An interview with Pat Cerny Keplinger, a nurse and owner of Downsizing by Design.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
Downsizing by DesignAddress: Wheaton, Illinois
Owners: Pat Cerny Keplinger, R.N.
Year business started: 2012
Web address: www.downsizingbydesign.com
A: Our mission at Downsizing by Design is to simplify and reduce the stress involved in coordinating all aspects of move planning, helping our boomer and senior clients to feel comfortable in their new home as soon as possible. We also help individuals and couples to downsize while they remain in their home, to reduce clutter and ensure a safe environment.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: My mom moved into a senior living community in the area after my dad passed away five years ago. She did a great job of downsizing and moving, with a little help from me. Once she moved in, she talked about residents who either moved in much later than they wanted, due to the overwhelming task of sorting through their home, or moved in with too many belongings, creating a cluttered and sometimes unsafe place. I also had a lot of experience with my own moves, as well as friends'. I am certified as a project manager and enjoy seeing a project through to a successful end.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: Wearing all of the hats that are necessary as a small-business owner -- marketing, finance, networking, plus doing the actual downsizing work. Working from home is great, but it takes discipline. It's easy to get distracted with things to do around the house.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: I love meeting and getting to know my clients. When you're working side by side, going through years of belongings, hearing stories, you develop a bond with the clients. I recently helped a lady who just turned 99. She's very sharp, but physically needed some help with day-to-day activities. After getting her assisted living unit set up, I wheeled her to her new place for a 'reveal.' She was so excited at seeing her new home, asking me "How did you do this in a day? It's looks so nice!" Another dear client presented me with a beautiful floral arrangement on the day of his move to thank me and introduced me to an acquaintance as his "moving angel." It doesn't get much better than that!
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a nurse, which I became at 19. I wanted to take care of people, see them get better and make a difference in their lives. I did hands-on nursing for almost 15 years. What I'm doing now takes me back to my original career goals. I love what I do.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: I am actually sleeping better now than I have in many years. Knowing I'm doing the work I love and making a difference in my clients' lives, I am sleeping like a baby.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: Never underestimate the importance of relationships -- with clients and contacts who provide word-of-mouth referrals. It's not just about growing a business, although that's important. If you provide excellent service, care about your clients and support those in your network, you'll be successful.
-- Kim Mikus
• Every Monday we feature a small, suburban business. We want to hear about yours. Contact Kim Mikus at firstname.lastname@example.org.