Elizabeth Hirsch opened her Chapel Hill-based business in March 2018 to help aging family members through challenging transitions
By Brooke Spach | Photography by John Michael Simpson
In March 2016, Elizabeth Hirsh’s family uprooted their lives in San Diego and moved back to the East Coast to aid aging family members. Soon after they settled into the Morgan Creek neighborhood, several more loved ones needed help downsizing or liquidating their estates.
After going through the process on her own, Elizabeth realized that families could really use some assistance in handling these affairs. She says she especially saw a demand here in the Triangle, with its large population of retirees and multigenerational households. So, she and her good friend Jen Harris officially launched The Downsizers, a Chapel Hill-based business dedicated to helping families through these challenging transitions, in March 2018.
“All roads led to The Downsizers,” she says. “I didn’t know that I was going to be using all of that experience to build this business, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.”
The Downsizers team has expanded to 18 members in its four years – a staff almost entirely composed of women – and continues to grow. They help hundreds of clients a year, usually working on 40 to 60 projects at a time. Client moves can take anywhere from days to years, depending on the client’s goals and scale of the project, but most are completed over the course of five to seven weeks.
When the pandemic hit after just two years in business, they had to get creative to continue providing services to the community. This was especially difficult in an industry that assists populations vulnerable to COVID-19. One of their most challenging projects – which also ended up being one of Elizabeth’s favorites – was sorting through an entire house completely over Zoom.
“I always say I am the most fortunate business owner on the face of the Earth because our team has just been incredible heroes through this whole thing,” Elizabeth says.
Despite the obstacles, the team has stayed committed to supporting their clients through emotionally taxing changes – downsizing projects can mean sorting through a lifetime’s worth of memories. Elizabeth emphasizes that a large part of this support means allowing their customers to make their own decisions.
“The reason we do this is to help seniors maintain their independence and control over one of the last phases of their life,” she says. “We’re constantly trying to bring awareness to everyone [about] what it means to support our aging population.”
The Downsizers staff’s dedication to their clients has earned them their success; the business averaged at least 50% revenue growth each year. More than the numbers, though, they have built meaningful relationships with folks in the community.
“It’s about being resilient,” Elizabeth says. “It’s about being creative. And it’s about sticking to what the mission is and being passionate about what you do. I think if we can maintain these pillars, then we can tackle anything.”