Investing In a Community, One Home at a Time with Mina Starsiak Hawk

Uncategorized Feb 15, 2021


You may know my guest this week from the seemingly boundless energy she shares on her HGTV show, Good Bones.  But she's no TV star diva.  Mina Starsiak Hawk is the real deal when it comes to construction and renovation.  Before being approached by the network to pilot a show about two women, a mom and daughter team, who could take a dying home down to the studs and build it back up again, Mina had spent several years teaching herself how to use every power tool out there and, with her mom, started the Two Chicks & A Hammer construction company.   She'll soon be airing the 7th season of Good Bones, and, along with have two kids, opening up a shop and bistro and writing the newly released children's book, "Built Together," Mina has continued to be an integral part of the communities in which she lives and works and has used that platform for all kinds of initiatives.  The beginning of our conversation was cut off for just a bit, so let me just say that I had just asked Mina what life was like when she bought that first home and did she have any idea how her life as about to unfold.  


"Built Together" by Mina Starsiak Hawk



Episode Transcript:

Hello and welcome to the Style. Matters Podcast brought to you by little yellow couch. I'm Zandra your host. And I am so glad you're here with me yet again for another terrific episode in case you haven't done. So already come on over to little yellow and play the new Style mashup game. I have created this short guide to help you answer the question.

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Just go to Lily yellow,, click on the button at the top that says Style mashup. Oh, and of course, yes, it's free. All right, let's get on with today's episode. You may know my guest this week from the seemingly boundless energy. She shares on her HG TV show, good bones, but she's no TV star diva,

Mina starstruck Hawk is the real deal. When it comes to construction and renovation before being approached by the network to pilot a show about two women, a mom and a daughter team who could take a dying home down to the studs and build it back up again. Mina had spent several years teaching herself how to use every power tool out there. And with her mom started the two chicks and a hammer construction company.

She'll soon be airing the seventh season of good bones. And along with having two kids opening up a shop and a bistro and writing the newly released children's book built together, Mina has continued to be an integral part of the communities in which she lives and works and has used that platform for all kinds of initiatives. The beginning of our conversation was cut off for just a bit.

I'm so sorry. So let me just say that. I had just said hello to her and then asked what life was like when Mina bought that first home. And did she have any idea how her life was about to unfold? You know, a lot of my friends from the business school had jobs lined up and I just didn't know what I wanted to do,

but I wanted to do something grown up. So I bought a house and all I could afford was a really, really crappy house. And my mom co-signed and we did a construction loan, but even with that, it wasn't close to enough for what the house needed. So we just did a lot of the work ourselves and kind of learned as we went and I,

I installed tile for the first time in my bathroom shower in the house and just, you know, watched a YouTube video and tried it. Yeah, it's kind of the same thing. Like we installed the kitchen cabinets and it took forever, but, you know, we learned how to do it. It was the first time. And then we got better after that.

And that's kind of what the whole house was. It was just a learning experience with all these different trades that on that house were all fairly tragically executed, but done, Done, but done. I love that attitude so much. It's just roll up your sleeves and we can figure this out. Is it sounds like it was probably your mantra with your mom,

Karen. Yeah. Yeah. So then what was it like going into this renovation slash build business as a woman and, and have things evolved, do you think, since you and your mom started your company, two chicks and a hammer fabulous name, thank you. I mean, you must have gained a lot of confidence with your own doing your own house,

doing everything yourselves and how much you've learned, but I mean, have you, have you felt a little bit out of place sometimes, or that people wanted you to feel out of place when you first started? Oh, I mean, for sure. And I, I don't think people have changed, but I think I have and how I will handle it,

because I think, you know, before, when I'd go to Lowe's home Depot, Menards, whatever it was, they they're like, well, can I help you a little girl? Where do you want? And I'm like, I know I'll ask for something in particular. And they're like, well, what are you trying to do? Like, no,

no, no, I just need direction because I'm in a rush, which aisle is this thing in? So I've learned to be more direct and, you know, you can tell, kind of tell the people who are like the weekend employees versus I just, I usually just go to the pro desk because they, that they deal with all the contractors,

you know, any of the hardware stores. So they are a little more knowledgeable and take you a little more seriously if you come to them with something that sounds like it makes sense. Exactly. Something specific and yeah. Yeah. Oh gosh. But obviously that didn't stop you guys and, and woven through your, your business. And I've, I've read a lot about you and kind of the background to what you,

what you've done and kind of where you were coming from. You have a very strong ethos and a mission. And I want you to tell us about why you care about these homes that you're bringing back to life and the neighborhoods that those homes are in. Why is this so important to you? I mean, to be perfectly honest, when mom and I started the business,

I was the business end of the stick. And she has always been very passionate about, you know, w her, the first house that we bought in fountain square was her. It was a little two bedroom house that she uses her law office. So that's kind of why we ended up in this area and it was affordable, which is why we kind of started buying where we were $12,000 houses and that doesn't happen anymore.

So that's why we started here. And then kind of continued because this idea was developing of, you know, this area, this neighborhood is changing and we're going to be able to make a bigger difference, which helps other people and helps ourselves by keeping everything in this small area. So now we've done around a hundred homes and under probably a mile and a half,

two square miles, and we both live in the neighborhood. You know, we've both been here for, I think, eight years now. So I'm living in the neighborhood, obviously made a huge difference as well, because we, we know our neighbors, we care about our neighbors. We care about, you know, the sidewalks that need re repaved and things like that.

And then it just kind of grew into this bigger thing that I don't think we ever could even imagine. I mean, our store, we opened 10% of the profits from that go to our five Oh one C3, which is all about giving back to the neighborhoods we work in, whether it's for someone on a fixed income, like social security that needs help preparing their gutters or,

you know, kids, winter coats, all that kind of stuff. So it's just, it's been really cool having the show and being able to make a difference in, in a bigger way, just because we have a bigger platform perhaps. Absolutely. And that, that, that reinvestment that you're making in your neighborhood, where you live is, is so powerful.

And I think you're absolutely right. The fact that you live there, it just makes a huge difference, I think. And, and in terms of your understanding of what this neighborhood needs and wants. So it's, it's really, it's really inspiring. You, you mentioned a couple of things, you are a five Oh one C3, your shop, your show.

I want to talk about all of it. Let's, let's start with your show, good bones, which is really successful and really also inspiring because of the work that you do as a woman. And you're now like the boss and it's, it's great. What are you most proud of when you think of the ripple effect? Like you said, you,

you have a bigger platform now, which is so, so great with this TV show. I mean, I think there's different on, on like a bigger, not within the company vein, we, for example, there's a local organization called chip and it's the coalition for homelessness, intervention and prevention. And for, for personal reasons, it's something that's super close to my husband's heart.

So we work with them and just started, and I was able to do an Instastory, which lives for 24 hours and kind of shared their Amazon needs list and they got pallets of stuff. So, yeah, it's just amazing. And there's people everywhere doing that. It's just good to be able to use that the bigger reach I have to get more people doing it.

And then I think internally, our company grew from just me and my mom too. We have 12 full-time employees, and then the store is another, you know, 12 to 15 employees. So it's just been cool to be able to grow that. And, you know, I don't necessarily like being a boss, but it's, it's nice to be able to like,

we employ people. Yeah, yeah. Insurance, the whole thing. Yeah, exactly. Right, right. So you must be a pro now in terms of being comfortable being on camera, what was it like at the very beginning? I think my mom and I are both super weird humans because it wasn't weird. And I, I don't know, my best guess is like,

our family is just so loud and crazy and you, you, you always have to be ready kind of for anything. So we both were just kind of like chameleon, I guess, and it wasn't ever weird. It was hard because we didn't know TV and TV didn't know real construction, really. So worlds. Yeah. So the first couple of seasons were just painstaking trying to figure out a flow and like,

okay, what do you need to catch on camera? What construction stuff can just keep rolling. And we're in a really, really good groove now. And you know, what, what would take, let's say, you know, 500 hours of filming to an episode we can probably do in 200 hours of filming. So it's just way more efficient. Yeah.

Yeah. But you're right. I'm sure lining up the steps that need to be taken construction wise. Some of it you're, you're not going to want to film cause it'd be boring to watch a long stretched out part of it. But Literally it, I mean the saying it's like watching paint dry is because that's super boring. No one wants to watch that.

Right. But you can't keep filming until you finished that part of the project. So it has to be done. Yes. Yeah. Right, right. So that's so interesting. All right. Let's talk a little bit about your shop, which looks like so much fun. I especially liked that there was a bistro in there which may or may not be open right now.

I don't know. Tell us about why did you even open a shop? You have so much on your plate already. It was always on kind of our app. Oh, like inspiration board. Like, this is what I want to be able to do. And a couple for a couple of reasons. I mean, residential real estate and commercial businesses have this balance that you have to maintain,

you know, enough residential homes or commercial businesses. And, you know, we're doing all the homes in these neighborhoods and seeing the need for businesses. So that was part of it. And then also, I, I was always frustrated, you know, watching shows and seeing all these amazing things and then trying to find them and not being able to find them or finding them and realizing,

Oh, that's a 10 grand couch. So part of the idea of the store was okay, we're going to be able to have things in our homes and the episodes that people can actually like come to the store and acquire, or order online and acquire and do it for a reasonable like Midwest price. Right. So that was kind of the, I think the bigger part of it.

Yeah. That's so true about what a community needs, you know, it needs really livable homes. It needs good schools and it needs, it needs commerce. You know, it needs a place to go get a cup of coffee or, you know, sit down for a drink with a friend after work or, you know, it just places that you want to be,

I think, to keep people inside their communities, as opposed to getting in their cars and driving outside their communities. Yeah. Yeah. That's really, that's really fun. So, all right. Let's get back to this whole construction thing. I would love for you to talk about, give us your advice. I guess, for women who want to do some home projects themselves at ones that require power tools,

where should they start and how can they get past that feeling of being foolish when they walk into home Depot and they don't know anything, you know, if you, if you, I know that your personality, you seem very comfortable with who you are, but if someone feels a little bit less unsure of walking into this quote, unquote masculine kind of dominated space,

what would you say to them? I think just either, you know, YouTube, some videos, like figure out what you're trying to do. Like, okay, I'm trying to hang curtains. These are the tools I'm going to need, make a list or, or be open to going in and just asking those questions. The thing is, I always find educating myself is far more reliable than hoping the,

you know, the, the part-time help at the, the store will will know cause you might end up with the wrong things. So I think that's always best like go in with a game plan, but I've also gone in with a game plan and, you know, ask like, ask someone, they're like, this is what I'm trying to do.

I think these are the parts I want. And you know, maybe they have a great idea for something else, but I would just do as much ahead of time as you can. I think that's such good advice about educating yourself too, because I feel like when I go into those kinds of stores or like recently I just went into a cobbler shop because I bought this vintage really dirty old trunk that I'm going to turn into a little,

you know, a little table. And I, I, I wanted it to have a specific look and he thought I was absolutely crazy. He didn't understand why I wasn't just throwing it away. Like, why am I, you know, because he doesn't understand my aesthetic. Right. And so, but I knew exactly what I wanted. I knew what I wanted the leather straps to look like.

I knew what I wanted the buckle to look like. And I understood, you know, he opened it up and he said, I don't, I don't think I can attach it. I said, no, no, no, you can drill through the, you can drill through the wood for me. I don't mind about this, that and the other thing.

And, but it, it took a little bit of back and forth. And I think, I think knowing what you want and being able to describe it is really key. And you mentioned YouTube videos. I mean, you write everything, you can learn Everything online. It's amazing. It's really amazing. Yes. All right. Let's talk about your five Oh one C3 a little bit.

What, what's it called? And you, you kind of alluded to a couple of things that does. Yeah. It's called pukes give back and we apparently the paperwork for a five Oh one. C3 is hard. Oh my gosh. It is so ridiculous. I know I've sat on a couple boards, Anything correctly, redo it. And we're like,

Oh, okay, thanks. So we got all that done. We have our bylaws done and we actually just started making requests for board members last week. And we have 30,000 in seed money, which is awesome. I mean, it's a great start. And like I said, 10% of our store will feed into that. But the whole idea is to balance out any negative,

the negative parts of gentrification, which are, you know, usually it's a positive thing to raise someone's property value because you know, a house that they could have sold for a hundred thousand, they've done nothing to, and now can sell for 150. But the negative side of that is that person that's on the fixed income. Doesn't care. If their house is worth more,

they just want to be able to pay their property taxes, which now have also gone up short and they don't want to move. They don't want to move. So it doesn't matter that they could sell it for more. And a lot of people, I think, view the gentrification negatively because it ends up pushing out people who can't afford the property taxes that go up when the value of the properties go up.

So, you know, we can't, we can't control that gentrification's going to happen, but having this money in the community to help with what we can help with, I think is a good step into trying to, you know, help balance the pros and cons of it. Right? So we're going to have an application process that our board will put together and homeowners that,

you know, are up-to-date on their taxes. Don't have like health and hospital liens, which would mean, you know, like, you know, massive trash harassed, infestations. Those kinds of things can apply for any kind of help they need if they're in like the downtown surrounding areas. So it, you know, their fence is really old and a panel fell down and their dog keeps escaping and they can't afford to hire a contractor to come fix their fence.

Right. Or, you know, their kids go to school and one of the public schools down here and they need a coat for winter. So just really anything, that's a need of the community that we renovate homes in. It'll be support for them. That's so great. Again, it's all back to your commitment to where you live, which I think is a great segue into your book because your new children's book,

which is called built together, is it, it really is expanding the definition of family to include an entire community. So tell us about the book first, and then I'll ask you a little bit more about it. So the book is, it's just really the, the two things I know, which are construction and kind of that non-traditional family dynamic and just a cute,

fun way from a young age to show kids that you can make your family, whatever you want it to be. It can be blood, it can be friends, you know, really there's so many different family structures, so you can build it kind of like you build a house. However, it makes sense for you, as long as you have that strong base,

which is different for, you know, for various people, maybe, you know, some, some, some people thank, you know, you can, you can only survive on love personally. I think you, you know, you need loyalty trust and love. So, you know, decide what your values are and then build your family based on that.

And the idea was that from a young age, it's just kind of instilling this idea of understanding and acceptance as kids get older, because if they can be comfortable with other kinds of families. So, you know, adoptive surrogate, same-sex all that stuff. It creates this room in their brain as they get older, to be more accepting and understanding of,

of everything. And I think, especially with everything that's going on, you know, the last year, there's these incredibly polarizing topics where I know people, family members that aren't speaking to each other because they have different political views, which is just crazy to me. Like, yeah, I have yours, I have mine. Okay. I don't agree with you,

but I respect you as a human. Ideally, you know, it's that little nugget in there that will help them be better humans, you know, a lot of pressure on a kid's book. That's the thought. Yeah, well, no. I mean, I think what's beautiful about it is that as children, before they form these opinions, but more importantly,

before they form assumptions that you're just showing, like family is not limited to a very narrow definition. It's, it's a people who love each other and want to bring themselves together as a family unit is the best thing in the world. So I really enjoyed it for that. And, and it's got it. It features your, your little baby Jack,

who's not a baby anymore, but he's adorable. And, and I know that you were, I think, pregnant with Charlie when you were writing it. So she didn't make it into the book. Well, honestly, so it's been two years in the making and like the last year the book's been done, but, and this is the first book I wrote.

So I was like, why the hell does this take so long? But the printing, I mean, that whole process has eaten up the whole last year. So by the time the book was done in solidified, I thought I wasn't gonna be able to have any more kids. We were, you know, doing IVF and it wasn't working. And I found out I was pregnant in time to change that,

that, Oh God, what's the dedication and her in there, but nothing else in the book that was all far too gone. So she's in the dedication, but that's it. So I'll have to do another one I have to do, obviously, otherwise she's, you know, you're going to have mommy guilt forever. So, so why, so,

well, I was going to ask you, why did you want to write it? I think you've already answered that question. You were very passionate about bringing people together. And like you said, trust, loyalty, love all of those things. And, and it sounds like you have built your, your, your personal life and your professional life around those values.

And I think that's, that's the way to go. I'm going to ask you one more question, which is, how do you do it all? You have got a baby and a toddler and I've had a baby and a toddler, and I remember not having time for anything. And then you've got your business, you've got the TV show, you've got the shop and the children's book.

I mean, how do you ever sleep? I got up this morning at four because Charlie woke up for a second. And once my brain starts, it's impossible to shut it down unless I plug it. So I was up at four, but usually, no, I do get, I get, I get good sleep. I have to take melatonin to go to sleep.

But me too, I swear by it. Yeah. The only reason any of it's doable is because it's not just me. It's like so many people, my husband, we have an incredible nanny that like, when you don't have to worry about your kids, that's a huge weight off your shoulder. My two chicks team is awesome. I think one of the biggest things was getting our design department where it's at our designer,

MJ is still good. And in zinc, like it used to stress me out to no ends trying to make sure the houses looked the way I wanted and he can dress a house for veal and I could not see it before I walked in for the reveal. And it'd be perfect. So getting, getting a team that, you know, you can rely on and trust is the only way to,

to, to juggle all those balls. And I don't do it gracefully. And a lot of times I drop them so Well that that's, that's very honest, you know? I mean, I, yeah, it does take a lot of people. It, it, I'm sure it does. Well, th this is, this has been a lot of fun and I hesitate to ask this because you already have so much going on,

but what's, what's next? What is 2020, or sorry, 2021. I know, gosh. Or, or even 20, 22, what what's on the horizon, You know, we're keep on working on good bones. Hopefully we've been working on a spinoff that is going to be something, you know, similar to our show, like big projects,

but more on a homeowner basis because there's a lot of need and requests for that. I mean, I'm sorry, what do you mean by that? On homeowner basis? So doing it for homeowners versus on our own projects. Yeah. Gotcha. Yeah. And we're just trying to figure out kind of the right way to, you know, to, to do that and make it still fun and not like,

you know, every other homeowner renovation show. That's exciting. Yeah. Yeah. You know, we've got, we've got our, I would love to open a brokerage. I'm a realtor. So that's kind of in the pipeline. And then our branch, we have, we're doing consultations now. So it's more design heavy because, because of COVID, but we just brought on a new construction team member.

That's really going to be in charge of gearing up the construction portion of that. So consultations, construction, homeowner renovations on that and as well. Fantastic. Wow. I love it. I love it. I mean, this has been really fun and thank you so much for your time and good luck with everything and congratulations on this beautiful new children's book.

Thank you. I appreciate it. And thank you for listening. I hope these episodes leave you feeling energized and inspired to create a home that gives something back to you because in this crazy world we live in. It's good to remember that things like beauty and happiness are within reach. Don't forget to check out the new Style mashup guide [email protected] Just click on the yellow button that says your Style mashup,

and I will be back in your earbuds next week. Bye for now.



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