Today we’d like to introduce you to Nichole Lovett.
Nichole, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Harmony Haus began back in 2008 in Evanston, Illinois. I combined my lifelong experience as an artist with the knowledge of home improvement skills and tendencies towards being handy, both traits I picked up from my Mother, and decided to give it a go and strike out in a completely different field than the career path I had been on for the past decade.
Moving to Evanston the previous year had really helped my appreciation and awareness of the environment to flourish; living sustainably, being conscientious, and being aware of your carbon footprint. I was already an avid cyclist, having lived carless for many years, so I bought a trailer that hooked up to my bike and began pedaling my services to local residents. At this time there was an amazing store on Main Street just blocks from my house, Healthy Green Goods, and the owner carried truly environmentally friendly home goods. She carried a line of paint, Yolo Colorhouse as it was called back then (Colorhouse today) and I fell in love with the color palette, the mission of the paint company and I loved its non-toxic properties. I phoned Marnie, the owner of Healthy Green Goods, and asked her for a meeting as I wanted to talk to her about my plans of starting a paint company using Yolo Colorhouse exclusively. She was instrumental in helping me start my business, the very day we had our meeting, two ladies shopping overheard our conversation, took a business card and called me later that day to schedule estimates. Marnie graciously displayed my business cards next to the paint display to often times when people were picking up paint the just called me too. Everything magically fell into place, I could bike around town, buy paint down the street from my house while supporting small business and get to do something I loved doing every day!
I didn’t think much past that first summer when I just began but as business took off, my service area expanded, jobs grew in size from a room or two to whole interiors, seasons changed, weather became inclement; I had to change my approach. I teamed up with another local company, I-Go car sharing and worked part time as a marketing intern in exchange for using their cars to haul my gear in and bike the rest of the days.
From the start I had discovered something I was passionate about, that I loved doing every day and it was important to me to take a mindful approach to an industry that can be very wasteful and unhealthy. When I ended up joining a trade association, Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, that’s when I really became a paint geek. Before then, I didn’t have any friends that were painting houses and suddenly I was taken under the wings of some of the best and finest painters across the country and I still have to pinch myself from time to time, that I call the very best craftsmen in my trade friends, colleagues and mentors.
Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t think choosing to be an entrepreneur or running one’s own business could ever be described as being a smooth road. In the beginning I put in a lot of hard work, worked two and three jobs at times; painting in the days, working retail and restaurant jobs on nights and weekends to make enough money for living. It was an incredible transition to be able to quit everything else and just focus on my business and painting full time. With that, came entirely new obstacles to finding the right work/ personal life balance. Setting your own hours can be really difficult for a person that has tendencies towards being a workaholic. Striking that balance has been a goal of mine for years and after 9 years in business, I’m finally figuring that balance out!
Then there are the challenges that come with being a woman in a predominantly male trade. Stereotypes, not being taken seriously, sexual harassment, discrimination. It’s not pretty but these things do exist. Always remaining professional and aligning myself with other similar people of character has practically eliminated these issues from my life though.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Harmony Haus Painting – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in interior house painting and furniture and cabinet refinishing. I use environmentally friendly and non-toxic products as much as possible. Working in vintage homes are some of my most favorite and rewarding projects. Giving much needed love and care to vintage homes that maybe haven’t had any work done in an incredibly long time or alternately have seen many years of poor craftsmanship and incorrect repairs. Figuring out what was done, how it was done, and how best to rectify the damage to completely transform the space in the best possible way. That’s the kind of stuff I love doing.
Sometimes you just can’t get around using an oil or shellac primer, an oil based stain, etc. But I take great pride in the fact that I try to be as environmentally conscience as possible, in every aspect of my business. Where do the products I use come from, where are they made, how are they made, what’s in them? From my screen printed work shirts to brushes and drop cloths, recycling boxes on job sites, thinking about how much waste is being generated on each job and what can be diverted from landfills, I care about all these things. I choose to support local small business or Made in America as much as possible. I lead my personal life in a sustainable manner, practicing vermiculture, cutting out as much plastic as possible, eating locally sourced seasonal foods, being against factory farms, regularly picking up litter in my neighborhood, volunteering my time to the various charities I support and it’s important to me that my business also be a reflection of that as well. That can be a challenge to impart that same level of care in my apprentices and assistants but it’s always a work in progress.
What sets me apart from others in my field is my level of customer service. I strive to make the process of repainting your home as easy, convenient and hassle free as humanly possible. If you’ve ever had contractors in your home doing anything, you’ve probably had a bad experience somewhere along the line. I have no idea why that’s the standard for the building trades but it is. I do what I say I’m going to do, when I say I’m going to do it and I stay on schedule, performing anything I do in an ethical manner is my biggest priority. Now if you’re a client getting in touch with me for the first time regarding new work, you may wait a while, weeks even, for me to return your call or email but that’s because my full attention is on the current work and client at hand. I’m not running around drumming up new business while on my current client’s clock. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to clone myself yet…
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love traveling across the country seeing all that our great United States has to offer but Chicago has always been my magical home. This truly is an amazing city. The architecture, the history, the culture, the people, the lake, the feel of all the different neighborhoods, the food, the farmer’s markets, the music. There is so much to love and appreciate.
I hope as we move into the future that the one of a kind businesses and unique shops that comprise our city can remain. As more and more family run places that have been in business from anywhere upwards to 60 and 80 years close their doors, it really hurts. I would hate to see all of the different neighborhoods become an extension of a suburban strip mall. Support your local and small businesses, people!
- Address: Evanston, Il
- Website: harmonyhaus.com
- Phone: 773.677.6465
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @harmonyhaus
- Facebook: @HarmonyHaus
- Twitter: @HarmonyHaus
- Yelp: Harmony Haus Painting