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Their story is not uncommon – a couple dissatisfied with how little free time their careers left them; a desire to own a business, set their own hours, work when they like, play when they want to.
It seems like an ancient memory now, but Stefanie used to grind out 80-hour weeks in auto finance. It paid well but left little time for actually enjoying her life. After all, what’s all of the hard work for? One would like to put their feet up at the end of the day, a glass of Cabernet in hand and say, how sweet it is.
For Jim, a realtor/contractor who flipped homes, swinging hammers and slinging drywall was taking its toll on his body. If he put his feet up at the end of the day, it usually meant his back ached. That grind was getting old. Fast.
In a leap of faith and a desire for more – or perhaps less in a way – Stefanie and Jim sold everything in New Jersey and moved to North Myrtle Beach, SC. Free of the chains of day-to-day careers, with time to think and full of the entrepreneurial spirit, they spent their days roaming the beach and spent nights contemplating ways they could merge their talents to start a business together.
Selling online was an interesting idea. In South Carolina, they combed through antique stores, thrift shops, storage units, and roadside yard sales to find interesting and unique items: jewelry, lamps, mirrors, decorations – anything that caught their attention and could be easily shipped. They cleaned each piece they found, photographed it, and posted it on eBay. Things moved – the couple seemed to have a knack for this.
But soon Stefanie and Jim discovered that the effort in finding and selling one-of-a-kind items online didn’t always pay off in profit. Not enough anyway to be called a business. But the home décor did pretty well.
Back in the day, Stefanie was Jim’s go-to designer when remodeling and flipping a home. She was a genius with color palettes and knew what color schemes would work in a room, the best lighting fixtures for a space, trendy or traditional shades of paint, the magic of a strategically placed mirror, what floor coverings would set the room apart. Her mid-century taste combined with Jim’s rustic sensibilities were a winning combination with home buyers.
So they asked, what if we bought home décor wholesale and sold it just like brick and mortar stores do? Except without the brick and mortar part? And with that idea, their first company, Treasure Combers was born.
Stefanie and Jim moved back to New Jersey to shave costs and get this home décor thing going. At first, their 3-car garage served as their warehouse. As sales grew and inventory grew, they abandoned the garage and rented a small warehouse. And soon they needed a warehouse 4 times as large. Things were good, business was robust, customers were ecstatic.
But still, Jim and Stefanie weren’t satisfied. They wanted to build something unique and change the home décor buying experience. And so they launched Zinc Décor with higher quality home items from a smaller number of companies.
Too often, a picture of an item on a website is impressive, only to disappoint the buyer upon arrival. And the opposite is true as well – it’s difficult to capture a thing’s heft, how it balances in your hand, a finely honed edge, exquisite craftsmanship, uncommon color shades or any one of a thousand other unique attributes in a 2-dimensional image. The things that impress can sometimes only be appreciated up close in person.
Jim and Stefanie decided to personally vet every home décor item for Zinc Decor. They road tripped to each company so they could see every item, hold it in their hands, and decide if it was good enough for their customers.
Today, Jim and Stefanie have 3 criteria for each home décor item they sell: is it of quality craftsmanship and materials, does it meet their design sensibilities, and will customers see the value? If an item doesn’t meet all 3, they pass.
Just as important is Zinc Décor’s white glove customer service. Stefanie and Jim never want a customer to feel like just a number. After all, who hasn’t known that frustration? That’s why they answer every email and phone call themselves - when you have a question you’re speaking directly with the owners – The Home Décor Couple.