She’s Mom, Incorporated: Zoe Kardasis Sturtz, Edit Design Build Studio

Zoe Kardasis Sturtz is one half of the husband-wife team that is Edit Design Build Studio. The duo started this residential remodeling company in 2009, just a year before their first son was born. Now they’ve got two boys under 4 and they are still running their business out of their home. Living and renovating in the community they call home might just be the secret to their success. 

MOMINCORPORATED: What inspired you and your husband to start Edit Design Build Studio?
ZOE:
When we started our company it was 2009 we were in the midst of a very long and hard recession. The construction industry and architecture field had been hit particularly hard. After a year or so of us both struggling to believe our jobs working elsewhere were secure, we realized that the best place to put our efforts, and our faith, was in our own hands.

MOMINCORPORATED: What resources did you use to help you launch your business?
ZOE:
Having both come from design and construction backgrounds, we were very fortunate to have lots of relationships and deep connections in the industry. These relationships were critical in our success. Referrals were and have always been, our best resources. Tending and caring for those relationships has been critical. We also were very careful, especially in the beginning, to not commit a lot to overhead. We work from home, still drive an old truck that works well but is not a fancy vehicle, and we don’t have any employees. We run a lean ship and wear most of the hats most of the days. We did however hire specialized professionals such as a good accountant, lawyer and insurance agent. These people are critical to our long term success and our companies’ overall structure.

MOMINCORPORATED: How do you manage your partnership? What happens when you disagree?
ZOE:
Our partnership has and continues to be a work in progress. We have gotten much better at our communication and now realize that not everything needs to be a shared decision. Typically, I manage all sales and business management, my husband and partner, Ryan, manages all production, and we share the design. That said, we do have a lot of overlap. Ryan has an architecture background as well as tremendous building skills, and I have a design and remodeling management background, so for many of our activities we both have a strong voice.

When we disagree we usually take some time to try to see the other’s perspective and, most importantly, remember that our clients satisfaction is our number 1 priority. So if it doesn’t meet that criteria, we probably need to reevaluate our answer.

MOMINCORPORATED: Has having kids changed the way you work?
ZOE:
Yes and no. I have always been a very organized and efficient person. That said…on the days when I am home with my boys, I have to force myself to table work concerns until I have other childcare help or Ryan is available. Having a Smartphone and my office at home makes discipline all the more important. I learned a long time ago that trying to be a mom and a business owner at the same time is not fair to anyone. My children do not get the attention they need and deserve and my clients don’t get my best work or my clear head. I am better off tabling an activity until later when I know I will be uninterrupted. My boys are in daycare and preschool three full days a week. Those are my traditional office hours and I maximize them. They go by quickly!

MOMINCORPORATED: What are some of the challenges you have faced along with way and how have you overcome them?
ZOE:
Sleep deprivation was very hard with both my boys. When they were infants and I wasn’t getting much sleep it was so hard to think clearly and give my work the focus it deserved. I think the best way to overcome these kind of challenges is to recognize that the condition is temporary, honor it for what it is – a phase -, and be realistic about what you say you can do and when you say you can do it. Schedule the time you need to feel balanced again. Rest is as important as food, exercise or anything else that keeps you steady. Ask for help.

MOMINCORPORATED: Are there any special time management tricks you have learned?
ZOE: 

  • Lists. I love them.
  • Calendars…a shared calendar in the cloud that is our business schedule and our family calendar. It updates almost immediately if Ryan or I add anything to it.
  • Set Reasonable Expectations. Having expectations that are unrealistic is so unsatisfying and very stressful.
  • Say no sometimes. You do not need to be everything to everyone. You know who and what is most important to you. Sometimes keeping life simple makes all the difference.

MOMINCORPORATED: What kind of support do you have – both for you and your business?
ZOE:
We don’t have a lot of family near by, so that is difficult sometimes. However, when they do come to visit we ask for help, often.

From a business perspective, I am part of a number of business associations that I find invaluable. NARI is our local remodelers association where I have found some wonderful resources as well as people in the business, that have a lot to share, and we meet often for a monthly roundtable. I am also part of WeMN, a local association of Women Entrepreneurs. It’s an excellent source of information, inspiration and education. I also used SCORE a lot in the beginning. It’s a very helpful and rich organization for business owners.

MOMINCORPORATED: What do you wish you knew before you started Edit?
ZOE: I wish I knew how possible it really is. I tell my three year old all the time to be brave, to believe in himself. And it’s true, not just for him, but for all of us. You really never know quite how capable you are until you jump.

MOMINCORPORATED: What advice would you give other women about starting a business?
ZOE:
Successful people leverage their resources. You have friends, colleagues, and neighbors, people who want you to succeed. Tell them what you are doing, ask them for advice, pick peoples brains, build relationships – real relationships – those are the people who will be there for you as you grow. They will be happy to help you and proud to talk about your venture. I still believe, even in the age of endless social media, that the people you know personally can be your best assets.  And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can learn a lot!

6 thoughts on “She’s Mom, Incorporated: Zoe Kardasis Sturtz, Edit Design Build Studio

  1. Great interview! Zoe and Ryan work incredibly hard raising their boys (my grandsons) and growing their design build company. The outcomes in both areas are awesome. I am so proud.

  2. Terrific interview – wish I had had people doing my remodel work who cared as much as the Sturtz’s. It’s so important to feel like the people you hire worked as hard on the project as they did on selling the ideas to me. Congratulations!

  3. Zoe- you go girl/mama/business woman! I hear often about your work and life success from your mom and dad. Wish we all lived closer so we could hear and see you and the boys directly…8 ( Lots of love to you and the adorable boys (including Ryan!). -lys

  4. Zoe, you couldn’t be more right. Its all in the (1) relationships you have – the ones you nurture and grow – that help you succeed, no matter what industry you are in. (2) asking questions – seek out your personal “board of advisers” to help you and (3) ask for help, especially in areas outside your expertise – stick to your core strengths and ask for help on everything else (esp. on the personal side)

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