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From Organizer to Coach with Nettie

Join us as Nettie Owens, founder of Sappari Solutions, walks us through how she transitioned from residential organizing to business coaching. She describes what it was like being a professional residential organizer (and even being on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive). She describes her transition to business coaching, and her hopes for the future of her in-person events as the world deals with COVID-19. 

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Ruthie: Okay. I am super excited to introduce my next guest, Nettie Owens, who is a certified professional organizer in chronic disorganization. She founded Sappari Solutions in 2004, so she’s been in business for a while. She trained dozens of organizers over the years. At one point, she had the largest professional organizing company in the Baltimore area. 

Nettie is a Hopkins graduate, and in 2011 she appeared on national television in TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive. She is the creator of the Take Control System and the Creating Momentum Program. She helps entrepreneurs focus and create businesses that impact the world. Nettie, thank you so much for being here! 


Nettie: It’s an absolute joy to be here with you today, Ruthie! Thank you so much for that. Just in case there was any confusion, I was the organizer on Hoarding: Buried Alive. 

Who Were You in Your Previous Career?

Ruthie: Yes, that’s pretty important! That’s what I wanted to ask; who were you in your previous career? 

Nettie: In my previous career, I was the organizer. I was the person who would come in when you became overwhelmed in your environment; your closets were overflowing, your basement was overflowing, and you were just feeling pretty crappy about your space. 

My business mainly focused on people who have chronic disorganization. This isn’t a medical term, but it’s used in the organizing industry to describe people for whom organizing has been a challenge for a while. There may be some other things that are impacting their organization like ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD hoarding, PTSD, brain injury, etc. 

These people really don’t see a change coming forward, so my whole business is centered around that. I love the work so much that I found other people that could help me help others. And that was how I grew my business. 

Ruthie: That is amazing. I’m really impressed with that! Man, now I’ll have to find out which episode you were in. 

Nettie: Oh, it’s so easy! You look up TLC Hoarding: Buried Alive, and then look for the episode called “Is That a Goat?” And just to answer, yes it was a goat. The gentleman that I worked with was an amazing man. I have to say, everybody that I worked with as a professional organizer were outstanding people. It was a pleasure to work with them. 

How Did Your Transition Into Your Current Business?

Ruthie: That actually ties in with my next question, because I want to ask about your current business. I am really interested in knowing how you transitioned from your organizing business to your coaching business. 

Nettie: That’s a great question. Going from working in clients’ houses and businesses, sorting through their papers, clutter, and lingerie drawers to doing business consulting can seem like quite a leap. While the two seemed very unrelated, they’re not that different.  

In organizing, I was working with people who had trouble formulating a plan, being consistent, seeing the bigger picture, and many of my clients struggled with things like ADHD. If I fast forward to what I’m doing now, most entrepreneurs have challenges with ADHD or depression, whether or not they realize it.

I’m not specifically targeting that, but having a coach that understands how that can impact your productivity, as well as your ability to craft and follow a plan, is really important. 

What Seemed Like a Huge Leap Was Actually Quite Natural

The transition happened at a time when I was feeling nudged to work with a client base, and I wasn’t taking the action on it. Finally, it became undeniable and I had to change gears. I stopped working with residential and I started working in the corporate space.

It was such an easy transition, that I knew I was supposed to be doing it. For a while, I ignored it. I wanted to separate myself from organizing because I didn’t understand the deep connection that existed. However, once I put the two together, everything just took off like wildfire! 

Ruthie: I think that you would’ve begun making that transition even if you had picked something completely different. You had already built the skills, in terms of networking, learning how to market your own business, and handle clients. When you’re a service based business, those are all things we have to learn. But you ran your organizing company for a really long time, so you would have already had those skills built in. And that’s not stuff you’re told when you’re first starting a business.

Nettie:  Absolutely. Beginning entrepreneurs should really pick up Michael Gerber’s book “The E-Myth Revisited”. Read it and reread it, and understand that you can be amazing at whatever service you provide to the world, but you still have to run the business.

Who Is Your Ideal Client?

Ruthie: We talked a little bit about some of the characteristics of the people that you connect the most easily with, but who would your ideal client be? 

Nettie: I’ve actually become very specific on who I work really well with. For me, that’s established business owners; businesses that have been around for at least 3-5 years, whether this is your first business or not. 

Secondly, they tend to have bigger businesses. The businesses that I work with have already reached the milestone of the six-figure mark. They’re ready to be able to unhitch a bit from working crazy hours, thinking constantly about work, etc. They’re beyond that startup phase. 

Thirdly, I work primarily with service-based businesses. 

Important Distinction Between Service and Product Businesses

Ruthie: I don’t think people realize how important the difference between service-based and product-based businesses, and how to market them. I also primarily work with service-based businesses and consultants, so I understand that distinction. 

Nettie: Yes, absolutely. I have some amazing contacts, and if someone needs a business coach or consultant in that realm, I’m happy to share! I’d rather they be wildly successful in what they do than, than us try to figure it out together. 

Ruthie: Well, that’s another important note. I actually interviewed another person just before you. Her name is Stephanie, and she’s a life and resiliency coach. Before I sat down for lunch with her, I had purposely avoided talking to coaches. That’s because all the coaches I come into contact with have that vibe that says, “I can help everyone, everywhere, all the time!” 

I’ve got business money, but not a lot of it. So it’s a huge confidence boost hearing somebody say, “If I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit, I will refer you out. I have a network of people that I make referrals to.” So it’s quite doubtful when coaches who, as soon as you make eye contact with them, say, “I can fix you!” Because can you, really? 

Nettie: I worry about having the “I can fix you” discussion around coaches, because that’s a whole other can of worms! 

How Has Quarantine Impacted Your Business?

Ruthie: Quarantine is a hot topic, and it’s still going to be a hot topic once we start publishing your series. So I was curious to know how quarantine has impacted your business, and if you’ve had to make any complete changes to make it through. 

Nettie: First of all, my clients themselves are being impacted. and they fall into 3 different categories:

  1.  They have a brick-and-mortar business, and have now had to quickly move online. For some, this has not been possible. 
  2. Others were already online, and this is no big deal. They’re just continuing the work that they were doing. 
  3. For other people, the world’s just opened up to them; they’re starting something new based on what people need right now

Personally, 99% of my work was already online. If planning was important before, it’s critical now. That’s because funding dollars are limited, and time is kind of available but not really. People are more stressed than they were, families are home, schedules have changed, and there’s just been a lot of change. For me, that’s been really helpful because people want to know how to spend their time and money better.

So I’ve really been able to help them answer those questions, and I really enjoy that process. 

I absolutely love my in-person events. I’m holding out hope because my big events happen during the beginning of October and March. I do feel Zoom is effective and efficient, but it’s not the same. And I know everybody else is feeling this too. It’s just not the same as in-person contact. 

Smaller Businesses May Be More Flexible Moving Forward

We’ve added an event in November for the mastermind level of participants that I work with. That’s going to be a private, exclusive, mastermind event that’s happening at the Rookwood Inn, in Lenox, Massachusetts.

My intention is to go ahead and put the deposit down. Where it’s being hosted is another small business. She’s flexible and working to create a cohesive solution, and I am as well. I think that should be ok because people will be mostly in their rooms, and then we’ll come together again. It’s a small group. 

Ruthie: That’s really encouraging. I really like your note about the fact that you’re partnering with another small business in Massachusetts, and how they may be able to present more flexibility than if you were having it at a larger venue.