricing. Right. We didn't know how we were pricing things. We didn't know what we were doing. But yes, it's the, that's what motivates is the mm-hmm. That we were helping people and I mean, fake it till you make it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I made a lot of promises. We made a lot of promises, and we somehow made it happen.

Mm-hmm. Right. True. Something up top is looking out for us. But that resilience and that perseverance got us there. And you know, still talking about, back in the beginning, we, we did a ton of networking, right? So much networking because this Make Ready company 10 years ago in 2013 was a new idea and a new concept that wasn't really heard of at the time. You had, we had this problem of like breaking the glass ceiling for make-ready companies, right? We had to, we had to educate. We did, we didn't just have to sell the service. We had to sell the whole concept of this company and why people needed to pay. More for it.

Mm-hmm. Right? Because they could go out and hire the 10 people it takes to do that. Mm-hmm. But obviously there's that niche market in which there are clients that think it's worthwhile paying for that. Right? They know that their time is better spent elsewhere, and they know that we're professionals and specialists that know what we're doing because we do it every day.

So we were building this company, this mission and vision all around how to help people. With the make ready problem that they had. Mm-hmm. I wanna list my home now. What, so go back to when you made your first hire. So you had your business partner at the time help you with the company, and then when did you decide, okay, this is gonna be legitimate, I'm gonna take this further and to put an ad out.

When, when I first met you mm-hmm. Was essentially your first like official hire. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. What. Was that trigger point for you?

Yeah. That's so interesting. Well, and my friend that was helping me out initially was more part-time here and there. Right. It was just more like as needed. And actually all of my friends from college were helping me at networking events.

Wow. So nice and things. Yeah. And they, they are spec. Remember specifically going to a realtor conference and we were all dressed up like we all worked for Simply Sold, right? When really, I was the only one that worked for Simply Sold. But yeah, those are friends. Those are good friends. And I had realized though, that it was actually impossible for me to do everything that I needed to do.And we were profitable in the first year. And so knowing that I was getting mentored and getting advice, but I was able to confidently say, I can make a hire now, and I, of course was very willing to not get paid much so that I could have a hire, right? Mm-hmm. I just needed to get paid enough. Mm-hmm. And, and then you entered the scene.

So then I come in and what, so it was such an interesting time when you were hiring. It was right when I had graduated college and I. Was working in a restaurant and I was wanting so badly to be in the real estate industry and I wanted to be a realtor. I feel like I, my family knew a lot of people in town, so I thought, you know, let's do this.And my mom had a friend that was in the industry and they had come into lunch one day at the restaurant and I had mentioned, if you know anybody looking to hire a realtor assistant or anybody that can, I can work in their office. Like I just want to be breathing real estate knowledge. And she said, well, I met this cute girl. She's about your age and I met her at this networking event and I know she's in real estate, but I honestly have no idea what her company is or what she does. I just thought she was cute and I got her card. And so she said, why don't you reach out to her and just see how it goes. So I remember looking up your website and I was like, I don't know what this is because it was so new and you, right, like back in the day, we had to educate people what the company was, and I actually specifically my mom, like looking over my shoulder at the computer and she's like, Mm-hmm.

Okay. Like we were trying to understand what a make ready company was, and so I was like, well, let me just meet her and find out. And so we met at a coffee shop and I met one of the other owners of the company and we hit it off. And then I met you and we, I, it was just, it was so easy. Mm-hmm. And I think so many people say like, when you know, you know, and I had no doubts that, okay, I'm going to work for her. I honestly didn't really care when I was getting paid because I just wanted to be in this industry. Yeah. So I thought, well, let me try this experience and you know, and then I'll get my real estate license and at least I'll have this knowledge under my belt to go and be better at real estate.

And that was 10 years ago. And it's so funny. Looking back is now I would not go back and get my license. But it was almost the minute I stepped into your company, your vision and your passion, like whatever vision that was at that time. Like you probably didn't even have one, but you just had a vision of entrepreneurship.

Mm-hmm. And that was so attractive to me where I thought, I just love what she's creating. I loved your confidence, and I know we would talk about things that would make you nervous, or if we had a presentation and you would just would do it, you would go, you would like stand in the awkwardness and then you'd push through it. And I, I just hadn't seen that before. And so I just thought that that was really admirable and I thought, well, I want whatever she has, give me whatever she's drinking and I wanna do that with you.Give me some of that juice. Yeah. You were drinking juice. You drank juice. The koolaid. Oh, totally. Drink it.Sold, yeah. And we were working out of your home office and that was really fun. So I think what was so different then versus now is, back then you, you say yes to anything and everything. Mm-hmm. And meaning like if a client calls and needs landscaping work, but we weren't landscapers, we would do it. Right.

We'd take it on and we'd source it and we'd figure it out. Or if they needed like a staging company, we would come in. And help them. Like we personally wouldn't, but we would hire people that could, if they needed a storage company, if they needed a power washer. So we started including all of these services in our make ready packages.

And then it was like people wanted to meet on like Sunday afternoon at two and we'd be like, absolutely, we'll be there, girl. And now we would never, no, we never, we had no life. No life. We have no life. No life. When we were losers. Yeah. But we had each other, where were we, daddy? We had each other. We're like, this is fun.That's why we've coined the term work wife. Yeah. We just like didn't care or somebody else has, but were each other's work lives. Yeah. And like we just like didn't care what time of day it was. We could be like at a party and I'm like, I'm heading over, we're going that walkthrough. Right. I'm like, what?

Yes. It was just all in. Yeah, we were, we were all in. I mean, it didn't matter what it was. No, it did not. We, we were absolutely yes. We'll be there right away. Yes. You know, cuz it was business. Yes. Growing and... But that's actually how we did the name change in the rebrand a few years ago was because we said yes to a lot of things, right?

Yeah. And what we realized is clients were taking us over to their new homes after selling their current home, and then they would say, okay, I have this list of all these things we wanna do. And then we started actually just remodeling, right? And we realized that that was actually a piece or an element of something that we wanted to be doing.

And the market took an interesting shift about, you know, four or five years and well, I guess might be three, four years into the business. The market. Yeah. Because so many more people were buying in Austin. And then they would call us to say like, and you're right, I think it was clients would use this house they were gonna sell.

Mm-hmm. And then they'd say, oh, I just moved in and I really wanna repaint all my walls. Mm-hmm. Okay. Well we can do that. We've got painters. So it started out with. Let's just do what we know. And then slowly it was like, okay, we don't know how to do that yet, so let's research it and then add it on. A lot of research.

Yeah, a lot of research, but a lot of yeses. And I think what was to get us where we are now is all of those yeses that we said we would take on or do is what led us to what we now stand so firmly in who we are. Mm-hmm. So it's not necessarily what we say no to now, it's more just about. We're so grounded in who we are and what we stand for, and what we want to be seen as in the community.

So all of that had to happen for us to know what we wanted here.

Yes. I think that, I think it nestled us into a nice spot mm-hmm. For us to say yes and explore. And then now we're yes. Ands. Oh yeah, we're, yes. And I mean, which is basically no, just a different kind of, no. Yes. It's like, yes. And I won't be doing that.Yes and no. It's a no for me. Yes, we still get calls about staging and make ready's. We still do make ready's, but staging that we absolutely haven't done in six to seven years. Yeah. But we still get calls on it. So yes. A lot has changed. Right, right. And when we talk about what was fun versus challenging, it's funny because I would never take back the route in which we went. Mm-hmm. But the one thing I think of over and over again, without a doubt, I would get a business coach. Mm-hmm. Much earlier on in the game, we were winging it for so long, and it's actually a miracle that we still had a business.

Mm-hmm.Right. Truly binging it.Yes. And it's out. It was outs. I mean, I don't know if the word's outstanding, but it was, it was so outlandish to me that we got through for as long as we did. Uhhuh. So as we conclude this first episode, why don't you go into just a brief recap of why, like, why is this so important to, in this business. We've morphed this business over the years. But we still feel so strongly about the mission. Mm-hmm. And why it's created. If you can explain why that's so important to continue that.

Mm-hmm. I think as we've grown and we've focused on our mission and vision, it's been so apparent to us through the years that the piece of making sure women feel heard and comfortable in their own space in giving. I don't wanna say giving them a voice, just giving them the platform to use their voice has been something that we found to be really important in all of the processes and in everything that we do. Right. And it's not to say that other businesses don't do that, we just focus on it. And we found it to be so important because we are woman owned.We are woman run. We have a small percentage of men in the business and they're amazing, wonderful men that can work alongside. Amazing, very opinionated. You're pretty, a strong man. Powerful to work. And a woman. Yeah. Group of women with a men opinions. So yeah, you have to be, yeah. It's very few men. But they are also on the mission of like empowering women in the industry too.

They are, yeah. And they believe in the mission, which honestly is not just about women. It's about. Wellness and creating a really balanced space for people where they can feel like they can be their best, but through the remodeling process, they can feel their best. Right. We know the remodeling process is tough.

Mm-hmm. Challenging. It doesn't even begin to describe the inconvenience and the mental load that you feel during a remodel, but we feel that we can take some of that weight away and the why just has so much to do with how we care about people. Mm-hmm. Right. And the what we want them to feel throughout our process and the experience we want them to have, the expectations that we set, the communication we give, it's all around the people that we care about.

Mm-hmm. And we want them to get a really great remodel. Yeah. But also having a really amazing experience, which was unheard of and it, and is still uncommon. I know there are some great remodelers out there also moving towards this mission, but we really incorporate the wellness aspect of it, right? Yeah. And being extraordinary within our industry, but also with clients and with our coworkers.

Yeah. We're like the construction counselors. We're just not licensed. But listen to everything we have to say, you know, we're not, we'll be here every step of the way. We're not licensed, but just trust us. We know.Yeah. Just trust us. Yeah, so I'm so excited because next episode we're gonna be talking about the stages of growth. Yeah. Building a business and building a business. Mm-hmm. And all of the kind of pivotal moments we had. It's gonna be so fun because there's so many interesting little nuggets. A lot of nuggets.

It's like Chick-fil-A.Thanks for listening. Subscribe and follow us so we can share our journey with other like-minded women. You can visit our show notes for affiliate links, transcript, and other resources on our podcast page. And if you wanna see our stunning remodels, give us a follow on Instagram @SimplyHomeAustin.See you next time. Bye y'all.