We sat down with sisters Ashley & Whitney, two power tool-wielding DIY queens, on a mission to create beautiful and affordable furniture, turning houses into homes. Self-described coffee enthusiasts and treasure-weavers, the two sisters transformed a hobby into a dream career. The self-taught carpenters post their journey online to inspire other people to “pick up that scary tool and go!” Hosts of HGTV’s Open Concept, and designers of the Shanty2Chic Home Collection exclusively at At Home Stores nationwide.
We talk about growing up, starting the business on an idea, and how they landed themselves on a HGTV show and in the At Home stores nationwide.
We sit down with Justin & Cassity Kmetzsch of Remodelaholic.com to discuss the why behind Remodelaholic.com, raising kids, and finding their why, all while providing an incredible community for visitors to Remodelaholic.com to DIY their homes.
Welcome to the Leadership Legacy Podcast where we interview influential leaders, learn their why, and how they turn their passions into progress that set them on the path to lead better lives.
Tony: Welcome to the Leadership Legacy Podcast. This is episode number two. I’m sitting in the office of Remodelaholic today with Justin and Cassity Kmetzsch here in the lovely, beautiful state of Utah.
Cassity: Good job
Tony: They run Remodelaholic.com – if you haven’t been there you should definitely check it out. They have a billion different things going on. We’re in their office and just looking out at the pretty mountains, the snow covered mountains on one side and just pretty mountains on the other with no snow, it’s really cool and I’m excited to be here so thank you for having me.
Cassity: We’re glad you’re here! It’s a fun surprise actually.
Tony: Awesome. And you’ll have so many other awesome things planned, we’ve been talking about some of the new projects ya’ll are working on so I’m excited to be a part of that. You know, even my entire team at Evenpar Solutions is excited.
Cassity: And we’re excited that you’re helping us.
Justin: Yes, we need good helpers.
Tony: So Leadership Legacy podcast, we interview influential leaders that are leaving lasting legacies, so we obviously love working with ya’ll and have been for 6 or 7 years, maybe a little big longer and just love what you’re doing here and what you stand for, what projects you are working on that are coming out in the future, what they stand for and just what you are doing as community leaders. In the blogging industry, what you’re doing there. I have several questions. Hopefully we can get through some of these. The first question I like to ask is how did you get this job?
Justin: Good question.
Cassity: Good question. So, in college we got married pretty young. I was 20, he was 23. And so we were in college together and we transferred from our first college where we got our associates degree, I’ll try to make this fast, to a new college and it was a four year program for each of us when we transferred. So we had our associates but we kind of had to start over. Before we left, Justin had a really good job so we were able to buy a hundred year old house to fix up that we did throughout college and then we sold it and we both got design degrees – he’s a landscape architect and I got my degree in interior design. So we were doing what we loved. We moved to North Carolina and he started working and I started a small just personal blog for friends so we could show what we were doing on our next house because that’s what we really liked to do, and then the economy dropped out and we moved to Texas…
Justin: Because their economy was awesome.
Cassity: Their economy was still going so that was lucky.
Tony: Everything’s big in Texas.
Cassity: Everything’s bigger in Texas! Anyways so we moved there and I got pregnant and so I was kind of like what am I going to do with a baby, you know I wanted to stay home with my kids but then I had a baby and as much as I love her I needed something to do. So while I was pregnant, I started reading blogs and I was inspired by quite a few blogs, but there was one in particular that i read and I loved them, I loved their personality, but they did something and they did it so wrong in DIY. Like, they didn’t understand what they were doing so they had butted these two mouldings together and like patched it and I’m like that’s going to crack in like 3 days. It’s not going to last, so I was like if they are earning money and both of them are working on this, then we could do this. At this point this was technically our fourth house we were remodeling so…
Justin: I was like, what? Make money online? That’s weird.
Cassity: Yeah, so he had his job and I started a blog and worked every day, night and day, for like nine months, and I remember getting my first hundred dollar check from Google, and this was like nine months total and being like “I have arrived.” That was it, so that’s how it started.
Justin: So yeah, slowly I was able to tell my job because the Texas economy actually started slowing down, so it gave us an opportunity to work less at that job but then start to build the online blog which was cool, to be able to kind of transition to being a full time blogger. And so eventually I was able to just quit the Texas job and we decided at that time it was better to be closer to family. So then we moved Texas and moved here and continued growing it.
Cassity: And we’ve just worked on it ever since.
Justin: One little project at a time wherever we were. But we really, we took that Texas house and really made a lot of big changes and made it really nice for the next owners because we only enjoyed it for a couple weeks and then we basically…
Cassity: Well we finished it to move. That’s what usually happens.
Justin: But it provided a lot of good content and got us started so that was good.
Cassity: So we’ve been self-employed since 2012.
Cassity: That’s six years.
Justin: Both of us.
Tony: A lot has happened in 6 years!
Justin: Pinterest came around in that time, right?
Cassity: No it’s been around longer.
Tony: It’s kind of crazy to think, holding this Apple iPhone, it’s like it’s been here forever but really you know it’s only been what 10 years?
Cassity:Yeah, we’re so used to it.
Tony: Yeah my kids will never see a flip phone! They may never see a phone in our home!
Justin: They might come back.
Tony: Yeah, flip phones might come back, that’s true! So you talk about how you really love design and you really loved, you know, kind of doing your own thing, but what made you want to do design instead of something different. Why did you start this Remodelaholic?
Cassity: Ummmmmm…. Well… I come from a creative family. My father’s a chainsaw wood carver and my mother is a seamstress so growing up I was always sewing and climbing over logs outside and just around this creative, entrepreneur type environment so I kind of feel like that’s the only way to go. When we were looking for the next college to transfer to when we were finally like ok, we are finally going to get our bachelor’s degree, Justin wanted to do engineering. He worked for an engineering firm. He has a drafting degree. But he is such an amazing artist, so I was kind of like why would you not… the artist in me, the like creative in me is like well you have to do something creative! So I don’t know. I don’t know if I could have chosen anything different.
Justin: No, I’m glad I took the path that I did to get to where I’m at, I’ve always been creating things since I was little. Fixing things and just working with my hands and landscape architecture ended up being a better fit than an engineer because it provided a more creative outlet I guess. But even though I don’t do that fulltime now but I’m still designing and creating and using the same process.
Cassity: I think it’s just the idea of creating that we really love that we couldn’t not do. So the truth of the matter is, before we started Remodelaholic, that was our hobby. So we were always fixing and remodeling and changing within a budget because we didn’t have any money so that was a way we could get what we wanted, so now it’s just what we do for work. Does that answer your questions?
Tony: Yeah that’s great!
Justin: I forgot what the question was.
Tony: THe question was why did you decide to go into the design world instead of being an engineer or a police officer or fire department or whatever.
Justin: Well I think it’s funny because Cass and I, when we got back and look at our childhoods because they were really similar, I would actually sit in my bedroom and draft up my room. I would rearrange my furniture, like how can I rearrange it this week. What can we do different. How can I make a bunk bed or something that’s different from what it is, and she did the exact same thing.
Cassity: I totally did! I drafted my dream treehouse with like built-ins galore so we both loved that. You can’t take it out of us, that’s the problem!
Tony: It’s the same thing for me – I think of myself as being creative in different ways – designing websites or helping someone design experience, but when I grew up… I was in my attic a couple weeks ago and I found all these drawings of golf courses…
Cassity: Oh I love it!
Tony: Where I had decided I was going to design golf courses, I was going to be a golf course architect or something. So i’ve got all these colored pencil drawings of different golf courses and I’m like what in the world?
Cassity: And I love that! That’s your business name! You know what I mean? That’s the thing.
Tony: Yeah it’s definitely intertwined – creativity and golfing are two of my big passions.
Cassity: Yeah! I love it!
Tony: So you started off both of you kind of doing this yourself and as the years have gone on you’ve added people to the mix to help with the social media, with the website, with YouTube. When you’re looking for either an intern or someone to work for you, what are you looking for in that person?
Cassity: Definitely I want someone who has a drive to get things done without me having to tell them to do it. I am really lucky in that my employees are fabulous and I love that they take the initiative to think about things and they personalize our blog and they think “This is going to be good for the blog.” And I think because they have that passion and they have that ability, I feel like they really succeed and it helps us succeed and that’s really important.
Justin: Yes, we recently hired somebody and it was a hard process because you have to kind of pick through…
Cassity: I hate to disappoint people!
Justin: You have to find people who are even interested in helping your business, but we found somebody but she’s awesome because we don’t have… I mean we train her what to do but then she comes back and says “what if we did this?” She’s finding other solutions that we haven’t really looked at.
Cassity: Yeah, it’s really helpful because she feels that… I don’t know, I think that’s what’s important that you need to give them at least the room to kind of be like “this is how I’m going to fulfill my job and it’s going to be fun for me.” It will be a challenge for them as well.
Justin: So yeah, hiring somebody that kind of looks outside the box and that’s not just “ok tell me exactly what I need to do and I’ll do it.”
Tony: Yeah, there’s definitely a place for that type of person because there are people who, you know, just need a script because creativity is not their forte, but yeah, I agree with you 100%. If you have people that are working with you who feel like your business is their business and they want to make a difference and they want to pour everything they can into it, it completely changes the landscape of your business.
Cassity: Yeah and for us it’s been hard to find people but we’ve been really lucky with who we have found. So I’m super glad we have them.
Tony: How many people do ya’ll have working for you now?
Cassity: 8 or 10? I’d have to really…
Justin: And they’re different levels of how much they put in per week. We pay over 20 people every year. Like in a year’s time…
Cassity: Well and that doesn’t include contributors to the blog. That’s just people who are working for Remodelaholic. So at least 10 maybe more and some are shorter and some are longer term, and they’re mostly part time.
Tony: Yeah that’s what I find that it’s good to have a mix of people who, maybe they have a full time job and they need some extra money and you want to be able to help them and they’re passionate about what you’re doing and want to help.
Cassity: One of the things that I’m actually very passionate about, and this is important to me, because I wanted my whole life to be a stay at home mom, like that’s what I wanted to do. But I’m very fulfulled with this work and so a lot of the people who work for me are stay at home moms. THey work from home and they’re able to be with their kids and yet help, you know, bring in money for their family and so I’m super passionate about that. Like I’m happy that they can be mothers and yet still at home and still providing. I think that’s harder. I’m just going to be perfectly honest, working from home with children is much harder than… and I guess maybe I hurt feelings with saying that and I don’t mean to, but you are doing two jobs at the same time always.
Tony: Yeah, I admire the stay at home mom that has a job because it’s two full time jobs. I have a hard time working out of my home office with the kids running around and to be able to leave and go to a coffee shop or something is a break for me and I can get work done, but there’s never a break for my wife. She’s either helping run a business or helping the kids with the homework or trying to potty train our youngest, and so I admire the stay at home mom. I couldn’t do it.
Cassity: It’s definitely hard. But that’s one thing that I’m really proud of with our business.
Tony: So what’s next for Remodelaholic? Without giving away any secrets to what’s coming down the road.
Cassity: We definitely talked about some new ideas. Well we were talking about this – I feel like with a blog, the one thing… so when we started, you know you have your different peers that you get to know and that you work with and then, I have found that peer group kind of, this sounds rude but, it sort of fizzles out in that people decide to do different things, they move on, but um… so you kind of have to find new peer groups and keep adding to who you know and how you work together with other people in your field. But additionally with the blog I found that every couple of years you kind of have to reinvent it. You kind of have to figure out ok what’s the next big thing and what am I going to go toward. Right now our big thing that we’re really working on, and it’s not any surprise to anybody that’s in the industry, but it’s definitely video. So we’ve been working really hard on our YouTube presence, and it’s hard! It’s really really difficult and we have these moments where finally YouTube is sharing it for us in browse features, but they they stop and then we have to figure out ok how do we get another semi-viral video? I mean not even viral because it’s not even that big. But to get YouTube to share it for us, so it’s just a constant like evolution in order to keep growing the blog. So definitely there’s some new ideas that are coming down the line but right now we are currently working on video.
Tony: What’s the hardest thing, other than getting the eyes on those videos, what’s the hardest thing to do when creating content for those videos, or coming up with content?
Justin: I think we’re pretty good at creating content. It’s getting that content organized and produced for other people to enjoy. And that’s the hard part because right now there’s a production company of just two of us. It’s like…
Cassity: We’re recording, we’re planning
Justin: And the tripod has been hired to hold the camera and so it’s… there’s a lot more involved with the video than taking a picture and putting it on a blog post.
Cassity: And since last June, so we bought a new house and we have probably 20 Youtube episodes worth of projects we’ve been working on that we really want to share, but we have to get this first video done, and we’ve just been so hindered to finish it because we just have to go through all these files, and we even have an editor for videos so I’m not even doing that work. We have a fabulous editor.
Justin: But we still have to give him the content, filtering out the content to give to him is…
Tony: I think a lot of people don’t understand the amount of work that goes into… I mean stay at home mom bloggers are people that are running businesses from their homes. I think a lot of people on the outside are like “oh they’re working from home, how easy can it get? They’re living the life” right? I mean, they have no idea the amount of, I mean just doing a website and keeping up with a blog and then running a family and a home is two full time jobs on top of remodeling a home and putting out projects and putting out content on social.
Cassity: And working with brands, and they have their demands and their needs. And additionally you know, we’re sitting in our dining room right now and there has been a time in the past in this dining room where the table was in the living room and there was a bedroom set up. A fake bedroom set up so we could photograph a headboard that we built, and so we had two processes with the headboard. We had an unfinished wood look and we had a painted look and we had to keep the kids off this fake bedroom in the middle of our house for 5 days.
Justin: Even the cats!
Cassity: They just wanted to be on it and mess it up and it was like “Don’t touch it!!!” you know? And that’s just… you keep your kids out of your dining room for 5 days which is in the middle of our house. You have to walk through it to get to the bedrooms or the kitchen so it can be very difficult. And just thinking about every single thing you do, you might need to document it. And the time it takes, it takes 25 minutes to set up the GoPro and find the lights and do this and that.
Justin: We need to just wear a GoPro helmet all over the place and strap cameras to it.
Cassity: That would be so awesome.
Justin: Watch us live!
Tony: What do you think is the most popular types of videos that you’re putting on YouTube right now that people kind of engage with and you’ve seen the most traction from? Is it the bigger projects that take a long time to do or is the small, easy things, or is it somewhere in the middle?
Cassity: Well, so there’s some outliers that just do well. We had a great contributor project that just came through and it is the Benjamin Franklin chair that flips and becomes a ladder. Have you ever seen that? So he built plans for it and the reason that has done so well is because it is so like surprising. People are like “how does this work?” And so it’s exciting to watch and so it’s like how did this come together. But ultimately, the videos that have done the best have been videos that we have recorded personally, and that’s hard…
Justin: We’ll be like oh we have a need for this. We need to create and build this and so fulfilling a need created something pretty cool and unique…
Cassity: but then people have that need and so they think oh ok I’ll do that.
Justin: And they think… those end up being the better videos.
Cassity: And just in general on YouTube I found that people want to be invested in you as a person and so that matters.
Tony: I think when they se your face, when they hear your voice, they feel connected to you.
Tony: And it’s kind of that… how you see people on TV and you’re like I know them because I see them on TV and then you see them out in public and they’re… you know they go up and say hey to them and they’re kind of taken aback and you’re like “wait, I know you!”
Cassity: We’re friends! We’re buddies!
Tony: You’re in my life, in my living room everyday! Yeah, it’s always a neat…
Cassity: It would be hard to be that famous and I don’t know. I don’t know that I necessarily want that.
Tony: It’d be tough to have to live in the public eye at that level.
Tony: What’s the best business book or the best place for you to go get inspiration on the business side of Remodelaholic?
Cassity: Um, I think it goes back to. I’ve definitely read business books and we tend to talk about those kind of things. We listen to Audible books on, you know, on family trips and things and so that’s really nice. But when it comes to business tips, I’ve found the best resource is like a facebook group of your peers that are also doing the same work. So kind of a mastermind group. And technically we need to create a mastermind group that kind of has a bigger reach than just blogland, but whenever I hear someone else try something and then I can put my experience with it and I can get a better picture of what’s going on, so I really feel like that’s where I find my best business advice, and so that might include conferences and things like that, but then sometimes if you go to too many, then you’re just overwhelmed and it stops progress because you’re like, I can’t do this all.
Tony: It’s too much.
Justin: I’ve been listening to different podcasts. It’s really easy to do, really you know as I’m building something I can just listen to somebody share their experiences but I don’t know. I don’t read a whole lot but i have been trying to listen.
Cassity: His honey-do list is too long, working on all the projects!
Justin: Just listening to those that have succeeded and their stories is inspirational.
Cassity: Gives you ideas.
Tony: Well if ya’ll were to ever write a book about the journey of Remodelaholic or the journey of your life, what would the title be? I’m not going to hold you to it, but I just like to ask that question. The Remodelaholic Life?
Cassity: Oh man! Um… This is Real Life. I don’t know, something about it being real life.
Tony: I like it.
Cassity: That’s kind of boring. Is This Our Life? Is This How We Actually Live?
Tony: Is This Real Life?
Justin: Just kind of, I don’t know of the specific title, but just about…
Cassity: The mess of balancing everything
Justin: Trying things out. Pushing yourself. I never thought making money online was a thing, but we didn’t know it until we tried.
Tony: And now it’s providing for your family and providing for other people’s families.
Cassity: Yeah. Yeah!
Justin: Trying new things…
Cassity: Yeah that is kind of scary. It’s almost a joke of what…
Justin: Do or do not…
Tony: Well I’ve got one last question I ask everybody as we are ending our time, and I’m really interested to hear this from ya’ll because ya’ll are involved in so many things, and I like to hear this from both of your, and you may have the same answer to this question, but at the end of your life when you look back on everything you’ve accomplished, everything you’ve taught your kids, everything you’ve done in the community, everything you’ve done online, when you’re ready to leave this world, what do you want your legacy to be?
Cassity: Stunned silence… you know, I think I would have different legacies for different people if that makes sense. Like I would want my children to know that I had faith in a God and that was supremely important to me, and I would want like our readers to know that I care about them and I want them to succeed, like… but also it’s not all about me. I think that’s something that has been important in my life like, I can appreciate someone else’s project and say this is so great. I don’t have to be the one that produced it. It doesn’t have to be all about me. I would like other people to feel excited about what they’ve done. I don’t know, I… maybe I need to think about this question more. Let’s see [to Justin] what do you want your legacy to be?
Justin: I was just thinking of help and me being a helpful person to other people and helping other people help themselves. We try to provide good content to help other people improve their surroundings. So… and I love serving people, helping them out, and so just a legacy of service and helping. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Tony: Yeah, I like that.
Justin: Um… I would like to be known as a guy that was helpful to others.
Tony: Well ya’ll are definitely helpful to me! I have been blessed to be a service to your site.
Cassity: Thank heaven!
Tony: And I’ve been blessed to sit here and get to know you and sit in your office and get to meet you for the first time in a long time and make sure it’s not seven years before we meet again, but I appreciate you having me here and just taking time out from your busy schedule to meet.