– Story by TessVan Straaten Photography by Don Denton
When Ted Hancock and Shawn Richardson decided to team up to launch the Incredible Home brand, they never thought their relationship would be a topic for discussion.
“People assume we’re a couple but I’ve actually said to Ted we should get buttons that say, ‘I’m not with him’ and ‘I’m not with her,’” Shawn jokes.
The pair, who have more than 70 years of industry experience between them, joined forces last July to grow Ted’s successful company, Incredible Closets, into space solutions for every part of the home — kitchens, entryways, living rooms, garage organizers and even wine rooms and custom-made doors.
“We’d been looking to expand for several years because our clients have been asking us if we can do kitchens or vanities — since it’s similar to what we do,” Ted explains. “I wasn’t sure exactly how we were going to do it but as Shawn and I started to talk, I realized collaborating would be the ideal situation.”
Shawn moved to Victoria from Calgary three years ago and worked with a prominent custom homebuilder. Her expertise is in design, space planning and custom millwork.
“I was a partner in a custom home and renovation business, working in that beautiful, high-end, no-holds-barred Calgary market where I got to do some pretty amazing work with clients, but really learned custom millwork over a 10-year period,” Shawn says. “We had a master cabinetmaker who taught me everything I know.”
The dynamic duo met in 2017 at an industry event, and realized they both had a passion for offering top-notch customer service and had strengths that complemented each other. Ted’s skills are in building things — he grew up on a farm and started driving tractors at the age of 10, and building dog houses and other structures at 14.
“When you grow up as a farmer you learn to do pretty much anything, and from there, I combined farming with construction. So I have close to 60 years’ experience building things and almost 40 years’ industry experience,” Ted says.
Ted launched Incredible Closets in Calgary in 1982 — the first of its kinds in Western Canada. He moved the business to Victoria 11 years later, for lifestyle reasons and the opportunity to sail.
“That’s very hard to do on the prairies,” quips Ted. “The business just grew from there, mostly from repeats and referrals, which is about 50 to 60 per cent of our business.”
For Shawn — who counts a stint with the TV show Property Brothers as a career highlight — design is in her DNA.
“I’ve been decorating and designing my whole life,” she says. “As a teenager, I was the weird kid who had my pillows arranged just perfectly on the bed. It’s something that’s just in you.”
Together, they re-branded Incredible Closets to Incredible Home earlier this year and moved into a spectacular, new, purpose-built showroom in February.
“When this space became available, it was a no-brainer,” Ted says. “The space is perfect and it’s a pebble’s throw away from our previous showroom and offices.”
The pair admits there have been challenges in growing the business, but they say long-term employees have helped to make the transition easier.
“There are always challenges, but like anything, it’s how you approach the challenge,” Ted says. “Is it something you can learn from? And if it’s an obstacle you have to overcome, how do you get through it? Instead of saying we can’t do it, we say ‘how can we do it?’ We’ll figure out a way.”
Their mantra is “listen carefully and answer creatively’” and they say it’s served them well. Shawn also tells staff to think of the money clients are spending as their own money, and to act accordingly.
“The biggest mistakes I’ve made in life are whenever I haven’t trusted my instincts,” she says. “You have to listen to your inner voice and you have to be bold and say, ‘if this was my money on the line, what would I do? What would I choose?’ I always think like that.”
For Ted, his biggest mistake was not being enough of a risk-taker when he was younger.
“Now, as I get older, I’m more of a risk-taker and it seems to work,” says the father of three and grandfather of three. “You have to learn from your mistakes or you’ll never get them out of your head.”
“I always say to myself, ‘no guts, no glory,’” adds Shawn, who has an adult daughter. “Don’t compromise, do what you think is right, take the high road and it will serve you well. If you’re passionate about something, just continue to push forward.”
And that’s exactly what Shawn and Ted are doing — despite being at an age when many of their peers are retiring.
“This is my retirement plan,” jokes Ted. “I love what I do and when I thought about what I wanted to do when I retire, it was this. I still work a lot more than I probably should at this age, but it keeps my brain going and it keeps my body going.”
“Ted is really an inspiration for me because a lot of my friends are retired or starting to retire and I’m venturing into this new business and I’m in it for the long haul,” Shawn adds.
“It does keep you young and I’m excited about what we’re going to do next.”
Check out Incredible Home here.