Million Dollar Magician

Sasha deBretton is an award-winning entrepreneur and CEO of WA renovating company Million Dollar Makeovers, which specialises in fast-turnaround, high-quality renovations for top-end homes. Sasha spoke recently to Spark Magazine about how she has thrived in this traditionally male-dominated industry.

What was your biggest challenge in building the business?
Male dominated. High barriers to entry.  I was doing something very different from the norm (which is to my advantage) however people were skeptical that I could renovate houses of high quality in record timeframes of just weeks and I was taking on the big builders without all the experience I needed. However, I knew my concept and my system worked and would be something people wanted so I decided to launch and then tweak and perfect the system along the way.

Did you ever get to the point where you were ready to give up? And if so, why? 
Never – not in my vocabulary.

You recently won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year emerging category for the Western Region. What is your most memorable achievement with the business?
Winning 40 under 40 award, then followed by the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Award, that was a big one and now Ernst & Young. Being a multi-award winner is great credibility and spurs me to carry on to break new barriers. Also to be a multi-million dollar business in the first year and trebling that in the 2nd year.

Your business has boomed during difficult economic times. How have you bucked the trend?
For sure – I found and created a niche that is recession-proof, it's what people want and what they will pay a premium for. Convenience and lifestyle are what people want – we offer that and so much more.

What should homeowners and investors be looking for in a renovator?
Experience, credentials, reputation, qualifications, quality of work, testimonials from clients, references, trust, knowing that the business meets the client's brief, excedes it and over delivers – we under promise and over deliver – our motto is “go above and beyond the call of duty” – do your homework. Renovating is a stressful game and if you don't have the right person for the job you end up stressed and unhappy.

What is the worst DIY disaster you have ever had to fix?
We had one case where a woman went to court over a bad quality builder that took 2.5 years to renovate her home and it still wasn't finished. He had all the money bar $10k and the workmanship was like something an 8 year old would deliver. This poor woman got pregnant and had a baby throughout the whole process. Very stressful for the poor family.

Which project are you most proud of, and why?
I love all our projects but the South Perth project was a 3-story home we completed from top to toe inside and out in 5 weeks while the family went on holiday on a cruise. We completely gutted and transformed the house inside and out and furnished the home and styled it right down to making the beds and laying the tables. We collected the clients from the airport and delivered them back to their dream home with canapes and champagne on ice. They were over the moon and the best part was that Channel 7 filmed the renovation and not only did we transform the home from a dated colonial federation-style home into a chic, luxurious french provencial home, the property went up in value a whopping $2 million.

What are your personal goals for your business in the next three to five years?
To increase the company’s income steams by further expansion into Perth and WA - we are only just touching a tiny segment of a huge open market for renovation - and also by franchising nationally and internationally. Current expansion plans for other income streams are tapping into the mining sector by renovating homes that are in desperate need of an upgrade.  

We experienced a significant (260%) growth from year 1 – 2 in a soft building market on purely cosmetic renovations. We have expanded into extensions and now I’m investigating other markets such as Eastern states and the mining sector as well as commercial fit-outs, particularly of hotels as there is a hotel shortage currently in WA. The immediate plan this year is to raise profit by $3 million, then generate $50 million turnover by 2015, $100 million by 2017 and be a billion dollar company by 2020.

What are your top 5 tips for business success?
  1. Create a niche
  2. Acquire the best team of staff and advisors
  3. Acquire the best business coach in the world
  4. Delegate and focus 80% of your time on your core genius
  5. Market, brand, market your business – build brand equity
Which entrepreneur would you most like to emulate and why?
Anne mckevitt – she is my billionaire business coach –smart, savvy, inspirational, inspiring, a woman in a man's world – if she can do it, so can I. She is now business coach to fortune 500 companies and her journey was almost the same as mine. One day, I would like to coach the world’s elite just as she is and make millions out of doing what you love – I love to help others and if you get paid millions to do it, it's a dream.

Building and renovating is a traditionally male-dominated industry. As a business-woman, what additional challenges have you faced?
I love that I'm the only female building team in Australia in a male-dominated industry. I don't see any challenges. In fact it has worked in my favour. All the tradies dream to work for a team of glamourous women so we have tradies falling at our feet – I love being a woman for that very reason – I can get people where I want and need them by relationship building, charm, appeal and good management.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to succeed in business?
Absolutely, just go for it! – I feel woman are so unbelievably capable in business because we are multi-taskers. We are trained to work, be mothers, be wives, run social clubs and take on the world! We are juggling many balls at once which makes us time-efficient and good managers. Then we have an innate knowing, instinct and strong intuition so if you listen to your gut, believe in yourself, take your inherent skills, there is no reason why any woman can't succeed. In fact, I think, more women should run the country and the world. We are extremely capable. The most important thing to remember aside from the belief you must have, is to take action and continue to always take action.

By Neil Donnelly