FEMtrepreneur: Leigh Achenbach – Professional Organiser and Spacing Strategist

At some point or another, we’ve all found ourselves overwhelmed by the chaos of an unorganised closet or cluttered office space. US-based Leigh Achenbach discovered that she could use her inherent talent for organising and her panache for perfectionism as a means to help those too busy or intimidated to put their own spaces in order. With a major in Entrepreneurship from Middle Tennessee State University, Leigh channelled her studies and intrinsic strengths into establishing Suddenly Simple Professional Organizing, a specialist organising company that serves to simplify, systemise and restructure homes and small businesses. This pioneering 31-year-old found a functional solution to a problem most people have, and built her business around it.

Read on as she shares expert tips on how to deal with disorganisation and what it takes to be a FEMtrepreneur in a niche service industry.

What inspired the idea for your purposeful and inventive company?

I was born and raised in the same city that I went to college in. I was working at a desk job just doing mundane, repetitive things every day. I was content, but I knew there had to be something more for me. Three weeks after my husband and I got married, he received orders from the Air Force that he would be stationed in Los Angeles for two years. I decided it was the perfect time to find my passion and pursue something more than what I was doing. I had wanted to own my own business since I started college in 2005, but I really had no idea what kind of business I wanted to start. When we moved, I stumbled across ‘professional organising’ while researching jobs. I knew I was an organised person, but I didn’t really see it as a talent that I could make a career out of. Honestly, I didn’t even know that professional organising was something people made money doing.

How did it all begin?

I reached out to a few local organisers on my own and asked if they were looking for any help. They all said yes! So I began organising for several companies as an independent contractor and could not get enough! I decided to use the next few years as a learning period, and developed my own methods and business practices based on things I had learned from each company I worked for, and started creating my business plan. As soon as we moved back to Tennessee in 2018, I hit the ground running with my company. Within a couple of weeks, I hired two girls to work for me and got my first client.

How would you describe your business?

I would describe my business as very personal, and I think that has a few different meanings.

  1. Every job is catered to each specific client – from the systems implemented, to the supplies we shop for, to the amount of care and detail we provide to each person. Some clients want you to do it all for them. They just want to come home to a magically organised house. Some clients want to be a part of the process and learn organising skills along the way. Clients can be involved in the process to whatever extent they want to be.

  2. It’s also personal, in the sense that we realise you’re letting us into your life and your home. We don’t take that lightly. We have a great respect for your home and your belongings and take great care of your things. We are not judgmental or overwhelmed by your space.

  3. And finally, it’s personal because we develop relationships with our clients. We have a huge impact on our clients and their families. We spend a lot of time in their homes, and with them one-on-one. Sometimes after working with them for so long, we know their home and their belongings better than they do. So they really rely on us to guide them and help them.

What was the very first project you handled?

The very first project that I had with my own company, I let the client tell me how things were going to go. I had a 4-hour minimum set-up, because I know that it takes longer to organise than most people realise. I like to allow myself ample time, so that it’s worth my time to drive to the job, that I have enough time to complete the project, and set a realistic expectation for how long a project actually takes. This client kept saying her house was already pretty organised and she knew it wouldn’t take 4 hours. So I backed down on that stipulation. She refused to let me come for a free consultation. I even offered my services at a discount because she thought my prices were too high. Even with all of the red flags, I still went ahead and booked the session with her. Throughout the entire job, she was looking over my shoulder and frantically pacing, seemingly wanting me to speed up. I was uncomfortable from the first phone call and felt inadequate during the entire job. I learned my lesson to stick to my way of doing things, because I’ve put a lot of time, effort, and knowledge into my processes to create the best practices for me and my company. I’ve learned to not let a client tell me how to run my company, and to not be so desperate for work that I will compromise my business.

What challenges have you faced as a FEMtrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

Most of my challenges seem to stem from time management. There are so many aspects to running a business; I have to prioritise and make time for every task to get done. If I don’t stay on top of things I don’t get paid by clients, supplies wouldn’t be ready for each job, and my organisers wouldn’t know which jobs to be at. I’ve had to teach myself everything from building a website, to hiring contractors, to marketing strategies, and everything else in between. My key to staying on top of everything is to prioritise. There aren’t always enough hours in the day to do everything, so I make sure the most important things get done first and schedule different days for the remaining tasks.

How many hours do you work in a week, on average?

  • In-home organising: 20-40 hours

  • Everything (including admin work): 50-60 hours

  • Time spent thinking about work: 24/7

What drives and motivates you each day?

I’m a very competitive person by nature. When it comes to my business, I am competitive with myself. I always strive to get more clients this month than I did last month, and work more hours than I did the previous week. My competitiveness is part of what drives me. But more than that, I now know what my passion is. I know what I’m good at. I know that my talent helps people. I love being able to make a difference in people’s lives simply by being who God created me to be and doing what I love.

What has been the most effective way of marketing your business?

I haven’t been in business that long, but I can already see that word of mouth is my most effective way of marketing. Referrals from happy clients are the best way to reach new clients.

What is the most courageous thing you’ve done as a FEMtrepreneur?

The most courageous thing I’ve done is networking. It is pretty intimidating to reach out to people you don’t know and ask if they would be willing to take time out of their day to meet with you. I’m a pretty shy person by nature, and it is totally outside my comfort zone to be the one to reach out to someone I don’t know. But I can say that I’ve already developed some great relationships with fellow local organisers, a custom-closet company, realtors, interior designers, etc. I’ve always approached networking as, “What can I do for YOU?”, but it always turns out to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Describe yourself in three words:

Hard-working. Motivated. Reliable.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the flexibility that comes with working for myself, but also that there is no limit to how far I can take this business.

Is there anything you dislike about your job?

The one thing I dislike about my job right now is that I have to do it ALL. I’m not yet at the point where I would trust anyone else enough to delegate some of my tasks. And also, I’m still learning ‘my way’ of doing things. So, for now, I have to push through and put in the work to establish my processes in hopes to one day being able to pass off some of my responsibilities.

What are your three best tips for organising?

  1. Take EVERYTHING out of the space you’re organising. You must look at every item and decide if it’s something you want to keep or if it belongs in another room. The only way to truly see your space as a blank slate and with a fresh perspective, is to take everything out.

  2. Purging is the most important part of getting organised. If you don’t get rid of things you no longer use or want, then you’re just rearranging your things. It’s so hard to stay organised when the things you want and need are buried under things you don’t want or use.

  3. Don’t buy organising products until you have purged and placed things where they are going to go. If you wait until the end, you can get precise measurements of what you need and won’t end up going to the store to return things if they don’t fit or if you bought too much.

What has been your greatest career achievement thus far?

I think my greatest achievement so far has been employing other people. It’s crazy that all of my efforts in getting clients not only helps me (and the clients, themselves) but also the people that work for me. I love that because of all the work I’ve put in, other people can support themselves and their families. I hope to continue to grow that aspect of my business.

Where do you envision your company in the next 5-10 years?

I really want to get to a more consistent workload. I’d love to have multiple teams made up of lead organisers and assistant organisers who can go to jobs without having me there. My hope is to be able to delegate some of my responsibilities so that my employees can grow, and so that I can focus on other aspects of growing the business.

What advice would you give to other young female entrepreneurs?

Plan as much as you can, but also be flexible. I am definitely a planner and a perfectionist, but already I’ve had to learn that I can’t foresee every scenario. I spent close to two years creating my business plan. I’ve put in the hours and research to know why and how I do things for MY business – like why I charge what I do, why I don’t hire certain people, and why I do consultations before every job. I know why and how I want to do things but I also realise I’m still learning, so I give myself a little grace and a little flexibility to change things if they aren’t working.

Fun facts about Leigh

Favourite business tool:

17Hats

My personal style is…

Simple

Heels or flats?

Flats

Favourite item of clothing?

Leggings

I unwind and de-stress by:

Working puzzles

Favourite shade of lipstick:

I’m a chapstick girl

Book recommendation:

Kind is the New Classy by Ami McConnell Abston and Candace Cameron-Bure

Organisation product or tool I can’t live without:

Velvet hangers

Three things I always carry with me:

Gum, chapstick and cellphone.

I love organising…

Closets and pantries

Favourite coffee haunt or restaurant:

Demos’ (local restaurant)

If I had an unlimited budget, I’d shop at:

Lululemon

Dream destination:

African safari

The one thing required for success is…

Patience and drive

If you find yourself in the US, buried under a pile of things you don’t really need or are in dire need of room rearrangement, email leigh@suddenlysimpleorganizing.com or visit her website for more information.

Leigh currently works within Middle Tennessee, USA, however we can’t wait to see her company grow and expand across other states.

Get some inspiration and ideas on how to organise your own cupboards by checking out Suddenly Simple Organizing’s Instagram page

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