Feisty. Outspoken. Caring. Are all words you could use to describe Laurie Bell. She is a woman of many talents. From being in real estate, gutting and renovating her home to helping seniors downsize and transition into their new homes.
When she left university with her degree in Psychology, she really wasn’t too sure what she wanted to do. From buying her own home at 23, she kind of drifted into real estate, but after a while she wanted to do something with more meaning. At the time she was volunteering at the Distress Centre, and within six months she was working there on staff.
Later her mother got sick, and she took time off to move her to Toronto and helped her to navigate the local health care system. She next worked at the Responsible Gambling Council where she was responsible for developing and launching awareness programs and often travelled to high schools delivering prevention focused dramas. She was actually at the Council for close to 12 years. Then she broke her ankle, needed reconstructive surgery and had to stay off her feet for three months.
It was while she was stuck at home that she noticed an advertisement promoting downsizing services for seniors and she thought to herself, “I could do that and I could do it better”.
And “Moving Seniors with a Smile Inc.” was launched.
This was seven years ago, and while it was shaky to begin with, partly Laurie admits because of her own unrealistic expectations of how quickly the business would grow, today it is a flourishing business that she loves.
What she enjoys the most is transforming all the boxes into a home that the seniors will love. And it is quite a process – helping them sort through what to take, what to discard, how to get rid of possessions, staging their existing home, making the move and unpacking at the other end to make their new home feel like home right away.
Because she had worked in real estate, she has knowledge of how to stage a home and is armed with a list of contractors who can step in and help at any part of the process – from movers, furniture banks, auctioneers, and more.
On the whole working with the seniors is a joy, it is sometimes when dealing with the families that it can get difficult. “I have a certificate in dispute resolution” jokes Laurie, “and that comes in handy. “ But she sees herself as the advocate for her older clients and their wishes. They come first.
Last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and treatments. There’s a distinct pattern to her career – when something happens in her personal life, she takes stock and pivots.
This time, Laurie chose to continue working during her treatments but she did reflect on what she wanted out of life. She decided to drop her dream of building the big empire. She realized she was happy and content with the business as it is, and she’d rather stay small, and ensure that her clients get her best.
And that’s an important lesson to learn. That sometimes bigger isn’t best. And sometimes doing well (and being well) is way better.