Melisa Celikel is the founder and CEO of a business and a business organization consultant of Let's get you organized. She has helped over 250 clients create amazing transformations in their homes, lives and businesses.
01:42 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Start somewhere but the most important thing is to start a business. You can evolve later.
Melisa shares her background and how she worked with Fortune 100/200/500 companies in Bio-pharma industry for HR/Sales/Recruiting. She decided to start her own business journey and started with home organization which evolved into online courses and later expanded into business organization.
03:33 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus on your strengths. What may be a disorder may actually be a talent.
Melisa stalks about focusing on one’s strengths and not their weaknesses to find out what they should do. In Melisa’s case, she was diagnosed to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and decided to monetize that talent and started a home organization company.
05:04 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: You don’t need a fancy website to get your first customer. Start somewhere and expand.
Melisa talks about how she had put together a web site over a weekend, launched her social media profiles and was in business in few days. She advertised on Craigslist and got her first customer within a month. She used Yelp, Craigslist, Instagram, and Facebook to build her customer pipeline.
11:22 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Action trumps fear So Act.
Melisa shares her experience of working with various entrepreneurs and individuals and the key characteristics that she believes are important for success. (1) Avoid analysis paralysis. (2) Action trumps fear so act (3) Perfectionism leads to paralysis so don’t try to be perfect.
13:53 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Productized service is the holy grail. Find ways to productize your services.
Melisa talks about how she adjusted her business model to make it a more productized service business. She hired organizers and trained them to manage the home organization business. Instead she focused on training and coaching to make it a productized service business. This way she can work from anywhere and enjoy the passive income stream.
18:16 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus on yourself and the path you believe is the right for you.
Melisa talks about how she had to work hard to break the expectations that her parents had for her and she had to work hard to quiet the doubters and prove to them that the path she has taken with home organization and later the business organization is the right path for her. She also talks about hiring outside help sooner in her journey.
22:19 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Start somewhere but the most important thing is to start a business. You can evolve later.
Melisa advises would be entrepreneurs to get off the fence. Start taking action. Don’t worry if it’s perfect. Be organized and prioritize your actions. Some of the tools she uses are: Quickbooks, Project management system, CRM system.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone, welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance and possibilities. Today our guest is Melisa Celikel. Melisa is the founder and CEO of a business and a business organization consultant of Let's get you organized. She has helped over 250 clients create amazing transformations in their homes, lives and businesses. Hi Melisa welcome.
Melisa: Hey Ramesh, thank you so much for having me on.
Ramesh: So let me get started with your business itself; let's get you organized, and you introduce yourself as an NLP certified business organization consultant. What is NLP certified?
Melisa: Yes, so neuro-linguistic programming NLP. Basically it's an approach to communication and personal development and it's based on looking at our behavioral patterns as humans and how we scope our life out through our experiences. So the stories we tell us, the limiting beliefs that hold us back, so on and so forth.
Ramesh: Excellent. Looking at you’re some of the background looks like the stories that we tell ourselves and the limiting beliefs, your story is interesting. So you worked in the corporate world and at some point, there were expectations of you what you should do. So can you talk about your entrepreneurial journey? How you started and why you started.
Melisa: Sure so I am a first-generation American. My father and brother were born in Turkey and basically my whole family lives in Turkey and I was born and raised here in Southern California and graduated with my degree, BA in sociology and quickly went into corporate human resources, sales and recruiting for Forbes 100, 200 and 500 companies. Then I kind of burned out of my six-figure role in corporate Bio Pharma and decided to start my own company, let's get you organized. Basically it's a home organization company. It started out that way. Sort of the Marie Kondo movement of sparking joy and decluttering our homes, living lives of minimalism things like that. And then it quickly evolved into a framework where I'm offering online courses. I've hired a team. I have a team of virtual assistants and then I also have a business organization branch. So sort of b2b consulting.
Ramesh: I see so, when you have a sales background prior to starting a company how did you make the switch from your experience of, I think other areas into organizing home and then later on to organizing business? How did the switch happen?
Melisa: Yeah so basically, I was always a very clean and tidy child. I had been diagnosed with OCD by a psychiatrist in the past and you know OCD meaning obsessive compulsive disorder, I basically decided to monetize my natural gifts and talents as a very clean, tidy minimalistic person and decided to use those towards helping others to declutter and organize their lives.
Ramesh: That's a pretty easy transition. So it's basically whatever talents that you have, you translated them into business as opposed to relying on an experience to translate that into a business. That's very neat.
Melisa: Right and I'm big on not focusing on our weaknesses as business owners and focusing on our strengths. You know why I focus on beating a dead horse so to speak with a weakness and trying to get better and get better at something that I'm never going to be naturally gifted at. When I can focus on my strengths and make money.
Ramesh: Exactly, exactly. I mean that is what I like as well and other thing that I have noticed I think in our exchanges and emails is that you've started your business very quickly and within looks like a within a week. Can you just go through the steps that you have taken to actually start your business?
Melisa: Yeah so, I learned how to code when I was about 12 years old. My brother is a Java developer and he's six years older, so his idea I was playing with little sister was, hey let's teach her how to code and do all these computer nerd things. So I already have the framework to be able to build a website rather quickly. So I essentially had a moment of burnout in my corporate career and it was just a weekend that I thought, you know I'm good at organizing, I enjoy helping others, friends, family you know get rid of stuff in their closets and such and it's time to actually make this a business. So it started as a side hustle. Just in a weekend I threw up a website with simple coding and stock photography. I started an Instagram account, a Facebook account and added the experience to my LinkedIn profile and by Monday I basically had a business ready to go.
Ramesh: And then when did you get your first paying customer?
Melisa: It was within three weeks. I had posted on Craigslist back in the day it was free to advertise on Craigslist. Now it's about five dollars per ad in major cities and I threw up an ad and got a client within a month.
Ramesh: That's pretty good and then within the first year I believe you were profitable itself.
Melisa: Yes. So within the first year and technically I launched the LLC you know full business legit, IRS January of 2018 and so we're just finishing up our taxes for 2018 and everything has been profitable thus far.
Ramesh: Excellent. So then how did you build your customer pipeline?
Melisa: So lead generation was done through mainly Yelp. Once I started to get word-of-mouth referrals and friends and family were willing to write testimonials for me, Yelp is you know if you're familiar with it, it’s a commonly used have to find restaurants, shopping, venues, contractors’ things like that. So Yelp was the number one lead source, then Craigslist, then Instagram and then Facebook. So it was all pretty much organic marketing except for the paid ads with Craigslist once they started charging and got people through the funnel through an email list and built my email marketing as well.
Ramesh: Oh excellent. So I mean you've been doing it at inorganically and then doing in a very natural step. So have you identified who your ideal customer is.
Melisa: Yes, so initially I set out kind of in the pink frothy I'm going to help busy moms and I'm going to you know help these kids in their playrooms and things like that. But I myself am not a mother, I don't have kids and I always tell my clients, the ideal client for you is a former version of yourself. So for me that is the corporate badass you know busy woman that is an executive and doesn't have time to mess around with paperwork and you know piling up mail and things like that. So I realized soon enough that my demographic had changed. You know that busy mom population too, the actual corporate executive / entrepreneur population. So it was kind of a shift halfway through the first year. But I think sometimes you got to figure out who you don't want to work with before you figure out who you do want to work with.
Ramesh: Definitely. So now that you know your ideal customer and the client, avatar and then you already figured out what services you are going to offer, how did you go through the process of pricing your services offerings?
Melisa: Yeah, so I did a lot of market research here. In San Diego County alone there are over 200 professional home organizers. So I did a lot of you know scoping out their email marketing strategies, I signed up for their email lists, I followed them on social media, started looking at their pricing. Even called a few as sort of like a ghost client you know trying to figure out what their pricing was. Because a lot of times it's not listed on the site. I've always been very transparent with my pricing. It's always been front and center on my website. So that nobody misunderstands you know what I'm charging, and it grew. So initially I was charging about $200 per four-hour session and then that came up to $300 for four-hour session. So it's grown over time.
Ramesh: I see. So another thing that I’ve seen with the research that I’ve done is that the brand that you created around yourself, right in terms of the messages that you send out, the messages you publish and things like that. So did you start creating a brand for yourself from day one or was it a realization that came through afterwards?
Melisa: I knew that it was always going to have to be a personal brand based on the work that was being done. So when you're going through people's artifacts from passed away family members or you're going through nurseries and getting them ready for baby to come or you're going through garages full of stuff from a past divorce, you know people experience loss. They experience all these life events and that's what a professional organizer does. Comes into the home it helps them declutter the things that are no longer serving them. So I knew it needed to be a personal brand, my potential client would have to trust me, know me, like me and trust me before they ever hired me.
Ramesh: Because lots of the messages that you send out is actually you're not selling the service, you're offering a lot of advice and information I think that's what I got from some of your writings and then essentially the sales is a byproduct, a secondary part of that.
Melisa: Exactly. Yeah so it started as a personal brand, a home organization company and then it's quickly evolved into also the b2b consulting. So the business organization side of it essentially the entrepreneurs that I was helping in their homes also had these businesses that were disorganized. So I decided to come in and offer another tier of the organization, which would be more streamlining processes and procedures and help with onboarding, help the sales funnels things like that. So now with the b2b consulting side, I have my email list, I'm growing where yes, I provide tons of value for them before they even get on a call to work with me.
Ramesh: Excellent so that's pretty cool and then you also are a motivational speaker. How did that happen?
Melisa: Yeah so ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved being on stage, I’ve always been comfortable speaking in front of large groups. In my time at the Forbes 100, 200, 500 companies I would often speak at leadership retreats for c-level executives. You know sometimes up to 400 500 people at once and I just I love being on stage, I love having a mic in my hand and being able to motivate the masses so to speak.
Ramesh: That's very nice. So let me actually have a little bit twist in the discussion where you're working with entrepreneurs, what characteristics that have you noticed some of the people that you think are being successful are doing well versus people who are really struggling to build the businesses?
Melisa: Yeah, so they fall into two main buckets when they come to me sort of screaming for help. One is analysis paralysis and one is just total overwhelmed. So analysis paralysis meaning they're on the fence, being on the fence is a very uncomfortable place to be. Okay let's decide, let's figure out what your business name is, what your logo is, what your website is, let's get this out into the world. I think perfectionism is huge in our country. You know people are worried about ego, you know they're worried about being judged, they're worried about this isn't 100% perfect and buttoned up, I'm not able to give it out into the world. But I'm a big fan of taking messy action and I'm a big fan of telling my clients that action cures fear. So getting off the fence, getting out of that analysis paralysis mode is key to business success and then the second piece of that is the overwhelm. So a lot of people come to me and they have all these great ideas and they're ready to put it out into the world, but they're overwhelmed as to where to even start. So maybe they want to make their first hire, or they want to create an online course and they just have no idea what to do, there's so many moving pieces. What I do is I come in with the eagle eye view of their business and strategize with them on how to get those things going.
Ramesh: Yeah, it's very interesting characteristics of the two different kinds of people there.
Melisa: You know it's interesting because the successful you know mentors and coaches that I’ve worked with throughout my career, you know it's always important to have a role model. It's always important you know surrounding yourself with greatness, you are who you surround yourself with. So those that I surround myself with they don't have those characteristics. They're just you know mess; you know sometimes we're imperfect and sometimes we put out things that might be seen as a mistake or a failure. But the point is we're keep progressing and moving the needle forward in our businesses.
Ramesh: So another thing I’ve noticed Melisa in your business is that your home organization is a much more you need to be in person, right? So that means you cannot do things remotely, you cannot scale, it its own, it's a service right? So you have to be there. But looks like a you've evolved from that into where you're offering online courses and you know other remote ways to monetize your business. Was that a conscious decision on your part or how did you go from where your physical presence was needed to make money versus where you can make money even without you being there?
Melisa: Yes great question Ramesh. So I have dual citizenship in Turkey, and I have nieces and nephews and you know my grandma's there, all my aunts and uncles are there, and I miss my family dearly. They're you know literally across the world and I only get to see them for about once a year. I take two weeks every September for my birthday to go visit and that's just simply not enough. You know home is where the heart is so to speak. So that being said this past trip to Turkey September of 2018, I kind of had a breakdown. I kind of said you know I’ve been doing this organizing for almost a year and I really am trading time for money. I'm in a service-based business where I have to be a CEO that's in my business and not able to just work on my business and you know be a business owner instead of a you know an entrepreneur type of thing. So I made a ton of changes when I returned back from that trip and that included hiring a team. So I hired four organizers to work with me and basically surrounds the county with organizational support for the orders and I just kind of dispatched them out. So I don't even do that work anymore. I get the lead that comes in through our pipeline and then they go and do the actual on-the-groundwork. So then after that I said okay well, I can also create these passive courses. So I have a course that teaches professional organizers how to create a professional organizing business and then I have another course for people that can't afford a professional organizer. Because it’s you know $300 for four hours, not everybody can afford that. So I have an online course that teaches people how to kind of do it themselves. So that was the first pass around and then after that it became the b2b consulting. So I have clients all over the country now that I'm helping get their business organized and I can work from my laptop, which is great.
Ramesh: That's great actually. So as you scaled your business, one of the other challenges that entrepreneurs or businesspeople have is quality control, Quality Assurance, right? Well you had complete control of the quality when you were doing it. Now you hired four people doing it for you. So how do you make sure that you know Melisa's and again let's get you organized the brand will still stay the same even though now you're having the work done through other people.
Melisa: Yeah so, they were all beta testers of my mentorship program for aspiring professional organizers. So I literally taught them everything I know. I over the course of four weeks took them through four different modules, including videos and worksheets and all of my branding information, my copy, my language, what to do, what not to do, how to handle red flag clients things like that. So knock on wood we've never had an issue with that. But I think taking them through that funnel of the course and then having them be able to have the opportunity to build their own business through my umbrella has been really great for the community just in general to provide those opportunities.
Ramesh: So let me ask you this question as you are working with people of different areas, have you come across people who wanted to start their own business? Have you helped or worked with any of those kinds of people?
Melisa: Yeah so those, so from the professional organizing standpoint, yes. Those four women have their own businesses. So they're all 1099. So they're not W-2s. I actually I want them to have their own business. Because then I don't have to w2 them and you know deal with all of them workers compensation and such. So that's sort of the law right now, the regulation in California is the classification between the 1099 and the W-2, the 1099 is they should have their own business, their own insurance, their own stream of income outside of your organization. So that was very strategically planned that way.
Ramesh: I see. So that is cool. So now based on your own journey what their movements? I know you told me about when you went in October or so in Turkey where you had a lot of reflection, apart from that times when you thought, man why am I doing this? I should go back to my job. But you pull yourself out of it. I mean were there moments like that?
Melisa: Oh yeah definitely. I think as entrepreneurs we've all had those moments over and over again. It's a roller coaster you know to be an entrepreneur and mainly it was cutting those anchors so going back to my NLP, you know we talked about anger, we talked about anchoring beliefs that are holding us back. You know think of a chain that's wrapped around your waist and you cannot break free from it until you do the mental work to actually break free and for me a lot of that was having to do with my family. So you know my dad has a PhD in molecular biophysics, my mom has her master's in special education and musical theory. Both are very successful highly academic people and you know I don't think they paid for my college for me to go clean houses. So you know that took a lot of work and a lot of kind of quieting the doubters so to speak with you know having friends and family say, oh you had the corner office at this biotech firm and you know you were making six figures, how dare you leave all of that behind to go sit in garages covered in cobwebs and wraps. You know it was sort of a shock to a lot of people when I did that. So I think my journey and quieting those doubters and really proving, hey this happiness has been the biggest return on investment for me.
Ramesh: Wow that's a great motivation there, right there Melisa. That's awesome. So let's say if you were to restart your journey, what things you would have done differently?
Melisa: I think I would have hired a team sooner. Because I definitely burnt myself out trying to do everything on my own the first year. Many weeks was working 100 hours a week, which is basically you know six hours of sleep at night and then back to it every morning. I did that for almost a good year. So it was that sort of team no sleep, you know hustle hard, grind harder type of mentality and I think reaching out asking for help, delegating things that you are not in your zone in genius, I think are key to entrepreneurship and I would have done that a lot a lot sooner.
Ramesh: And then from a sales lead generation perspective I think you said the YELP is the first one. I mean would you have done anything differently to you know, actually let me ask you this
Question. Is a challenge for you is that your customer pipeline is full and then you just need more hours in the day to service them, are the customer service of customer pipeline itself is difficult to feel?
Melisa: So the first one. So there's over 3.3 million people here in San Diego County and there's only 200 organizers. So basically the market share is huge for each professional organizer and it's you know it's an affluent community, it's America's Finest City or its dubbed that way. So people here have money. They have the budget for this service. Even though it is a luxury item. So that being said it was, I simply ran out of time. In the day I couldn't serve more than five clients a week or else I would go nuts. So that was you know time to hire a team last year. So that was good. But then also something I would do to get more leads you know and hire even a bigger team; I recently started a networking group here in San Diego and networking has been key for me in the San Diego community to meet tons of people that might need this service. Whether it's the b2b consulting or the Home Organization consulting and I think your network is your net worth and I would have tried to drill that in a long time ago if I had known the value of it.
Ramesh: Excellent. Actually that team comes across so much. Because many entrepreneurs get, they’re when the first customers are referrals and word of mouth and from their own network actually. Definitely. So if I'm an entrepreneur, would be an entrepreneur, I'm looking, I'm listening to this podcast what tips can you offer me to get going?
Melisa: So I'd say get off the fence, it's an uncomfortable place to be. Whether that's deciding you know what platform you want your email marketing to be on or how you want to host your website or how you want to hire a team. I'd say just start taking action, take messy and imperfect action and I'd say in order to beat you overwhelm, you have to be organized. You have to be prioritizing your tasks and be productive in your work. So I like to use the 80/20 rule. So knowing that when I'm studying my SMART goals, I'm able to set the goals that are going to actually move the needle forward and aren't just these you know fluffy frosty things that might work for other people, but haven't proved themselves an ROI and your own business.
Ramesh: Correct. So talking about tools and all, so what tools do you use, and which ones have proved to be very useful and which once you toss them by outside?
Melisa: Yeah so, I have a payroll processing system to pay myself and my team. I have QuickBooks just for basic accounting. I have a bookkeeper that handles my PNLs. Have a project management system that I track all of my SMART goals and my tasks and activities and deliverables. I use a specific CRM to manage all of my clients and customers. My invoicing contracting and proposals are all handled there, electronically which is really nice. I have payment processing through various channels that make everything easy and go right to my business checking account. I think laying those foundations of you know the financials, the payroll, the project management, setting the goals, I do quarterly goals with myself and my team. So having those foundational structures are the key to success.
Ramesh: Excellent. So Melisa as we wind down the podcast any last-minute thoughts?
Melisa: I say just go for it. If you're listening to this and you're on the fence about maybe starting a new business or about you know hiring your next team member or growing and scaling or moving into a different market, I'd say get off the fence and go do it.
Ramesh: Fantastic. Melisa, thank you very much for your time. Melisa with let's get you organized very active on Instagram and many social networks as well. Thank You Melisa.
Melisa: Thank you so much.