When mother and daughter team Karen E Laine and Mina Starsiak began their remodeling business, Two Chicks and a Hammer, in 2008, neither had much professional remodeling experience. After Starsiak graduated college in 2007, she and E Laine bought a house in the Fountain Square neighborhood near Indianapolis and completely redid it. They enjoyed the process so much that they bought another house and remodeled it; then they did some work on E Laine's law office, which is also in Fountain Square. And then they bought another house.
"At that point, we thought this might be a business. So, we gave it a name," says E Laine. Now, Starsiak and E Laine have been successfully running their company, which is based near Indianapolis, for eight years--and business is booming.
“We find the worst house on the block,” E Laine says, “and we make a difference on that block by making that house better. By staying in one limited geographic area, we can change it to one that has more hope and potential. That’s what our business is about.” E Laine and Starsiak do complete gut remodels of their homes. Their team is small, comprised only of themselves, a general contractor, and his crew.
“We go over the floor plan, we go to properties, our contractor gives us a bid, and we decide what we’re going to do. Then we pay him to do the things he needs to do and we do the rest ourselves,” says E Laine. Though jumping into a business with little experience might seem risky, the women embraced the challenge.
“It’s not rocket science,” E Laine says about remodeling. “It’s measuring. It’s cutting. There are rules and instructions, you just need to follow them. The first time we installed cabinets, we watched a video. We read a book. We learned about cabinet jacks.”
Adds Starsiak: “Well, the first time we didn’t have a cabinet jack. We just used Mom.”
“We had to learn the difference between a good plumber and a bad plumber, a good general contractor and a bad general contractor,” E Laine says.
As their business took form, the work became easier. “Now, all the decisions are more second nature,” says Starsiak.
E Laine's and Starsiak’s respective upbringings and natural intellect helped them launch their business: Though E Laine is an attorney, she has a BA in business management. In addition, E Laine grew up doing home maintenance and minor remodeling projects. Starsiak quickly cultivated business relationships with the local home improvement stores and has kept those relationships throughout Two Chicks' operation.
The company has grown significantly over the years, especially recently. E Laine and Starsiak will star in the upcoming HGTV show “Good Bones,” which premieres March 22 at 11:00 pm. While both women gushed about how much fun the show was to film, they acknowledge that it was difficult.
“The first season was survival mode,” Starsiak says. “We did 10 houses in six months and filmed with full-time jobs.” The production was a huge jump for Two Chicks, which normally completes just three homes in a year. To aid with the ramped-up production, E Laine and Starsiak had employees for the first time.
“There were huge growing pains,” Starsiak says. “We’ve never had employees before.”
“It’s exhausting being on your A-game for six months,” E Laine says.
And with all the added stress, the Two Chicks had to learn how to handle one another.
“When she’s stressed,” E Laine begins, “she tries to talk more, do more, be more. When I get stressed, I go inside. I stop talking, I stop looking. If I stop talking, Mina has to realize her talking more isn’t going to make it better. If I notice Mina talking more, then I need to talk more and make it better to keep her less stressed.”
Whether the show will be picked up for season two is still unknown, but E Laine and Starsiak are hopeful about the show’s impact on their neighborhood.
“The neighborhood likes what we do,” E Laine says. “The homeowners can’t fix all the rotten houses. That’s what makes me want to do this.”
Starsiak is hopeful about the future of the city too, and says that the show could give Indianapolis a higher standard. She tells of one particular house on a “crappy” block that Two Chicks worked on; one day, the block had all new sidewalks.
“The fact that we were filming didn't cause the sidewalks to go in," adds E Laine. "We're just part of a trend. We're part of people caring about a neighborhood, making a difference in a neighborhood, investing in a neighborhood, and improving a neighborhood."
“The heart of our business won’t change,” says Starsiak. “If we’re really good at this, we’re going to run out of houses, but I think we’ll always stay in an urban environment. There are so many cool neighborhoods around downtown and the west side of downtown. I can see us growing as needed when we’ve grown out of the area we’re in.”