Life is a roller coaster, something I didn't recognize until I was laid off by IBM weeks shy of retirement eligibility. This taught me I couldn't trust large corporations so I abandoned my technology career and started a handyman business. Here's my story and how I became a home expert, using my experience owning 15 houses and serving 2,000+ homeowners.
Career Aspirations as a Child
I'm proud to be a boomer with years of life experience. I've raised two sons and now enjoy time with my granddaughter in Florida. Born in New York City, my family moved to the suburbs when I was in 6th grade.
My dream was to be a teacher and I've taught all my life … in unconventional ways:
- Taught neighborhood kids during summer vacations.
- Loved the kids when student teaching but … too many rule!
- As an IBM manager, always teaching people how to do things better.
- At Home Tips for Women, teaching women how their homes work.
- With the coronavirus, now home schooling an 11 year old girl.
From Suits to Sweatshirts!
Instead of teaching, I went on to get a Masters in Computer Science from RPI. Next stop was IBM where I worked in product development, systems integration, consulting and so much more. One of my favorite projects was developing a Netflix like solution in 1994, in partnership with Hong Kong Telecom. It was challenging as today's industry standards like MPEG compression didn't exist yet.
Sadly I became a corporate casualty because of my age (over 50). IBM decided to retire me early and keep half my pension, to fund the new executive pension plan. Not only were my financial losses huge, I also lost my network and friends I'd worked with for more than 20 years. Little did any of us realize this was the beginning of the decimation of America's middle class … today more obvious to the world.
Building My Handyman Business
Tired of living on airplanes, I started a handyman business in southern New Hampshire. Over eight years, my team helped more than 2,000 homeowners. Talking to women on the phone helped me understand their challenges managing their homes. So I started writing articles to explain the most common problems.
Over the years I expanded the topics included on Home Tips for Women. After all, there aren't too many people who've owned 15 houses in 5 states, so I have a lot of experience to share. Yes, I've written about 80% of the articles here and welcome contributors who have expertise in real estate, home building and remodeling plus handyman topics.
Moving into a new industry meant a steep learning curve which I looked forward to. What I never realized was how challenging running a small business can be, including marketing and sales.
Life as an Entrepreneur
Here's a peek inside my world as a business owner, which includes most contractors who work as solopreneurs. Homeowners might get angry when their calls aren't answered promptly, but most contractors work during the day and handle paperwork and return calls at night – it's a tough life.
- Creating your work environment – at home, an office or setting up your business on wheels like most contractors who work out of their van.
- Picking a niche and learning you want … and need. Then finding effective ways to deliver this information.
- Marketing to attract you – which is more challenging online because Google, Facebook and other major players keep changing the rules.
- Building a team to help me deliver solutions as there aren't enough hours in the day to do it all.
Life as an entrepreneur isn't as easy as people think. There have been many surprises along the way but the thing that has surprised me the most, is businesses continually evolve. So here's my journey to date:
- Running a handyman business is operationally intense. That's why I sold this business after 8 years.
- Building marketing solutions for builders, remodelers and contractors was the next step. Sadly they don't understand, appreciate or want to pay for services.
- Focusing on homeowner education, especially for women who want to understand more than the guys who will bluff their way through anything.