Caitlin Sykes

Caitlin Sykes is the NZ Herald's Your Business editor

Small Business: Changing tack - Lacey Graham

Lacey Graham is the founder of Auckland-based estate clearance business Twinset and Pearls.

Lacey Graham, founder, Twinset and Pearls.
Lacey Graham, founder, Twinset and Pearls.

What is Twinset and Pearls all about?

I launched Twinset and Pearls, which is a personalised estate clearance business, towards the end of 2013. Our mandate is to look after the best interests of the estate and to get as much return on items of value as we can, as well as working out what is worth retaining in the family for sentimental purposes and the best way to deal with what's left.

We represent the estate, so liaise with beneficiaries of a will and act as a professional entity so - to the best of our ability - aid in diffusing potential family disputes. We can also help when someone is moving out of the family home and needs to downsize, or for those who like to be prepared, we can help keep their estate in order by documenting their possessions.

I'm a sole operator but I have contacts with specialist expertise that I call on when needed; I have a growing database of collectors and specialist dealers and I also work with auction houses when necessary.

You worked in TV production prior to setting up this business. Why and how did you make that change?

I've been involved in the television and video production industry for 25 years, most recently on the show Media7/Media3, which came to an end last June after nearly six years. I turned 50 that same year and decided I needed a new direction that would keep me occupied and happy for the next 20 years of my working life.

Collecting antiques has been my hobby since I was a teenager and it was after my much-loved aunt Sally died that the idea of an estate clearance business came to me. I was the executor of her estate and had to manage the process - everything from dealing with eight godchildren who had inherited various bits and pieces, to totally emptying the house. This was a massive task as she was a great sentimentalist and collector - a bit like me.

That experience made me realise that for most people it's a huge task to undertake and I think that, unfortunately, so much is often lost when decisions are made in haste during the process that people later regret. Sally was an amazing, entrepreneurial woman who was always encouraging me to do my own thing and I know she'd be tickled pink with what I'm doing.

What skills have you been able to translate from your previous career into your current venture?

I believe my skills in dealing with people are paramount in both businesses. It's the combination of being professional, compassionate and passionate that people respond to. Also time management is a big one. I charge an hourly rate to a maximum amount. That means I have to work smart so my clients' budgets don't blow out.

Have there been many unexpected hurdles along the way?

Every job is a bit different and I'm learning every time. Starting the business has been a learning curve in itself. I think I underestimated the time it takes for a new business to fire especially when you don't have a great pool of money to firstly advertise and, secondly, to live on in the meantime. I'm wondering whether social media is worthwhile - I've tried to avoid it up until now!

What advice would you give to someone else considering this kind of move?

It will take time to get your business to a stage to launch so allow at least three months before you can go out and start selling your business. Taking on other people's advice is good but stick to your business model. If it feels right it probably is.

I've found it pays to have another income stream if you can while you're building your business up as it sucks all your resources - and energy. But don't give up if you believe you've got a good idea. For me, it's not about making lots of money but rather doing something I genuinely enjoy that I also feel is helping others.

Coming up in Small Business: I'll be looking at ecommerce - talking to small business owners about their experiences of establishing their online presence. What's worked? What hasn't? If you've got a good story to tell, get in touch: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

- NZ Herald

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