Mompreneur Lisa Kroese Launches Expert Estates LLC and now trains others to achieve the same success as an estate liquidator
Welcome to Mompreneur Media tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 42 year old mom and wife with two girls ages 4 and 1, we have another baby girl on the way due this summer. We moved to California from the east coast. Immediately before we moved here, I had been working in politics. That was not what my background was, I just fell into it. I had volunteered for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand when I lived in upstate New York. She was running for Congress during the 2006 election. When she won, she offered me a job and I accepted it. Even though that wasn’t what I had planned to do with my life, I really wanted her to excel in her first term in office and I felt that I could be helpful to her.
Before that, I was a personal property appraiser. I had learned how to appraise art and antiques at one of my first jobs out of college working for an auction house. I always knew I would be a good estate seller. I thought “one day maybe” I would do that.
When we moved to California, I was pregnant with my first daughter and I was planning to stay at home with her. After a cross country move to a completely new area where I had no family or friends – when the baby was about 4 months old, I wanted something else to fill my calendar. I opened Expert Estates and had my first two estate sales booked in no time. My business plan called for holding about 1 sale per month, which I thought was optimistic since I had no contacts or connections. But in our first year we did 13 sales, and now we often have 8 weeks in a row with a sale. Now, I am expanding my services to also help other estate liquidators and mompreneurs with coaching and other business services.
Where did the inspiration for Expert Estates come from?
I always loved art, I also enjoy researching heirlooms and objects. Moving from Pennsylvania to California was a key event that led to starting my business when I did. When we arrived here, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my first daughter and I knew nobody here at all. We found a house and settled in. When our movers delivered our furniture, I had a realization of how foolish we had been. We spent thousands of dollars moving our things, many of which were broken by what we thought were professional movers, and a lot of the rest was going to have to be sold anyway because it just didn’t fit with the new house we had chosen. Who knew? I thought that it would have been best to have just sold all of our stuff in Pennsylvania. With the money we made from the sale, and with what we saved from hiring movers, we could have furnished our home and saved lots of stress. That’s what really got me thinking about becoming an estate liquidator and launching Expert Estates.
What kind of approximate start-up costs were involved in getting Expert Estates from concept to launch mode?
I started on a lean budget with money I loaned my business. The smaller your start up loan is, the faster you can repay it and the less risk you take on when you open. You could start an estate sale sale business with between $2,000 and $6,000 depending on what things you currently have on hand. You need a computer. I recommend an affordable website to start out, and setting up a good contract package. At EstateFusion.com you can get my templates for all the contracts and employment agreements you need. When I started I would have loved a source for all of those materials. We have a business plan, branding worksheet, and employee handbook sample too. After that I recommend meeting with a business attorney in your area to make sure you are in compliance with all of your local and state laws. Some states require that you collect sales tax at estate sales and some don’t for example. One of my biggest expenses was my insurance and bonding. A three year $10,000 bond was under $400 and I found my first insurance policy for around $600 per year.
Who is your Expert Estates for and how does it benefit them?
According to a NY Times article on the estate sale industry that came out in March, there may be over 14,000 estate sale businesses nationwide. I know one of the liquidation franchises has over 150 branches. I think franchises are great for some people, but some of us would not do well if we could not build our own personal brand and set up our own systems and manage things with our unique style. If you fit into that category and you are thinking of getting into this business, I would love to talk to you!
As an estate sale consultant, my service helps other people who are starting out in the industry, and also people who have an estate sale business but might not be as profitable as they would like. A lot of people get into the industry because they like helping families in transition and sometimes they lose sight of their own bottom line in their quest to help. This is a great industry and there are many different types of both appraisers and liquidators out there. There can be lots of competition. And often people just see us on sale day and don’t realize how much work is involved in turning a home over for an estate sale. But there are many families in need of our services – whether they are moving, downsizing or dealing with the loss or illness of a loved one. I can help new liquidators define what will make your services stand out from the competition. Having a coach is a great asset. Whatever you do if you are starting, don’t go to work for a competitor and t hen open a competing business, that’s a common idea that people have but is very frowned upon. Often the liquidators in an area all know one another and even refer jobs to each other. I sometimes am too busy to fit someone into our schedule or the sale maybe a little small – so if you are starting out and are willing to take on little jobs or jobs on a fast turn around, introduce yourself to your competition. The industry can be tough on “newbies” some might give you the cold shoulder, but you might get your first job from an established liquidator who is happy just to have given a referral.
Please provide one business tip that you feel can really help a mom entrepreneur with her business.
Setting boundaries is so important so you can maintain your work life balance. Clients will ask for a lot of small business owners. When I first started, I tended to try to say “Yes, I can do that” all the time no matter the request. But now when I meet with a family about a sale, when they ask me to do something that isn’t standard in the course of our work – I say, “Yes, we can do that, but it requires that we hire an additional staff person for your job. So the cost for it will be X. Would you like us to add that in to your contract?” Usually they decide not to. But if they want it, I am not stuck pulling my hair out trying to do it alone and I am being paid enough for the help I need to do the work. I have my A team, and I am even making extra money for providing extra service.
I have had to remember that my husband does come ahead of my clients. So when I wake up and start my day, I think about what things my family needs and wants from me first and then what I need to do for my business instead of trying to squeeze in my family at the end of a busy day. My industry allows for lots of flexibility because I can book sales around a family vacation or visitors. But as a wife and mom, I can’t take it for granted that my husband and kids will not miss me if I am gone for too many hours in a day. I have learned to let my capable team do work that I once thought only I could do and if my husband wants a vacation day on a weekend that I have a sale, I make sure I do all the advance work that is needed so that my team can run the sale. I let them know to call me if there is an emergency but only if it really is an emergency. It works!
1 thing you do for yourself to unwind from it all?
I spend a lot of time with both family and clients, so a little time alone helps me a lot. If I go for a walk or if I just have lunch on my own with a good magazine, I feel refreshed.
Share a website you like to browse just for fun.
HowToBeADad.com I love their diagrams and I always laugh when I am on there.
Share a favorite book.
Expert Estates LLC is an appraisal, consulting and estate liquidation company in Tehachapi, CA. Owner, Lisa is a CAGA Certified Appraiser and a Member of the American Society of Estate Liquidators. She has appraised and sold millions of dollars worth of personal property. She also runs EstateFusion.com a membership site for estate liquidators. She also does consulting for estate sale ups, momprenuers, families running their own estate sales, and those branding their own estate and antique businesses. Lisa combines her love of researching family heirlooms with her drive to solve problems and help others. Expert Estates sells vintage and home goods at The Expert Estates store in Tehachapi, CA and online at both eBay store AllMovedAround and on Etsy shop: Eestates.
The estate liquidation business is growing and Lisa has no reservations about helping to train others to achieve the same success she enjoys as an estate liquidator.