(Editor’s note: Following is the 11th installment in a new series promoting Women of the Flooring Business, a social media group that provides members with a platform to share their experiences, observations and best practices.)
Michelle Bayer—I am not cut from the usual cloth. I own a virtual store called Floorstuds.com. My store sells flooring, kitchen cabinets, backsplashes and more. I came to the flooring industry in 2015 after I left my job as a worker’s compensation adjuster. My husband was working for Empire Today and I signed on to act as his administrative assistant. Becoming well versed in flooring came easily under the tutelage of my husband. I learned the industry by shopping for products, showing samples to customers and managing installs (running errands for installers, making sure the install was perfect and the site was clean after install).
Soon, I realized I could have my own business and expand it to include all home improvement products. However, having a brick-and-mortar store would mean a huge investment and I didn’t think it was the best—or a necessary—option. What I decided to do was find businesses I could partner with and prove I could help market them online and eventually make everyone money. I have been creative since I was little, and I knew this skill would be the key to my success.
Fast forward to 2020, I have become an affiliate and referral partner with kitchen designers, home improvement retailers as well as flooring stores. My concept is unique in the home improvement industry—like a personal shopper for renovations. I am not afraid to pick up the phone, sell myself and sell my online concept. In doing so I have gained partners across the industry and expanded my business. In fact, I have recently connected with a major realtor who has agreed to include Floor Studs as a partner for potential customers.
In business, it always pays to differentiate yourself in a crowded market. However, there are still lessons to be learned—especially when it comes to differentiation. I don’t have a showroom and my retail and concierge concept is hard for people to understand. What I’ve learned is how to be clear about my business and its value without giving away the trade secrets— competition can be fierce. And, while I juggle kids, school and owning my own business, Floor Studs is growing.
That doesn’t mean the business is without challenges. While I’m a seasoned professional, like many of us I can still have issues when it comes to gender. When I pick up or purchase materials for customers, somehow I’m still a “girl” or “just a housewife” to many of them, not a business owner. I love being in the Facebook group Women of the Flooring Business because women think differently. Women have a better overall picture in the way they connect. We can talk about other things that are important—like having to be everything to everyone and raising kids and keeping house while running a business.
I’m happy to share my online ideas to all of my “sisters” in the group. I’m happy to share my story of differentiation and how I’ve found success by working hard and standing out.
Michelle Bayer is the owner of Floor Studs, an online home improvement concierge reselling flooring, cabinets, countertops, backsplash, hardware, vanities, tubs, showers and more.