Businesses extend hand to families

Nancy Gould-Hilliard
Around the Island

Tim and Jane Tiscornia have their hands and plates full right now with a new baby girl and two little sisters in the wings. Luckily, Tim is one of 20 employees at an exceedingly family-friendly workplace in Seattle’s Smith Tower.

Cozi Centrala was created “with a family spirit,” according to its founders. Most of the employees have children, so family time is paramount, even to the bosses, who encourage flex-time and family release time.

Those chiefs are Jan Miksovsky and Robbie Cape, both former Microsoft managers who began the startup of this household management program in 2005. BTW — text message lingo for “by the way” — both are fathers of three.

Tiscornia says Cozi helps families and companies simplify, coordinate and manage work and home lives that are becoming more complex with mobile parents and active kids. The product differs from other household management systems in that it’s accessible by cell phone from anywhere and integrates multiple input sources.

That means when you’re at QFC or Albertsons and you’ve forgotten your shopping list, you phone an 800 number and Cozi reads what you’ve entered on your home computer — and perhaps items your husband or teens have entered on theirs as well. Its calendar can be used on the kitchen computer during even the busiest dinner hour or via BlackBerry or Palm on the road. You just jot down your item in simple text and it gets logged on the master calendar.

Tiscornia says the service is free because Cozi income is from partnerships with big companies. Besides the synchronized calendar and lists, it provides quick messaging and a photo collage screen saver.

Check it out at

This next company helps seniors sort and downsize, create a new floor plan layout, distribute unwanted items, pack and move, and unpack and resettle. Benevia is targeted for older adults in transition, and its consulting is free because the company is compensated by its network of screened service providers. It also provides legal, financial, home care and end-of-life service coordination.

Michael Nemirow, Benevia’s CEO and director, grew up on the Island and still lives here part-time. His parents, Marc and Joyce, are active in the community too. Michael has a business background in commercial real estate and trade shows. But his segue into this business in 2006 came from family experiences with elderly relatives.

Co-founder Paul Goldberg says he also attended Mercer Crest Elementary and spent many afternoons at the MI Boys and Girls Club. Paul’s mother and grandparents — Rosemary, Ike and Mary Ovadia — gave Paul “the chance to experience a truly multi-generational community on Mercer Island.”

“Life transitions of older adults can be befuddling and fragmented,” says Eric Rovner, the other co-founder. Benevia is a hub to make the road less rocky.

Here’s one not for realtors only, but for anyone considering selling a home. Islander Andy Capelluto and her School of Staging teaches how to groom homes for quicker sale and gain an average six percent greater profit. She’s licensed to provide continuing education credits for realtors, but also does hourly consulting with homeowners. She has been teaching in traveling school for four years in the greater Seattle area and nationally on “Realty U.”

Capelluto says there’s more real estate inventory here right now — like everywhere — so staging can provide the competitive edge. That means deep-cleaning, stripping of clutter and personal effects, landscaping, repairing everything, painting and decorating tastefully, and setting little scenes that draw potential buyers into the fantasy.

Almost a quarter of homes on the market are staged these days. It can cost anywhere from nothing, with simple cleaning, de-cluttering and better arrangement of furniture and d/cor, to a few thousand dollars to professionally landscape for curb appeal, paint and even rent upscale furnishings.

Some musts: sparkling clean windows and curtains; showcased fireplaces and architectural features; new, fluffy white towels on the racks and aromatic new soap in the bathrooms; removal of pets and odors before showings; spotless kitchen — nothing in the sink. Keep all the lamps on and flank front doors with white and red flowering plants. Inside, be strategic with plants and flowers; a $12 live orchid plant lasts months and creates “feng shui” (positive energy).

“Make a contract with your kids to give them a gift certificate to their favorite store if they keep their rooms looking fabulous every day,” she adds. Pick up moderately priced accessories at places like Tuesday Mornings or T. J. Max — hat boxes for closets, throw pillows in accent colors, or even slip covers for worn upholstery.

Capelluto, a native of South Africa, world traveler, former kindergarten teacher and designer in the furniture biz, owns a modest 2,400 sf home on the Island that is, well, not staged. It contains artifacts from all over the world and she says “it takes a visitor a few minutes just to take it all in.” But, of course, she’s not selling.

See her Web site at

DOOZ for Kidz on Mercer Island was voted Best of City in the July issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. You’ve got to appreciate a shop that gives kids haircuts from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays (as well as throughout the week) and gives the whole shop over to parties for kids on Friday and Saturday evenings. Girls get hair-dos, make up, jewelry and nail polish; guys become secret agents, spies and super heroes.

Owner Lori Moll, with five kids of her own, knows the pitfalls of a bad “do.” She knows how to wow kids from ages 2-14 with lights pulsating different colors, hidden TVs behind the mirrors, I-Spy tables, find-it games and walls papered ceiling to floor with customers’ faces. She books at 232-DOOZ.

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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