Senior Moving Entrepreneur
“Whether she is preparing for a moving day or planning an outdoor Alzheimer’s event, Katie always get her weather from Nikki-Dee Ray.”
by Jim Beck
Fourteen years ago, entrepreneur Katie Hamann founded Door to Door Solutions with her life partner, Donnie Harper, and a very tight budget. Today, she owns her own building, which houses a storage and training center, on Westwood Avenue, and her business now dominates the Richmond marketplace.
Katie credits a treasured dollhouse built for her by her father and grandfather for her success. The dollhouse, which provided Katie with many wonderful years of play in her youth, came with the “hidden gift” of teaching her about critical thinking, space management, organization, decision making, classification and many other skills.
These skills have served the business owner well as she’s helped her clients “downsize,” or fit many rooms of furniture from a family home into just a couple rooms in a retirement community. Katie has also used the lessons she learned from dollhouse play to reinvent moving from a “sweat and brawn” industry to one that is based on planning, organization and fulfillment. This approach has also won her rave cent reviews.
Through her work with Door to Door Solutions, Katie often encounters family members with Alzheimer’s disease. To better serve her clients, she worked to learn about the disease by attending classes and volunteering with the Richmond Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She was a natural fit for the organization and rose to the office of president of the board of the Greater Richmond Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Katie now uses her business success to help Richmond combat one of the greatest health care challenges of the 21st century.
From a child playing with a dollhouse to a successful entrepreneur and Alzheimer’s crusader, let’s talk to Katie Hamann.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
Door to Door exists to take clients from an overwhelmed and impossible state, which is often felt during the beginning of a move, to a feeling of possibility. As a one-stop shop with solutions for all things moving, Door to Door strives to minimize the disruption created by moving into a smaller space and give clients a pleasant and positive experience.
We help clients determine what will fit in their new home, while also considering what represents the best of their past and defines their needs in the future.
Over a century ago, the founder of cultural historical psychology, L. Vygotsky, wrote: “The brain combines and creatively reworks elements of past experiences and uses them to generate new propositions and behaviors.”
Is Door to Door Solutions the result of new propositions and behaviors from your past experiences playing dollhouse?
Of course, blended with new skills acquired every day. There is a great quote from C. S. Lewis that puts this plainly: “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” What a wonderful way to approach moving into a new home. It is important for all of us, at any age or stage in life, to look ahead more than behind. When we hold onto the past, we are missing today.
The first step to building and furnishing a dollhouse is to envision all the miniature pieces as a coherent, functional and tasteful home. Can you describe how you used imagination and creativity to build your dollhouse and business?
Anything is possible. Every client and every home are unique. There is no right or wrong. We determine which elements of a client’s home are important to them and then carry over those elements into the downsized space. That creates a feeling of home for them, which is more important than aesthetics. Because if you have what you love in your space, it is always beautiful.
The Door to Door Solutions website copy reads: “from room to room and door to door, we have all the right moves.”
How does that description relate to the years you spent placing and arranging miniature furniture?
That really relates more to our full-service offerings. When we first started, we were more of a concierge offering a buffet menu of services that we doled out to other service providers. What we found was that when our clients hired us, they trusted us and wanted us to be a part of this process from start to finish. We crafted our business around the concept of doing all that we could with our own team. It gave us control over quality and timing, which is critical in our business. Even more importantly, it offered our clients peace of mind.
There are 28 employees who are part of the team you mentioned. Explain how your team works together to support your clients.
We do our best to cross-train our team. My partner, Donnie, refers to this as being a utility player.
We need to be flexible for our clients as the jobs can change. We all have a common goal to complete the job, and we each play different roles depending on the day and the client’s needs.
We assign a Team Lead to each job. That person, who is assigned based on our client’s personality and the project needs, is responsible for the client and the project from start to finish. We are all trained to lead and support, and each function is critical to our overall success every day.
You worked in event planning just before you started Door to Door. What ideas did you bring from that work experience to your business?
I am still an event planner. A move is an event, and its success is based on our ability to organize and plan each step and then execute.
A downsizing move is an event that most clients have never experienced, unless they have assisted a friend or a family member. They often aren’t aware of the many steps involved in this process until it unfolds.
We define and schedule each step and help to coordinate these steps with the client. As one of the top three most stressful events in our lives, moving is something that needs to be well planned.
How did you become involved with the Richmond Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association?
After serving many families of clients with the disease, we wanted to understand the local resources that were available. We attended the Reason to Hope Breakfast to learn more. I was impressed with all the services the Association offered as well as their efficiency in educating and raising funds, which led me to volunteer.
How has Alzheimer’s affected your life?
Only indirectly thus far. Experiencing the disease through our clients’ eyes and the families who love them has helped me to think differently about it. Learning to meet someone where they “are” is a good practice on many levels. Also, understanding that there are choices we can make to effectively communicate and interact is critical to a successful interaction.
I haven’t had a family member or close friend with the disease yet, but when I do, as the numbers suggest I will, I am better prepared to help and support that person. Or that person may be me.
What are the key services provided by the Richmond Chapter?
There are so many!
• We have a toll-free helpline, which is manned and “womaned” 24/7. Help is only a phone call away!
• Our care consultants are available to meet with people in their homes at no charge to offer help, support, resources and advice.
• Our staff and volunteers work to educate the community and help them better understand the disease.
• The local chapter advocates politically to help keep this disease, its outrageous costs, and the need for better and earlier diagnoses and care plans at the forefront.
• We have support groups all over the city to give caregivers the opportunity to share, learn, laugh and cry with others who can relate.
• We are working across all cultures, ages, faiths and races in the Richmond community to give caregivers access to museums, businesses and opportunities for interaction in a variety of locations.
I could go on!
What is the biggest need(s) for Alzheimer’s families and/or the Richmond Chapter.
AWARENESS! People should be able to talk about this disease without shame. The more you know, the more we can help.
The Association is only reaching and serving 25 percent of the people in our community with the disease. That means there are a whole lot of folks who can benefit from the services of our chapter, if only they knew we were here. But we are also restricted by our budget in creating the needed awareness, so money doesn’t hurt!
How can the public help the Richmond Chapter?
We are seeking more volunteers to help us with our programs, in the office, with events and with fundraising. Donations are also needed and appreciated, as we are lean organization and must do a lot with a little.
We encourage the public to participate in the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Richmond on November 11, 2018. Our goal is to raise $650,000.
Registration at 8:30am
Ceremony at 9:30am
Walk at 10:00am
Innsbrook, (Markel Plaza)
4600 Cox Road
Richmond, (Glen Allen), VA 23060
Please visit our website for immediate volunteer opportunities at the Richmond Chapter, alz.org.
One of your favorite movies is Erin Brockovich. How do you identify with the Brockovich character, and what would Erin Brockovich be doing if she was in Richmond?
I love her passion and her guts. She is smart, brave, creative, real and funny. If she was in Richmond, I hope we would be friends!
Your favorite woman is Mother Nature. Tell us why.
Brilliance, Balance, Beauty, Wonder, Creativity, Life, Energy. There is nothing she cannot create or destroy.
Tell us about the unsung hero of this interview, Donnie Harper.
I am glad you noticed and asked.
You know how they say, “Behind every great man is a greater woman”? Well, next to me is my life partner in all things, Donnie Harper. He would tell you that I am his better half. And I would agree, but the truth is together we make a great whole!
He was involved in Door to Door first. Donnie knows moving, and he taught us everything we know. He has been an integral part of all that we do, and without him, we wouldn’t be where we are.
Who do you identify as the two or three most notable people in Richmond today?
That number is too small! There are MANY.
Who is your favorite Richmond weather forecaster?
Where do you go for your favorite dessert in Richmond?
I would never discriminate and choose only one place and one dessert. I eat dessert at many places. Donnie and I love to share. His favorite is carrot cake, and mine is chocolate anything.
Do you have any advice for the Matt Lauers or Mattie Lauers of the world?
Behave and follow the Golden Rule.
What would like to say to the thousands of clients who put their trust in Door to oor Solutions?
Thank you. We so very much appreciate the trust our clients place in us every single day. That is no small thing.
Thank you, Katie, for all that you have done for Richmond!
Learn more at: doortodoorsolutions.com