Some of Tammy Wilkerson’s very first memories are at her grandparents’ furniture store in East Tennessee. After school, she would head down to the store and run among the aisles of furniture. She’d get a penny from her grandmother for the gumball machine and sit on her grandfather’s lap as he worked.
“There are all these memories,” Tammy remembers. “My grandfather opened the store in 1937. At that time, if you wanted new items, especially appliances, you’d write them in a book and wait for a salesman from a factory to show up with items to sell. We’re talking Depression-era Tennessee near Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains.”
Tammy’s grandfather, Ross Sr., opened the store the same year that they had their son (Tammy’s father), Ross Jr. The furniture store was aptly named Ross Furniture. “It was in Maryville — a beautiful little town with views of everywhere in the mountains. It’s a nice community and a great place to grow up. We had a rural customer base and a little store in a small town. That was the beginning.”
Stepping Into the Family Business
After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Tammy headed home to help her family run the business. Eventually, she and her sister took over the reins, and together they helped expand the company. They opened up a second store and then a new warehouse. Tammy remembers her only son, John Ross, running among the rows of furniture, just as she had done as a child.
“Fifteen years later, we sold the business after three generations. We scaled, got bigger, and knew we needed to spend more time with our families. It was just time. We were ready for something different,” Tammy reflects.
During those 15 years, Tammy and her family were rooted in East Tennessee. Her husband, Jeff, declined several promotions, but new opportunities became possible after Tammy sold the business. Jeff accepted three promotions in the next three years, bringing Tammy and her family to Columbia, Tennessee; Roanoke, Virginia; and, eventually, Richmond, Virginia.
“I got really good at getting houses ready to sell,” Tammy laughs.
The Birth of a Business
For a short time, Tammy was a stay-at-home mom. In Richmond, she volunteered at church, worked as a volunteer school library assistant, and spent ample time raising her son. Then, an event occurred that would forever reshape her life.
“My neighbor who worked in the school library couldn’t sell her house. I went and looked at the pictures online and thought I could help her. ‘This is what I’ve done,’ I thought.” Tammy and her neighbor spent several days painting rooms, moving furniture, decluttering, and accessorizing. The very next buyers that saw the house put in an offer.
“Her real estate agent, who is still a dear friend of mine, called me and said, Mrs. Wilkerson, you don’t know me, but can you do that again?’ She introduced me to two clients, and I staged two homes. Those sold right away. No one had heard of staging in early 2006. People didn’t have any idea what staging was, but there I was.”
It didn’t take long for Tammy to realize that she had stumbled upon her next business. She began buying furniture and renting storage space, connecting with more real estate agents, and soon launched her brand, Designed 2 Sell. “At first, it was me and my son and his best friend renting U-Hauls and driving around Richmond,” Tammy quips.
Built on Family
Today, Designed 2 Sell has 14 staff members, including five designers, two warehouse workers, five on the delivery and installation team, and Tammy’s son, John, who primarily handles marketing and sales tasks.
Tammy believes that the difference-maker in working with Designed 2 Sell is their family attitude. Just as her grandfather opened that very first furniture store to provide for his family, Tammy is providing for her family — which includes her son, as well as her staff, team members, partners, and clients.
“There are a lot of people that can pull together furniture and accessories,” Tammy says. “But here, we are extremely team-oriented. When we have clients and partners, we are on their team. We pull the inventory directed at the client, not just what I have at the warehouse. We pay attention to who the buyer is. When someone hires us, we become part of their team. We’re invested in that. We listen to the client.”
“The other part is attitude,” Tammy continues. “People love us because there is magic in our staging, but the main reason they stay with us is our attitude. We don’t come in with an ‘I know everything’ attitude. I listen to my clients, and that’s why people that started with me in 2006 are still with me. We’re like a family.”
For more information, please visit www.designedtosellrva.com.