If you interact with Teacup Tiny Homes, you know that this Alberta builder of tiny houses on wheels has spirit… audacity… spark. Teacup is the Beyoncé of Canada’s tiny homes. #youhearditherefirst
There is a lot to love about Jen McCarthy, the woman who founded and runs Teacup Tiny Homes. She was brave enough to go against the grain and to do her own thing. Which, we think perfectly qualifies her to build tiny homes, so others can do the same.
Teacup is the Beyoncé of Canada’s tiny homes. #youhearditherefirst
1. She went from old boys’ club prodigy to entrepreneur.
Jen founded Teacup Tiny Homes after rising to the top of the traditional building industry. As a woman in her early thirties, she was slotted in to become General Manager of a big construction firm when she told her boss she was leaving to start a tiny home company.
“I started in residential home building as an interior designer when I was 19 and I’ve stayed in the same industry my entire adult life. I put my head down and went to work. I worked with a single home builder, Avonlea Homes, since I was 21 and until I decided to start Teacup. I had many responsibilities over the 13 years and I was Operations Manager when I left. Avonlea was the largest home builder in Lethbridge. At one point, we were building upwards of 380 homes across Alberta.”
When Jen speaks to how she ended up managing operations after starting as an interior designer, you can see her true passion shining through.
“It was really cool. I found that, as much as I love design and picking colours and making things look nice, it was the functional side and the psychology behind people that I found the most interesting. As Operations Manager, I was just obsessed with how to lead, influence, and motivate people. How to grow the team so that they believe in the overall goal of the company.”
“I was just obsessed with how to grow the team so that they believe in the overall goal of the company.”
Speaking about her former employer, Jen is full of gratitude and positivity.
“My entire career they just believed in me so much. They were proud of me and they focused on educating me and teaching me. It was really great.”
2. She started a company while having babies.
I’m sure many of our women readers know, there is something connecting motherhood and entrepreneurship. Now, you won’t find this in the “mainstream” business books, but you have to agree, women on maternity leave start a lot of businesses.
Off work, Jen started thinking about what she really wanted to be doing.
“I was pregnant, which was terrifying for a very career-driven woman in a man’s industry. Basically, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just knew I wanted to keep working. I loved what I did. I had my son in April 2015 and as I was at home with him getting my bearings, there was lots of HGTV on in the background. That’s where I first heard about tiny homes. At that time, the real estate market was starting to change rapidly and costs of homes were going up. My brother was not able to buy a home because he was three years younger than me and entering the market then.”
At first, tiny homes were supposed to be a side hustle. But, like the rest of us, Jen got sucked in.
“Somebody said to me, “Have you seen those tiny homes on TV? You’d be very good at that.” And then, someone else said that too. And pretty soon, five people said it to me within a period of two weeks. When I decided to build a tiny home, I thought, “You know what, I’ll build this, I’ll make a quick $30,000 – $40,000. It will be easy.” I just thought it was going to be a little side hustle hobby. But the more research I did, I became completely obsessed with tiny homes. As I think it starts with everyone.”
“I became completely obsessed with tiny homes. As I think it starts with everyone.”
“I basically started looking for insurance, but to be insured properly, I needed to be incorporated. Then I needed certification. Then it kind of just grew into a company. By that point, I had been back to work for over a year. I decided I was ready to pull the trigger. I knew I had to incorporate so that when I went to break up with my boss, whom I love dearly, he wouldn’t be able to stop me.”
“I knew I had to incorporate so that when I went to break up with my boss, whom I love dearly, he wouldn’t be able to stop me.”
When Jen’s first show home model arrived at the Home and Garden Show, she found out she was expecting another little arrival of her own.
“We were moving the tiny home over to the Home and Garden Show, and I was like, “I feel a little weird.” Yeah, we found out I was expecting our second little baby. It was a blessing. I said, “Wow, how is this going to work?” And the next three years were a complete blur. Having a newborn baby and a newborn business. And my two-year-old at home.”
3. She wants her team to work fewer hours and live life.
Having had the top job of a successful company handed to her, why did Jen turn that down and start something of her own in an unknown industry?
“The biggest reason when I was analyzing it, was that I didn’t want to be running someone else’s company. I guess this was a pretty important point for me personally. It was a great company. But I wanted the opportunity to build my own culture from the ground up.”
“I believe in experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly. And when I apply that to my business, I want for my team to be able to experience life. Right now, on Friday afternoons, we’ve got the team leaving early. They’re meeting their performance targets and making sure everything is done well. My team can perform really well in four hours, so now they can go out, have fun, go on a hike, enjoy their families. My goal is that in 2023, we will have a four day work week. Super efficient, super intentional work. And everyone gets a long weekend every week.”
4. She centers the tiny home design experience around the emotional journey.
“We go against the grain and we do things differently here, with our product, with our culture. We base everything on how our clients feel emotionally through the key points of the build. So, for example, we know that two weeks before possession day, when they start to see their houses done, they are freaking out. Or, what we call the “terror barrier” – right after the contract signing where you’ve made a decision but that decision scares the crap out of you. So we come in with more of an emotional supportive standpoint. We have designed a course that takes the customer through the whole journey, teaching them everything they need to know about their tiny home. Each step opens up other areas of the portal, so you’re always supported, but not overwhelmed. And we discuss your progress in our zoom walkthroughs, checking off every detail of the tiny home.”
“And then your home shows up and you open the door. And then you kind of have to trust in yourself and just be different.”
“Getting a tiny home is definitely stepping into something that is different and fairly unknown. Depending on who you talk to, it can be super scary. Many of our customers have their parents or someone else telling them it’s not a good idea because they grew up in a home with 15 bedrooms. Everyone is giving their opinion. And you’re worrying about all these different things, like, “Where do I get a heated hose, what am I going to plug it into? Do I have all these things?” And then your home shows up and you open the door. And then you kind of have to trust in yourself and just be different. What you’ve been taught doesn’t need to be true for you.”
“What you’ve been taught doesn’t need to be true for you.”