Small Business Interview: Shannon Bloemker, Glasshouse

Meet Shannon Bloemker, the Founder, and CEO of Glasshouse a premium home maintenance and repair company dedicated to helping busy people keep their homes in peak condition. She earned her master’s degree from Harvard in Environmental Science & Sustainability after changing careers from the Mortgage-backed Securities Industry.

In this interview, Shannon talks about how she prices her product, why you shouldn't wait for perfection in business and why you should create a business around your competencies and not your gender. We have so much to learn from her - Enjoy!

Shannon Bloemker Glasshouse

"Don’t let finances get away from you. It’s easy to put stuff off, but much harder to catch up later."

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services or products do you offer?

My name is Shannon Bloemker, and I am the Founder and CEO of Glasshouse. Glasshouse is a premium home maintenance and repair company dedicated to helping busy people keep their homes in peak condition.

Our experienced Glasshouse Managers perform all the maintenance homes requires quarterly visits, and are available any time homeowners need them - for inevitable repairs or simply tackling their to-do lists.

The House Manager will also track their work and catalog the home’s systems and appliances in an easy to navigate app. Now requesting help with a leaky faucet is as simple as sending a text message. No matter what issues arise, your Glasshouse Manager serves as a single point of contact throughout the process.

Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?

I have extensive experience in residential design/build, construction management, cost control, green building, and home maintenance. After having learned the value of good property management first-hand during my years as a strategist and co-owner of Five Ten Capital, I founded Glasshouse in order to bring the benefits of preventative maintenance to the single-family owner-occupied market.

Do you have any special training?

I earned my Master’s Degree from Harvard in Environmental Science & Sustainability after changing careers from the Mortgage-backed Securities Industry at Salomon Brothers and Franklin Templeton Funds. I also managed six high-end residential construction projects for investment, each of which required a yearlong process of design, value engineering, strategic planning, and oversight. And I am LEED-certified home inspector.

What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?

First and foremost, launching a business has been a tremendous accomplishment. It’s been an incredible experience to take what began as a need I recognized in my own home and turning that into a real revenue stream. In addition to that, recruiting our team and getting validation from customers has really shown me that people believe in and support our philosophy around the value of preventative maintenance.

How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?

We just launched a few months ago and invested a lot in the business to date. Our goal right now is to gain market traction through educating and acquiring consumers. Beyond that our priority is to offer our clients the best customer service possible.

How did you decide how to price your services? How did you determine what your services were worth?

I began by doing a lot of market research. I needed to find a balance between attracting the right people for the house manager role while hitting a cost that is still affordable and fair for the consumer. In the end, we landed on a pricing model that would afford my business highly skilled and professional handymen, who have the power to elevate the industry to a new standard for how routine maintenance is both perceived and performed.

Everyone we hire has to go through background checks, skills assessments, and personality tests. The result is a House Manager that our customers trust enough to use a lockbox for visits where they are unable to be onsite.

What mistakes, if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?

For a long time, I was afraid to launch a product that was not quite finished. I wanted it to be perfect, but in the time it took for me to refine the business and its extensions - like the website and our app - I could have gone to market sooner.

Looking back on that process, I now realize that the product doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be beneficial. Our customers have really given me the confidence to push forward. The positive feedback we get helps to make the bumps in the road much smoother these days.

What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?

Building a team that loves coming to work and loves what they do is essential. In a customer service based industry, our staff needs to reflect our values. The group I’ve pulled together has such good energy, which in turn makes our work environment really positive.

Right now, we’re situated in an open office and meetings pop up all the time based on an off-hand comment or observation. Everyone is so passionate about our product that our business discussions don’t really feel like work most of the time.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how great the product is. If I didn’t have a team that supported it, we would fail. We are successful because my staff wants Glasshouse to flourish just as much as I do.

Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?

Don’t focus on how your gender historically impacts the business. Find what you are passionate about and create a business around your competencies. People will value the work that you do when you show them why you are an expert in that field.

Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?

Don’t let finances get away from you. It’s easy to put stuff off, but much harder to catch up later. When you create a budget, be disciplined about it. The little things like team lunches, marketing collateral, and office supplies can be a drain on your finances if not properly managed.

How do you balance work and life owning a small business?

Nobody ever does. Life is never a perfect balance. Sometimes my family takes precedence because we have a big life event like graduation to plan for and participate in. Other times, I’m stuck late at the office and making dinner for everyone turns into a scramble to find cereal in the cabinets. What helps me along the way is including my family in my business as much as possible.

Many days my husband works out of the same office, and we’ll get to commute in together. Our oldest son has interned at Glasshouse and will continue to do so this summer.

And in the afternoons it’s not uncommon for my children to stop by after school to meet with their tutor in our conference room or help out with some data entry projects to work off all of the gems they secretly brought in a game on their cell phone. It’s a lot easier to be a working mom when I can find ways to have my family work alongside me.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I hope that our company has national brand recognition. In five years, my goal is to have demonstrated the value of what we do, so that people understand the implications of taking better care of their homes.

I’d also like to challenge our Industry to adopt better standards. Beyond that, I see many ways Glasshouse can partner with companies that offer home mortgages, insurance, and home warranties.

Please share a fun fact about yourself

I raised chickens for 15 years. They make great pets and are very social. We even have one who loves to walk through the house and make herself at home.

Thank you for such an amazing interview Shannon!