Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Nora Crosthwaite of Stagerie
One minute into talking with Nora Crosthwaite for the first time and I knew what a pleasure our conversation was going to be. She’s engaging. Funny. And her passion for her work and her daughter are evident.
Nora owns two businesses, one of which is a start-up called Stagerie – a name her daughter actually came up with.
Read on to learn more about the business, what challenges Nora’s faced along the way, and much more.
Give us a little background on yourself.
So, let’s see. I am 43. I have one child who is 14. She is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the love of my life.
I moved to Des Moines in 2010 because of my ex-husband’s job. I love it here. Des Moines is home. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life.
When I moved here, I was in corporate software development, traveling two to three weeks a month. In 2015, I had a midlife crisis and quit my job, and started working for myself.
I own two businesses. One is a real estate business. I have a team of myself and three agents. We are brokered by RE/MAX Precision, and the name of the business is Home Sweet Des Moines. We do residential, primarily.
And then I have a business called Stagerie. It’s an online startup for staging occupied homes because I’m really sick of seeing ugly homes on Zillow. The reason I started Stagerie is that I don’t know how to stage. I don’t know how to decorate. I hate it all. So I wanted a way to use staging services for my clients.
What’s your favorite part of being a small business owner?
The people. I left [my corporate job] because it wasn’t fulfilling anymore. When I was lower in it, I used to code and design software and implement software. Like I would put in a new inventory system in a warehouse and the third shift would come to me and be like, oh my gosh, thank you so much. Because you put this in, we don’t have to work overtime anymore. Huge, huge. And then I got promoted a few times and didn’t get to have that direct impact anymore.
With real estate, my mom passed in 2014, and the real estate agent who helped me sell her house in Texas was outstanding. I was the executor of the estate, and it was a very stressful time. And that’s when I went, huh? A really good agent can be a supporting actor in somebody’s story.
So I love that. I love being behind the scenes clearing obstacles. And for me, it’s not the house as much as what am I enabling. You think about home buyers and you think about, okay, they’re starting a family, right? But sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes it’s, we need to sell our house and get into a ranch because I can’t do stairs. Sometimes it’s a recently divorced person for who this is the first home they’ve ever bought on their own. So I love the stories. I love the impact.
What’s it like being a small business owner?
I’m the only full-time employee of Stagerie. My mood is based on whoever I last spoke to.
I’m used to hearing no. I’m used to hearing, wow, that sounds great, then never hearing from those users again. It’s a new service in that there’s never been a service where you could take pictures of a home on a cell phone, upload them to the site and get a staging to consult in your email, so it’s a lot of education. It’s a lot of learning.
I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone all the time. And it is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done – the first being raising my child.
How do you juggle your parenting and work responsibilities?
I really hate the term work-life balance because there is nothing about any given day that is balanced.
My daughter and I went on a life-changing trip to Panama in June with her school. It had been pushed back from 2021 to 2022, and it was at the end of a very tumultuous first half of 2022 personally. And those eight days, I did work a few hours here and there, so it was a life balance.
On the flip side, I put in an application for funding that was due July 11, and the week before was work, not life. It was work.
It’s a puzzle. We’re all trying to do the best we can. I learned from my mom, who worked full-time at IBM. She had a very demanding job and a Ph.D. in computer science. She was a trailblazer in her field. And what that taught me was yes, we can have it all. And it’s worth it. And I look up to her as an example.
What are some things you enjoy doing with your daughter?
I like being outside in the summer, so we’ve seen a couple of bands outside. I want to take her to Jasper Winery’s concert series, however, they’re on Thursdays, and her dance classes are on Thursdays. So that may or may not happen.
We also like watching movies together. We kind of go back and forth where she’ll want to watch something and then I’ll introduce her to something totally campy from the 90s.
And walks definitely walks. The big thing in my house right now that we’re doing together is I’m teaching her how to drive. We’re also talking right now about what’s the next country we’re going to go visit.
What’s your advice for other parents?
Not every kid is the same, even if they’re both yours.
I would also say providing a safe space and maintaining open communications as long as possible.
And I think a lot of parents have the feeling that their kids are always watching them. And that’s true. However, that doesn’t mean you always have to be at your best. It is okay to be vulnerable in front of your kids. My child saw me cry when my mom passed, and she sees me cry on Mother’s Day every year. She sees the worry I have over my aging dad. Because it helps them realize that yeah, sometimes things are not what you want but we can survive.
And you know what? I struggle with depression. I am on medication for it because better living through chemistry, properly prescribed and monitored. But my daughter knows I have mental health challenges. She knows I go to therapy and I’m okay with that. Honestly, I mean, she’s growing into an adult and she’s going to see these things no matter where she goes.
I’m definitely not the perfect mom, and I’m fine with that. I want to focus on being the mom that my kid needs.