How two brothers are bringing estate sales into the new millennium with Everything But The House

Interviewed by Dustin S. Klein

Estate sales can be difficult.

Often  the consequence of a major life change — a big move, downsizing, death — people are not typically at their best during these times, and the burden of managing the sale of home assets can be daunting. It’s also the case that the person responsible for the estate sale doesn’t get the best deals for the items being sold.

Enter Everything But The House. Brothers Andy Nielsen, president and CEO, and Jon Nielsen, partner/chief sales and marketing officer, head the online estate-sale company, which provides a service to sellers who are going through significant transitions. Instead of holding a live auction or inviting strangers over to haggle, everything takes place through the company’s website.

Beyond sellers, the company is looking to make the buying experience easier for all types of consumers, from professional antique buyers to those who typically don’t buy from estate sales. To make that happen, the Nielsens needed to help the small business realize its potential.

Taking control
In May 2012, the brothers formalized a partnership with the two original co-founders of Everything But The House, who are still owners and engaged in day-to-day operations.

“They started the business in 2006. It became a full-time operation for them by 2008,” Andy says. “They had grown it to a certain size in Cincinnati alone. We stumbled on its operation just looking for businesses that were in an old, well-established, traditional service — a consumer service space — that we could then utilize technology to innovate and disrupt and take that old-fashioned service to the next level.”

The brothers were looking to take a controlling interest in a company, which came with management rights and approval. As a part of the original deal structure, they mandated a rebrand and the creation of a new, proprietary website built from the ground up. They wanted to update the look and feel of the brand, making sure that it still resonated with buyers while preserving a look that struck a chord with antique buyers and traders.

“So if you’re an antique dealer or art collector, you’re going to love Everything But The House. If you’re a retail consumer, like myself, you’re going to love Everything But The House because we put (items) on a nice white background, we put it on the nice e-commerce experience, take out the context, and at times, the smell that’s associated with items in an antique market,” Andy says. “That’s what we’ve done on the marketing side is to kind of make sure that it works for the broadest audience possible.”

With the business growing at a healthy clip with just word-of-mouth marketing, the brothers brought in a small marketing team to execute a limited marketing plan. They also hired an in-house tech team, content editors who write descriptions of the items for sale, a logistics team and expert appraisers.

“There were any number of things that we felt like, to scale this business, we need to build some more core competency in-house,” Jon says. “We knew where the strengths of the business were, but we also knew that there were a number of weaknesses, so let’s build a bench and take this thing to the next level.”

That next level includes building a global marketplace for the goods they sell.

“We have bidders in all 50 states; we have bidders in 46 different countries. These goods, though they may be coming out of little Lexington, Kentucky, they’re being consumed by a collector in Asia or somewhere else,” Jon says.

Two years, 50 cities
Everything But The House is building its ability to take on jobs outside of its neighboring markets. The company can send an internal crew to any U.S. location, as has been done in Wyoming and Connecticut.

“The benefit now is that we have access to buyers across the world, but now we need to figure out how to get these products (sold) efficiently, quickly, cost effectively … because we’re not relying on a local market and stuff like that,” Andy says.

The company is currently in six different cities, having recently entered five additional cities outside of Cincinnati.

“The goal is to be in an additional, I want to say 50 total cities within the next couple of years. And there’s an international component of this growth, as well,” Jon says.

The brothers are launching city by city, placing sales representatives in the markets to do in-person business development work. The company holds marketing events to make sure that locals know about them, they post notices in the classifieds and build local market awareness through press events.

“Ultimately the most difficult challenge for us right now that we’re working to overcome is just letting people know that this service exists,” Jon says. “Historically, people don’t know that there’s someone out there that can handle all 10 phone calls and help you through that process. So making sure that people know about Everything But The House, who we are, and what we offer is really our ultimate goal at this point in time.” ●

How to reach: Everything But The House, (888) 862-8750 or www.ebth.com