Let me say, hiring a social media/marketing manager was one of the best things I could have done. Right out of the gate, Casandra told me she wanted to conduct an interview featuring... your's truly!
In case you haven't noticed, I love sunshine, sunflowers, blue skies, the Redskins...er Commanders, and all that comes with that.
Casandra: I'm going to dive right in. What made you choose to start a company in this industry and when did you start this line of work?
Michele: Solving problems is my expertise. I’ve worn many hats throughout my career, Wedding Planner, Executive Assistant, VP of Finances, Consultant, etc. After years of dishing out a high level of blood, sweat, and tears, I finally decided it was time to harness all those skills and go to work to build something new for myself.
I've always had a passion for home projects. In college, while living at home with my folks, I used to surprise them with makeovers of their bathrooms, bedrooms, and living spaces, any time they went out of town for an extended period. I'm not sure they loved the surprises as much as I did, but the bathroom is still the same color I painted almost 15 years ago now.
I noticed a trend in the industry where homeowners are increasingly frustrated about contractors taking advantage of them, projects not being completed, or the budget skyrocketing out of control. I want to change this.
I’m on a mission to flip the script of what’s happening in this industry. After all, your home should be your sanctuary, and full of peace. Three years ago I started helping clients source contractors for issues such as flooring floods, getting french drains added to the yard to help with water flow, or updating outdated houses that were still stuck in a tired age of the early 2000s, or even the 90s.
Casandra: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Michele: Sonder - One day I was reading the book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig and I came across the word Sonder. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness - an epic story that continues invisibly around you. It was like a lightning bolt hit me, and I knew at that moment that Sonder had to be in my company name. It’s a made-up or new word but its meaning has such a powerful punch behind it.
Luxe - I believe in providing 5-star all-encompassing service for my clients and that we all deserve to live a luxurious life if we want it.
Solutions - Solving problems and finding solutions is who I am. I’ve done that for most of my friends, colleagues, and former employers. I’ve always been the one they naturally turn to for help.
Casandra: Where did the concept for your business originate?
Michele: I grew up with a father in blue-collar trades. He is a retired master electrician and firefighter truck engineer. One of my favorite memories is when he strapped me in a harness and took me with him to check the lights on top of a 200-foot-high water tower at our local university.
I also get my work ethic from my mom. As a teen, she had me "volunteering" in her office learning how to track the money from vending machines and answer phones. Throughout my career, I've spent time in startups, managed the remodel/renovation of a boutique gym, helped my clients source quality contractors, etc. I was even hired by a plumber to get his company organized and learned more about the inner workings of a toilet than I ever wanted to.
The rest I sort of fell into. I had a very supportive network and supportive former employers all of whom encouraged me to start my own company to solve problems for folks. I niched down into home renovations.
Casandra: What's unique about your company?
Michele: Besides the fact that Sonder Luxe Solutions is minority female-owned, I think what makes me unique is that I have a backbone. I’m not afraid to fight for my clients and push back on contractors when needed. I also speak the language of executives and financials, while being able to negotiate on their behalf with the trades. My entire mission is to take the headache out of the process. I can and have managed both interior and exterior projects.
Casandra: Any special hobbies or hidden talents?
Michele: I always hesitate to answer this question, but I do have a hidden talent: I grew up classically trained in piano, and competing in guilds. These days it's mostly a stress relief for me, though I am teaching myself Jazz piano. I get horrible stage fright playing for others, so no plans to join a band yet. I never say never though.
Casandra: What are your company's goals?
Provide quality connections for contractors and trades (Bonus if they are women-owned businesses)
Bring chaos to calm for home renovations and alleviate stress.
Be a resource for other women in the business, or those looking to start in the business.
Teach others how to run home renovations and manage the expectations and emotions of the homeowners, and the contractors.
Casandra: How do you define success in your organization?
Michele: When my clients are happy, and I see the stress roll off their shoulders at the end of a project, or even at the beginning of it by hiring me, that is a success. Sure I have a vision for my company and where I want to take it. But at the end of the day, it's all about you, my clients. Without them and their faith in me, there would be no company.
Casandra: What platforms do you use to promote your business?
Michele: Promoting my business has been challenging. Most of the time I'm an introvert. Putting myself out there for my business on social media and in person has been a learning curve. I enjoy LinkedIn and connecting with like-minded business owners, and posting pictures on Instagram/Facebook. This is where you come in Casandra, I know you're going to help me take this company to the next level and help me utilize the platforms better.
Casandra: Last question. What do you like to do for fun?
Michele: When I'm not working, I love to be at the beach, go on adrenaline-pumping adventures, roller-skate, be in nature, travel, and watch football in the fall. I hate the new name for the Skins, but that's my team.
Michele: In closing, I'm really glad we did this interview. I think it's important that people see the face behind the company, and get to know me. I love what I do. I love helping my client's homes become the sanctuary they deserve. I also have a vision for the company. I hope 5 years from now that I will have a solid team of female contractors I can rely on. And build this into a resource for other women in the business. I can't wait to share some of the projects I'm currently working on with all of you. And thank you Casandra for being the first one to officially join the team. I'm so happy you're here.