A Clean Slate

Amy Lee Johnson's Organize It has taken her career in a new direction

Business First of Louisville - August 20, 2004 by Robyn Davis Sekula, Business First Correspondent

Amy Lee Johnson is the founder of Organize It of Louisville, a business that helps people organize their homes and offices. She also sells closet and pantry systems that she designs. Johnson left a career in information technology as a software tester to create her business. She recently answered the following questions about her business.

How did you get started in organizing?

"I had a career in information technology for 20 years. The last four businesses I worked for went bankrupt or went out of business. ... I determined then that I was going to have to do something else if I wanted to stay in Louisville.

"I was helping a girlfriend unpack, and I was doing all of her unpacking and organizing her kitchen, and I said, 'Surely there is something else I could do.'

"My friend said, 'You know, you ought to be an organizer.' I had helped her move in and get organized in several different homes, and she said, 'You are really good at this. I think people would pay you to do this.' "

So what did you do next?

"I designed a brochure offering cleaning and organizing services and went to subdivisions. I paid my son (Alexander Lee Johnson, now 11) to ride on his scooter and distribute brochures.

"From those brochures, I got about 20 customers. I cleaned a few homes just to have some income, but I also did some organizing for them as I cleaned."

How do you get the word out now about your business?

"I advertise in the Yellow Pages. I get about 25 percent of my business from the Yellow Pages. I am also a member of NAPO, which is the (Glenview, Ill.-based) National Association of Professional Organizers. A portion of my leads come from there, as well. Another 25 percent of my clients find me on the Web.

"I also put decals on my vehicle ... and every day that I've driven my vehicle I have someone ask me for my card, even when I go through drive-throughs at restaurants."

What do you charge?

"My rate is $40 an hour, or $52 an hour if I bring someone with me to help. I find that having someone with me I get a lot more done and the customer is happier, and then I can get to more customers. It cuts time about in half."

How long does it take you to complete an organizing job?

"If I am doing a good-sized pantry, if I empty it out, change all the containers and combine things, such as combining two boxes of cinnamon into one, a pantry takes three hours or less. A standard reach-in closet takes two hours."

How has business been?

"I am overwhelmed right now. I am still working on closets and organizing leads from March. I have a stack of a dozen online referrals I haven't even called."

Do you use your IT background in your work?

"Yes. I take a laptop computer with me and design the closet on the spot. I can show the designs in 2-D and 3-D. I invested about $6,000 in software, a laptop computer and portable printer."

What are your future plans for your business?

"We will expand into offering interior design services."

The work will be done by Amanda Hettinger, who currently works as an intern and will join Organize It part-time when she graduates from the interior design program at the Louisville Technical Institute in December.

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