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"Superb" Business Plan helps Entrepreneur Secure $32,000 in Govt. Funding

CompanyChips & Kerry Home Staging
Industry:Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
City:Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia
Amounts: various  Find what funding programs you qualify for

Business plan helps get funding for cardboard furniture staging business

When Halifax, Nova Scotia mother of two quickly lost her assets in a company she'd worked hard to build, she had to look for another source of income. But had she not faced that adversity, she probably wouldn't be where she is today, with a freshly minted home staging business and the exciting opportunity to introduce a revolutionary new product to real estate, building, and home staging industries.

And her business plan and assistance from the Centre for Business Plan Development helped her kick off her business with $20,000 in bank financing, $10,000 in government loans and $2,000 in government grants. "My experience with the Centre for Business Plan Development was quite incredible," she says. "The team was very efficient and helped me produce an amazing business plan."

From Ayr, Scotland to Halifax, Canada

Derwent-Robb grew up in Ayr, Scotland, a large town on the southwest coast near Glasgow, and a mere 20 minutes from the world famous Turnberry Golf Course, which has hosted the British Open a number of times, including last summer. When she was in her teens, her father began 3D Golf, a company which offered golf vacations around the world, and soon after she'd finished school, Derwent-Robb decided to join him and her brother in the company. For the next 22 years, she helped build 3D Golf into one of the UK's largest golf holiday specialists. When her husband, Alasdair, retired from the Royal Air Force, where he'd worked as an air traffic controller, they moved to Canada. After a period in Oakville, Ontario, the family settled in Halifax.

With her stake in the family business helping to support her, Derwent-Robb devoted her time to raising the couple's twin boys, Bradley and Cameron, and doing volunteer work. Then, 3D Golf faced some tough challenges, and while the company survived, the financial independence Derwent-Robb had enjoyed for so long was shattered. For the first time since her youth, she needed to look for work. "I thought oh my god," she says. "I thought, what can I do?" Working out of her home would be a drastic change, after years of being there for her growing boys. "I was trying to figure out a way to recoup what I'd lost in a way that I could still look after my boys still always be here for them."

Home staging with the help of cardboard furniture

One day, Alasdair suggested she consider becoming a home stager. She'd always had a flair for interior design, and had made their own home a showpiece. Home staging has become a big industry in the last decade. Derwent-Robb seized on the idea, and in March, 2009, she launched Chips and Kerry Home Staging. She held an open house at her home, inviting a number of Halifax real estate agents, and opened up the floor to their ideas. One desire came across strongly. Many agents wanted to be able to furnish a home at a moment's notice. In major markets, such as Toronto, staging companies often have warehouses full of furniture they truck to homes to show them off for faster sales, but not in Halifax.

Then inspiration struck. "I thought cardboard!" She googled "cardboard furniture", and to her delight, she found a U.S. company that was manufacturing and selling furniture made out of cardboard for this exact purpose. Cardboard furniture suggests something flimsy and cheap looking. But NextStage Furniture is remarkably sturdy (supporting more than 1000 pounds), shaped like real furniture and, once covered, indistinguishable from the real thing. To the stager, the benefits are obvious: A loveseat weighs only 25 pounds, you can fit an entire home's worth of furniture in a van, or carry around a few rooms in a Honda Civic. And it's a huge savings you can own four NextStage sofas for the price of a single real one.

"It's like the Staples advert," says Derwent-Robb, referring to the office supply chain. "You press a button, and everything seems to work. That's how I wanted my company to work. Whatever a client wants in regards to furniture, they give me one phone call, and it's taken care of. It's not a case of, oh my god, I've got to organize and get stuff in the warehouse and organize trucks."

But beyond her own use, she could see a lot of potential for the product. "I thought, well if you don't ask, you don't get," she says. Kerry called up the company, and learned that the Eastern Canadian market was open. And before long, she'd negotiated to become the exclusive agent for Ontario eastward.

Funding requires a business plan

While she was already getting staging work, both getting Chips and Kerry going and working on selling NextStage required funding. And that required a business plan. She contacted the Centre for Business Plan Development. She's glad she did.

"My business concept was quite unique to Canada, and they all shared my enthusiasm, realizing there was great potential and an opportunity for me to succeed," she says. "I could not have prepared a business plan for myself without the expertise of the team. Their attention to detail made me feel I was the only person they were dealing with!" She knows her plan was key to her funding. "Once my business plan had been received, they suggested the different types of government loans that could be available to me for my province."

She established a relationship with RBC, and was able to secure a $20,000 loan. Even better, the manager she was dealing with also serves on the Board of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development (CEED), a Halifax agency which distributes federal funding in the region, including the Seed Capital loan. That loan provides financing for business start-ups or expansion.

She was quickly approved for $10,000 in start-up financing from the federal government; she received $8,000 initially, and after providing receipts for the expenses it went toward, received the remaining $2,000. She also got a $2,000 grant for additional business education. "I knew that I had a great product, a superb business plan and a team to support me at any time by a line of communication which was always open."

Imagine how a professionally prepared business plan could help launch your business. For a free consultation, call 1-800-481-8434.

Please note our Centre is not affiliated to programs profiled in the above article and no claim is made that funding is due to our Centre unless stated.

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