We had the good fortune of connecting with Lydia Sweetland and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lydia, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Starting my own business seems like a natural progression. I grew up in a military family, moving often and always buying the worst house on the best street. I’ve been renovating houses since I was nine, nearly 50 years ago! That, coupled with my love of helping others, led me to working with friends, family and neighbors to remodel/decorate their homes. Through word of mouth and referrals it just snowballed… luckily I figured out how to translate that into a paying job! Having the background in design and marketing (from hands-on experience and as my chosen educational path) provided the foundation for starting the staging side of my business. I have been doing this for over 25 years now – crazy, considering it took nearly 20 years for it to become part of our daily vernacular. Turning a “home” into a “product” is something I love doing for Sellers. There’s a method to this madness that has a proven success rate, and it’s highly rewarding to know that I played a role in helping people achieve their goals. Many of my Staging Clients have evolved into Design Clients by osmosis.
What should our readers know about your business?
Although I’ve been designing/remodeling/staging homes for 25+ years I didn’t officially start my company, ThinkSpace Design and Home Staging, until after I turned 50! Most of the career choices I made in life were centered around creative thinking and/or problem solving and in some way always focused on helping someone else. My skill-set was honed from a vast variety of professional international work experiences; marketing, aviation consulting, sales, supply-chain management, administration, etc. I’m also a Six Sigma Blackbelt and worked on rock-and-roll concert tours! As I got older, and amassed more experience, I realized it was getting harder and harder to find a truly rewarding career. Sadly it’s hard to land a great job, in America, when you’re of a “certain age” and I found myself bouncing around different work environments in a role of establishing better work practices only to be “laid off” so someone younger (read “cheaper to hire and keep”) could replace me. I started taking any jobs I could get in order to keep going but soon realized I was missing the “creative” and “helping others” components that made me happy. Starting ThinkSpace was terrifying. I didn’t know where to start, how to market myself, how to actually keep it going, and how to sustain myself financially while I was trying to sort it all out. Fortunately I’m a people person. Going out and telling others about what I do, how I do it, what sets me apart, etc. started to come easily after some trial and error. It’s been seven years since I’ve been on my own and I love it! I am blessed and truly grateful for all the opportunities that come my way. Investing in myself, from a believing in myself standpoint more than a financial one, has absolutely paid off. In my core it’s all about being true to myself and living by a code; integrity, reliability, honesty, transparency, patience, humour, kindness, gratitude and so on. There is a lot of competition out there. There are companies that are less expensive, have financial support, have teams doing all the “heavy lifting”, have marketing companies, hire people to manage their social media, have investors backing them, etc. I don’t. I’m a sole operator. I’ve learned what works and doesn’t, from my own experience and by watching and listening to my peers, my vendors, my colleagues. It’s always hard to find the right recipe for success (and harder to define what success actually means!). I’m fortunate (blessed) that my business is thriving without the ingredients I just mentioned. I work completely by referrals and word of mouth and I have the best client/partner/friends anyone could ever ask for! People are always asking what the next step is. I’m not sure but I do know I have no ambition to stop doing what I do. And I have lots of ideas for bigger things… but we’ll see!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Arizona has so much to offer that I would hate to limit my week-long trip to just Phoenix! Of course we have some of the best restaurants right in CenPho (my stomping grounds); Restaurant Progress and Persepshen representing smaller, phenomenal gems and anything Upward Projects or Chris Bianco for broader, local recognition. I’m more for supporting local than anything chain driven and we have great one-off bars and retailers here – there’s actually something for everyone! And since we are a “resort town” we have some of the best Spas (Sanctuary is my favorite), and hiking trails in the country. We also have some lovely city parks and a great canal system for exploring. But my favorite thing to do with visitors is get in the car and drive! Sedona, Jerome, Flagstaff, Williams, Prescott, Bisbee, Patagonia, Sonoita, Tucson… The Grand Canyon! There’s so much to explore in this great state of ours!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A huge shoutout to my Mom, who taught me everything I know. She was born in Germany in 1940, so had to learn to make something out of nothing until adulthood. She’s incredibly talented and has a wonderful, natural eye for composition and color – a trait I’m so grateful to have inherited. My Mom is the person who continually rearranges everything in her home on a regular basis… it keeps my Dad and me on our toes, lol!
Facebook: ThinkSpace Design and Home Staging