For today’s organizer interview, I’m thrilled to feature Anne Blumer of SolutionsForYou, Inc. from Portland, Oregon. With more than 15 years of industry experience, she’s got a wealth of experience to share!
Anne has been reading Your Organizing Business since its launch in 2009 and is a Professional Organizers Blog Carnival Star Blogger. I’ve got to know her quite well over the past year, while designing new sites for her two businesses. More on that later!
Anne, how did you come up with your business name?
I would not have started a professional organizing business if it were not for my husband, Stefan.
It was New Year’s Eve 2002, and we were sitting at home by a warm fire, watching the snow fall. Stefan turned to me and said, “I want to start a consulting business, and I want to do it tonight!”
My response was, “Can’t we just drink wine and sit by the fire like everyone else who doesn’t go out on New Year’s Eve?”What's the most unusual way you've ever spent New Year's Eve? Anne Blumer can probably top that!Click To Tweet
Stefan said, “You drink. I’m starting a business. And you will be able to do your organizing thing under it too.” And by golly he did! He downloaded the state of Oregon’s Small Business Guide, and by January 17, 2003, we were incorporated. Keep in mind, Stefan is Swiss!
We named the company SolutionsForYou, Inc. In retrospect, that was the first significant mistake we made. Generically, it works for both of our services because it doesn’t say specifically what solutions we provide. But from a marketing standpoint, it is not specific enough because it doesn’t have the word organize or organizing in it. If we were to do it over, I would have formed Blumer Enterprises as the corporation and registered separate DBAs (doing business as) with specific names for our services. From a marketing perspective, your business name needs to say specifically what you do to be searchable on the internet. To remedy this error, I added my tagline “providing effortless solutions to organizing” for web searchability and other marketing needs.
What’s your specialty?
We don’t limit who we help, but we do specialize. Our professional organizers come equipped with certifications, resources, and continuing education in ADHD, Senior Move Management, Small Business Productivity, and individuals and families who are chronically disorganized.
Do you offer any products or services for other organizers?
I offer training and education for new professional organizing business owners through our Institute for Professional Organizers, including the Fast Track Method Training Program for Professional Organizers.
What other services or products do you offer?
I contributed a chapter to Get Organized Today, a book to help readers plan, execute and maintain order in their work, life, and relationships.
What professional associations or other organizations do you belong to?
NAPO, NAPO Oregon, NASMM, ICD, Women in Networking (WIN), and Chamber of Commerce.
How has your business changed since you first started out?
In 2003, when I started working as a professional organizer, my clients were moms with young children, much like myself. I helped them set up household systems and routines and organize their physical space. At that time, I knew I didn’t want to work with seniors because I didn’t think I could relate to where they were in life and how to help them.
As my business grew, my clients were shifting to solopreneurs, much like myself. I helped them get their business operations and workspaces organized.
Later, as my children left and went to college and I became an empty nester, those were the clients I attracted. I helped them right-size their home now that their children had moved out. I also helped them with those organizing projects they had put off doing “until they had time,” such as organizing photographs and other memorabilia.
Well, now that I am in my senior years, I understand where seniors are in their lives, and I want to learn more about how to help them either age in place or with moving and transitioning to a senior community.
In 2017, I joined the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) for education and to strengthen my skills in working with the senior population.
Recognize that as you mature and age, your ideal client might mature and age too.
In the beginning, I was far from mastering the business of organizing. I have learned and grown from my experiences, and with my business comprising fourteen distinct streams of revenue, I feel I have mastered the business of organizing. That’s not to say there isn’t anything left for me to learn; there is always more to learn!
At what moment did you consider yourself successful?
I think I considered myself successful when I was invited to not only speak at an international conference but to be the keynote speaker.
What would you do differently if you were starting your business today?
A lot! I wrote a great deal about what I would do differently in my book Mastering the Business of Organizing. I wrote this book to share my journey and my knowledge so others entering this industry might avoid the growing pains I experienced.
How do you approach a new organizing project?
The approach I take working with clients is to reduce the anxiety and overwhelm caused by their disorganized environment, build a trustworthy relationship, and to have fun in the process. I also have a trademarked organizing approach, The Five Steps to Organizing®, and that is how I approach all of my organizing projects. You can get an overview of it on my website.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about running an organizing business?
How much I love marketing my business.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face in your business?
The physical work of organizing. This work demands you stay in shape to be physically active for 4-8 hours in a stretch.
What’s your favorite organizing product? Why?
Right now, my favorite organizing product is the multi-purpose bin because as its name implies it is multi-functional. It can be used in pantries to separate and uniformly contain food, under sinks to contain cleaning products or bathroom toiletries, in a freezer drawer to separate and uniformly contain food, on a desktop to store file folders, in a garage to separate and uniformly contain lightbulbs, batteries, electrical cords, tools, etc. There is no end to the use for these containers and they are reasonably priced!
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
What else should we know about you?
On a business note, I think what I have enjoyed the most about my career as a Certified Professional Organizer is all of the different people I have met and lives I have made a positive impact on that I otherwise would not have if I had stayed working in corporate America.
On a personal note, my family is globally diverse from four different continents. I am a Portland, Oregon native, my husband is originally from Switzerland, my two adult children are adopted from South Korea, and our dog is an Australian Shepherd.
Anne, thank you very much for telling us about your organizing business!
Now that you’ve learned a bit about Anne, I’d like to tell you about her recent website projects.
Anne’s husband Stefan, her Chief Technology & Operations Manager since Day 1, had created websites for both SolutionsForYou, Inc. and the Institute for Professional Organizers, but with changes to technology and design trends, the sites had become dated.
They wanted to take advantage of the power of WordPress, but Stefan didn’t have the time or desire to learn a new platform. They came to me due to my WordPress experience and my unique understanding of the organizing industry.
We started by talking about Anne’s visions and goals for her new websites.
Since I would be recreating the two existing websites from scratch, I reviewed them for potential improvements in terms of structure and functionality. When I learned that the process for managing Anne’s online courses for professional organizers was fairly labor-intensive, I recommended a WordPress Membership Plugin to streamline the process, both for students and for Anne and Stefan.
I started with the smaller of the two sites in order to lay a groundwork for the larger one. We met on Zoom several times over the course of the project in addition to regular email communication. Anne and Stefan were amazing to work with!
Both websites now sport a fresh, uncluttered, modern design and are easy for potential clients and students to navigate. Click on the screenshots to check them out for yourself!
The Institute for Professional Organizers is now fully automated, so when you purchase a course or a set of business forms, you can access your materials immediately. All Anne needs to do is keep the schedule updated for the live seminars! Here’s what she said:
“I love our new website! It is beautiful and reflects us perfectly! You are an expert at what you do and you made the process feel seamless. I’m excited that I can make changes on my own.”
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