Main and Mulberry: Grindstone – The Springer Sisters

Meet Holly Kulp and Tanya Springer, The Springer Sisters. The two have decided to join forces and now scour cluttered closets, busy shelves, and other nooks and crannies helping their clients achieve optimal efficiency. But there’s more to organizing one’s home than baskets and labeled jars. On this episode of the Grindstone, Holly and Tanya explain the ins and outs of organizing and why it’s important to first understand their clients before getting started.


You’re listening to Main and Mulberry: Grindstone. Main and Mulberry gives voice to local leaders and small towns telling big stories. This series, The Grindstone, focuses on a backbone of the US Economy, the small businesses who are creating new jobs and driving innovation with hard work and determination. We’ll hear from business operators about everything from success stories to what it really means to keep your nose to the grindstone. If you operate a business, are considering starting one, or just want to hear some amazing stories, you’re going to love Main and Mulberry: Grindstone.

Keith Essary: Welcome, everyone, to this episode of Main and Mulberry: Grindstone. I’m Keith, and I’ll be your host today. And I’ve been a small business operator for over twenty years, so I’m very familiar with that small business grind. And today we have with us two sisters, Tanya and Holly, Tanya Springer and Holly Kulp, but they go by “The Springer Sisters” and, guys, welcome to the show today.

Tanya Springer: Thanks for having us!

KE: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. I want to hear about you guys’ story. And it’s always interesting to me when families kind of get together and form this. So, I think the first thing I’m going to ask is, which one of you guys is the oldest?

TS: Well, that would be me, Tanya. I’m a, two-and-a-half years older, but the interesting thing about us is, I have the younger sibling personality. Holly is definitely the bossier of the two.

Holly Kulp: The birth order does not apply to us at all!

TS: It does not!

KE: Okay. Really? Okay. So, Holly’s in charge then. Is that what you’re, is that what you’re saying?

TS: Yes. I let her be most of the time. Life is easier that way.

HK: It seems that I’m in charge. I’m not really. I’m just louder and bossier.

KE: Well, that’s an interesting dynamic. Yeah, that’s cool. It sounds like that you guys really get along pretty good. And you have to, if you’re going to be in a small business together, right? I mean, that’s a hard part of it, is doing the family part at the same time as trying to build a business together. And so tell me a little bit about how that came together. I know you guys formed the business a couple years ago, but you were in different areas and now it’s really kind of kicking off. What led you to starting this business, The Springer Sisters?

TS: Well, Holly and I had always had the goal of working together, and it was time for me to make a change, and I wanted to be closer to family. And so we knew that I would be moving to the Memphis area. I was living in South Carolina and had been there for over a decade. And our talent was with organization. We were going about it in different ways. We have different lives and had different work experience, but as we started thinking about ways we could serve our community, that seemed to be the thing that stuck out over and over was, our skillset was in organizing. And we wanted to make sure we were making the right choice. So we formed the company, and we were warned even by other family members that working with your family is usually not the best idea. It has not really been a struggle for us, other than turning off, you know, can we just be sisters today and not business partners? So, that’s probably the only challenge.

HK: Yeah, we haven’t really successfully managed that.

TS: No, we haven’t. But we decided to start the business, and take some training courses, and get involved in the national association for productivity and organizing professionals and just to make sure we were really in the right place and this was going to be a good spot for us. And we did that independently. I was helping some folks in South Carolina. Holly was doing that here in the Memphis area. And I moved here in May of 2019. And since then, we have been the dynamic duo here in the Memphis area and have really been having a great time doing it.

KE: That’s cool. So, you mentioned a couple times, and that you guys, you took some courses, you got some training, and then you talked some about the organization. So, tell us a little bit, I guess, about what it is that Springer Sisters does. Can unpack that, if you would, for a minute? Maybe pun intended there.

HK: Absolutely! Well, unpacking is one of the things we do. We really want to make people’s lives and homes less stressful. And that is through organization, whether that be in a pantry, to know what you have so you’re not overshopping at the grocery store, whether that’s organizing a playroom so it’s just not chaos all the time, and you’re stressed out, walking in, tripping over Legos because it’s a really busy family, and nobody has time to establish systems. It’s, if you’re downsizing, you’re an empty nester and you want to change your location, and going through your items and deciding what’s going to stay and what’s going to go. What else would you say, Tanya?

TS: Well, we do all of those things, but to touch on the training piece, I think even though Holly and I were naturally talented at putting things together in a beautiful, systematic way, the thing we wanted to make sure we were prepared for were all of the emotions, the dealing with aging clients, Alzheimer’s patients, children with ADHD or other, you know, different types of personalities. Like, these were things that they’re, you know, there are a lot of people that can do a lot of beautiful things, and we wanted to make sure we could be the entire package. And we felt like that’s where the training came into play. Because, a lot of times when folks are disorganized, there’s, it can just be a busy family and it can be just a transition in life, a new baby, or a spouse passes away or, you know, and all of those bring with them a lot of emotion. And you know, just a lot of, you have to be prepared for that.

HK: Well, and with organization, a lot of it is, it’s kind of a buzzword these days, with the beautiful pantries and the Pinterest and all of those wonderful images that are out in the world that we love to look at. But the more we got into it, there’s so much more to it. And with a degree in psychology, I’m really, I love that aspect of it and how it affects you and how your home environment and how your systems are run and how stuff is put together really affects. Almost every client we go to, when they’re going through something, “Oh, I’m so stupid. Oh, I can’t get this together.” They just completely pick themselves apart all the time. And I just hate seeing people like that because, you know, organization isn’t perfection, ever! It’s making your life work best for you. And we run across all different types of people. Tanya used to work in the hospitality industry. I don’t think there’s a personality type she has never managed, worked with, come across. I have three kids that cannot be more three different human beings on the planet. We have ADHD in my family. That’s a new thing for me to navigate, and just seeing some of the struggles people go through, nothing gives us more joy.

TS: Well, that’s the number one thing we hear from every client when a job is done, when we check back in, is, “I feel so much more at peace. I’m so much less stressed when I walk in the garage or when I open the playroom door.” And so our gift to them is not only something that looks lovely, but the ability to enjoy their home and not feel the constant weight of projects unfinished or, you know, on their shoulders.

HK: And they may honestly not have the talent of organization. We’re all born with different talents. So, beating yourself up because it’s just not your thing, there hasn’t been a client we haven’t gone into that we haven’t been amazed at their talents, and we try to show them, listen, this may not be your thing but look at all the things that you are talented at. This is just one aspect that you may not have, and that’s why we’re here. So, it’s great to use our talents to help other people.

KE: It sounds like, you know, I expected when I asked the question about what you guys did there, I expected that it would be, “Hey, you know, we come in and we’ll, you know, we’ll help maximize the space and we’ll get you the most out of your square feet in your pantry or your closet and those types of things.” But what you’re saying is that everyone is different and the solution that you provide is really based on that individual and that household and the personalities there and what they might be going through, whether it is you know, managing kids with different personalities, or whether it is an ADHD situation, and there’s certain organization around that, or it is a empty nester that is dealing, you know, refocusing a little bit because their kids have moved out. So, you’re really getting in and starting to know the individuals that you’re working with and helping them compartmentalize and come up with a system that may affect their lives more than it affects not stepping on a Lego, right? Is that, is that what you’re saying?

TS: I think you said that beautifully!

HK: You did. You’re hired! That’s what we do. And we, and part of our training too, you know, asking the right questions. We love it when we go into clients and they say, “I can’t believe you asked me all this stuff. I didn’t even think about that.” So, we’re not just product pushers, shove it in a bin, wala, you’re done. It really is about getting to know what the client wants. Because sometimes, they don’t really even know what they want until you talk through it.

TS: Right, so it’s talking about their habits, the way they use the space, the things that are working, what their dream would be for it, you know, those are the kinds of things. Everybody has a different personality, and there is just no one-size-fits-all approach.

KE: That makes sense. I mean, that’s a, it’s a logical way. I just didn’t really think of it that way. And so, it sounds cool what you guys are doing. I could certainly use some of it at my house. So, when you guys, when you see that show “Hoarders” on TV, do you just freak out?

TS: No, it makes me sad. I cry usually.

HK: We’re both highly sensitive people. It’s a real thing! Google it. No, we, it, it’s such a… 

TS: Because it’s a symptom of an issue and, you know, that, that doesn’t happen overnight. There’s been some sort of trauma or incident in their life that flipped that switch. And it is always very sad to see that process. And, because once you get to a certain point, and that’s with anything, whether you’re in debt, you’re overweight, you’re whatever, and you look to see how much you have to accomplish, and you’re like, “Oh, I just can’t do it,” everybody gets that way about something. So, that’s just with their physical belongings, it’s just… 

HK: It’s the easiest thing on display. We all have our things.

KE: It’s just, yeah, it’s just visible, more visible with them. Yeah, and that’s cool. You guys take a compassionate-type of approach to it. And so let’s switch gears a little bit. I think we’ve got a pretty good understanding of what you guys do, and it’s definitely a cool service. But tell me what is happening with COVID and how that’s affecting you. You guys, like you said, you moved to Memphis in May of ‘19, and you guys are really kind of kicking this off in the Memphis area suburbs, those types of things, and then, boom, people don’t want you to come in their house as much, right? Or you got to wear masks, you know, and you’re shut down. Has that affected you guys substantially

HK: A hundred percent, it did. And in the beginning, it was, you know, pretty much, our train was on the track. We had, you know, booked the whole month of March coming up, we had expos we were going to, it was “woo woo.” We’re on the train, and then it just got derailed and shoved to the side, as everybody did. We weren’t in that alone. But what it really did for us, and Tanya can explain it really well, we really had a big silver lining to it. Yes, physically working, we weren’t able to work for three months, at least, and then slowly started tip-toeing back in with all of our safety precautions in place. But on the back end, what it did for us was… 

TS: Well, it gave us the time to really kind of reflect and look at other people and what they were doing and find some other friends and cohorts. so to say, in the area. We were able to connect with people that were starting their own businesses, things that would compliment what we do, like people who, you know, scan and digitize photos and do photo restoration, people that help with meal prep, you know, all of these types of people that offer services that our clients will also be looking for when they’re talking about streamlining their lives and really kind of starting to build a little bit of a community with that. So, it really made us feel a lot more connected and we started to feel like we were growing in a different way. And now we are back in homes and we’re, you know, doing all the things that are required from a safety standpoint, but people have been at home this entire time and now they are a hundred percent certain what they love about their house and what they don’t. And so, they’re really ready to make some of those changes that may have been on the back burner for them, because they’ve spent so much time in the space and they’re ready to jump in and bring us in and have us help them, you know, recreate whatever the area is that they’re looking for.

KE: Yeah, that’s a good point – two good points there, I think – in that, I love to hear it, when small businesses, when they’re faced with a challenge, like the coronavirus has presented, that you redirect, you pivot, you double-down into making the business better for when it reopens. And it sounds like you guys really did that and learned a lot through the period. So, that’s great news. And then, like you said, you know, remodeling, home-remodeling is blowing up right now because so many people are staying at home and they’re saying, “okay, I’ll need to redo this. Or, if it comes again and I’m stuck in my house again for a certain period of time, these things would be easier for me or this would be more manageable. And the kids are doing virtual school, and so, if I could clean this room up, I could put a desk over there, and they could do that while I’m doing this.” And so, I imagine that’s really, you know, I didn’t think about it, but I imagine that’s really a big top of mind thing for people right now.

HK: It is, just like there was kind of the buzzword of the “essential workers.” You know, the focus has really been on what’s important. It’s the same with our houses. What are the “essential players” in your house, the spaces that you really use and how you use them, and the things that you thought were really valuable and important may be not what they are, now that we’re in this kind of different world that we’re all in right now.

TS: Dining rooms are now home offices and, you know, things are being used in a different way, which is not a bad thing either, because you’re actually using spaces you weren’t using before.

HK: You’re making your home reflect you and your family, which is great.

KE: Yeah. I was actually able to finally make some traction, a few years ago, on that debate. I’ve said for years, we’ve had the dining room and the traditional dining room table at home, and it gets used like once a year. And so there’s been this debate with my wife and I, saying, “listen, what else could we do there?” You know? Come on! There’s, we can’t, you know, we don’t have the square feet to just let that sit there. And so, finally, you know, she gave in, and we just kind of turned that into a unique space. So, we got, there’s a local small business in Collierville, Tennessee called Legacy Billiards. It’s a really cool small business as well, but he offered us a table that, at the top can be a dining room table with all these chairs around it, and it’s got a very nice wood structure table, but then you flip it over, and it’s got a poker table, and then a billiards type deal, a small billiards table and a shuffleboard. So, we kind of put a shuffleboard table in there and rearranged the whole room. You guys would be proud. So, I think we’re maximizing our space.

HK: No! My husband will not be allowed to listen to this! He’s lobbying to do that to our living room, him and the boys, because we never sit in there, and they want a pool table in there. [indaudable]

KE: Yeah! It’s worked out, so it’s cool. And she’s embraced it. So, right now I think the dining room table has a puzzle on it. She likes to do puzzles, so she’s doing puzzles. I’m like, “see, see, now it’s getting used!” So, you know, I’m on your husband’s side on this one.

HK: Yeah!

KE: Well, guys, thanks for being with us and, you know, keep up the good work. I know it’s tough in this time, but it sounds like you guys have a really unique product and different, I think, from what I hear from companies like yours. It’s not just about, “Hey, I’ve got this lineup of products.” You know, we, I had my garage done, but the, you know, and it was very good, but here’s this line of products, you can choose this or this, and you can do these shelves or we can do this. And this is what we recommend. You guys are really coming in and trying to understand the personalities in the household, the situation of the household, and then making recommendations from your experience and from your training of things that’ll just, not only compartmentalize things in the house, but help just organize the flow of your life as well, and I really love that about what you guys are doing. And so, thanks for being on the show and telling your story.

TS / HK: Thank you so much! Thank you for having us.

KE: We’ll see you next time on Main and Mulberry: Grindstone.

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