Stylish Furniture, Expert Advice!
Established in 2004, Make Your House A Home was born in trying times for owners and Bendigo couple Lisa and Norm Smith. Whilst pregnant with their second child, Lisa was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The challenge of setting up a business was a saving grace for the couple who wanted something positive to focus on during this traumatic time. Prior to diagnosis, Lisa studied Interior Design. The knowledge she acquired and her passion for home design and furnishing fuelled the inspiration to start the business.
The name was decided on, registered, and a website created in between surgeries. Initially, the business operated from their home, with Lisa visiting client’s homes to provide interior design advice whilst selling products via their website. The company achieved quick success, which coincided with Lisa’s improving health, so it was not long before they needed to expand.
When an opportunity arose in Williamson Street, Bendigo, the founding couple decided to move into retail. The 400 square metre premises was home to the first Make Your House A Home store, which opened its doors to the public in November 2006.
From there, the business continued to carve a name for itself in Bendigo and the surrounding area. Soon after, an even larger location was required and Lisa and Norm jumped at the chance to occupy their current position at 132 High Street, Bendigo.
“It is the perfect location,” Lisa says. “It’s a 1200 square metre showroom with a 30 metre window frontage on a major arterial road into Bendigo with ample customer parking. We moved in February 2011, and we have never looked back.”
Making consumers confident
Today, Make Your House A Home is proud to be the largest independently owned furniture store in Central Victoria. They regularly attract visitors not only from Bendigo, regional Victoria and Melbourne, but they are also shipping regularly to customers interstate and overseas.
The company currently operates from their retail store on High Street, which has a passionate staff of six people and is open seven days a week. At that location, they stock an “impressive range of modern furniture, lamps, rugs, wall art, mirrors, cushions and homewares.”
The company also does business over the internet, at their website – www.makeyourhouseahome.com.au. That site offers a “fully-equipped on-line retail shopping experience, updated daily, where customers can view, purchase and pay for items.” At their retail store, the company has also set up a computer kiosk with access to that site. With that, staff can show customers products in their on-line catalogue, and customers can use it as a banking resource when making a big purchase.
Make Your House A Home also offers customers a variety of other services, including interior design and upholstery. Their trained and experienced designers are employed to assist customers with designing and decorating their homes, and their full-time, fully-qualified upholsterer is also available to assist with highly customised requests.
In December 2012, the company launched another important service – Your Home Magalogue™, a 32-page, bi-yearly publication that’s professionally designed in-house, and printed in Bendigo.
“After providing our existing and potential customers with quarterly seasonal newsletters since our first store opened in autumn 2007, we published our first magazine-style catalogue,” Lisa says. “It contains images and information about our homewares and furniture, articles on interior design and decoration, and information about relevant local supporting businesses.”
“It’s not just a catalogue to tell people what’s on sale,” she adds. “It is an educational tool, an expert guide to helping people have the home of their dreams. We don’t just want to sell to our customers – we want to educate them as well. We want to be seen as the experts in our field, which strengthens our credibility and builds customer’s confidence in us.”
Caring about customers
“The name ‘Make Your House A Home’ describes our reason for being,” says Lisa. “As a retailer of high quality furniture and homewares, we are passionate about helping people create a home that they will love and be proud of for years to come.”
Lisa and Norm truly care about their customers. That level of commitment is one of the factors that helps them stand out in the market, and has earned them the loyalty of many satisfied customers.
“We recognise that purchasing furniture is a significant investment,” Lisa says. “As such, we ensure that our customers make the right decision when buying. By taking into consideration their lifestyle, floor-plan, budget and individual preference, our experienced staff ensure that customers don’t feel that they are ‘sold to’ but rather helped with making the right decisions to transform their house into a home.”
“We really do care,” she adds. “We don’t just sell and forget. We go the extra mile to form an ongoing relationship because we care that clients get the end result that they desire.”
Make Your House A Home is also set apart by their commitment to sourcing and hiring locally. Last year, they reinforced that commitment by introducing a new range called myhahDESIGN.
“In sourcing product from Australian manufacturers and designers, we ensure that the furniture selected is environmentally friendly, beautifully crafted and individual,” Lisa says. “It has to tick all those boxes to be considered for the range.”
“We have a passion for Australian made furniture and look forward to the day that most of the store is filled with Australian made product,” she continues. “We understand the positive economic impact resulting from supporting Australian designers and manufacturers, as do many of our customers, who regularly request Australian made options.”
Make Your House A Home is committed to quality and customer service, and that commitment has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, they have been repeatedly recognised by industry bodies such as the prestigious Australia Furniture of the Year Awards. Most recently, at their 2013 gala, Lisa and Norm took home “the best of the best” from them – the Australian Furniture Retailer of the Year. This is the second time in a row they have earned that accolade.
“It’s amazing, because we’re just one little store in Bendigo,” Lisa says. “To be considered on a national scale and win makes me very proud.”
“And I know it makes my staff proud,” she adds. “They all get an extra spring in their step and are as pleased and as proud as we are. It is fantastic for morale and cements our strength as a united team.”
The awards are judged by a panel of industry experts from various backgrounds, and are based on a strict set of selection criteria. Nominees were required to display a commitment to supporting Australian made furniture, have strong understanding of the importance of sustainability, and consistently provide a high level of quality service by knowledgeable staff.
Make Your House A Home, of course, fulfils all criteria. Lisa says in particular, the judges were impressed with the way they “married the design service with the retail store, at an affordable price.”
“They liked that we had a unique spin on retailing,” she says. “We weren’t just doing what everyone else was doing. We were going against the grain.”
“Mixing retail and design has been done before,” she adds. “But we’re doing it on a scale that the average person can afford without compromising on quality and professionalism.”
Moving forward, Lisa and Norm do not plan on becoming complacent. They are always looking for ways to improve their service and reach more clients. Towards that end, they have a number of objectives they hope to see the business achieve.
“Our immediate goal is to continue to experience steady growth,” Lisa says. “We also want to strengthen our award winning team, and systemize all aspects of the business so that it can be reproduced in other locations.”
“Our vision for the future is to be positioned as the experts in our field and to be a recognised national brand,” she adds. “We will achieve this with an increased on-line presence with a fully integrated website with live stock levels and an automated delivery system that independent designers/decorators can use as a sales tool for their clients.”
The company is currently testing this model in Melbourne, and have been approached by a designer who wants to recommend and sell their products in the city area.
“We are currently working closely with her to set this up so we can use it as a model for the future,” Lisa says.
For more information, please visit their website at: Make Your House A Home
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