Few teenage girls dream of learning to install flooring as the first step toward their future career, but that was precisely the path that Livia Sousa followed after graduating high school. Her father had built a successful business as a flooring contractor and invited her to learn the trade to see whether the work appealed to her. “Here I am, 20 years later,” quips Sousa, who says she fell in love with the business from the start.
Today, Sousa and her husband, Johny Silva, own and operate Flooring Factory, having bought the company when her father retired a dozen years ago. Since that time, the couple has grown the installation business into a one-stop shop for residential and commercial customers who need exceptional quality flooring and cabinetry.
“When we opened the first store [in 2017], we had the service and installation part figured out, but I had no idea about retail,” admits Sousa. In keeping with her father’s entrepreneurial spirit, she enrolled in business development courses and studied diligently to learn about the flooring products the company would carry, as well as the ins and outs of managing a retail space. Only three years into the new venture, Flooring Factory upgraded from its original location on St. James Avenue in Goose Creek to an 1,800-square-foot showroom on Lumber Lane. This September the family-owned business also opened an 8,000-square-foot retail space in Mount Pleasant and hired additional staff. Now, Flooring Factory offers products and installation services to customers throughout greater Charleston, Summerville, Moncks Corner, Daniel Island, Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island.
Both showrooms carry a broad array of flooring options, from traditional hardwoods and carpet to modern tile, stone and luxury vinyl plank. Flooring Factory also has expanded its product lines to include cabinetry from makers such as Merillat, Waypoint and Fabuwood. “We were doing full bathroom remodels and wanted to offer a turnkey job,” explains Sousa, adding that the company also offers full kitchen remodels.
Flooring still makes up the bulk of the business, however, with referrals and online reviews continually attracting new customers. The process for finding the right flooring starts at the showroom with a member of the design team who will help homeowners determine the best materials and styles to suit their living space.
“We have a system to guide you to floors that you love and are going to be practical for your everyday life,” says Sousa. “Some people really want wood floors, but they have big dogs or small children that would cause a lot of wear and tear.” Her designers make sure to address all of these variables so they can recommend a flooring option that is as functional as it is beautiful.
Not surprisingly, Flooring Factory saw a spike in business during the COVID-19 lockdown as many local residents decided to remodel after being cooped up inside. Although the summer months are traditionally slow, the company was considered an essential business, and orders came in continually as the pandemic unfolded. Sousa was on the front lines, managing the design team and serving customers in the showroom, while her husband handled scheduling, project managers and installation crews.
During this time, the couple also came up with the idea of offering a mobile showroom to serve residential and commercial clients who preferred not to come to the original Goose Creek location. The free service was an instant hit and continues to be popular post-lockdown with homeowners who are juggling tight schedules.
“We have hundreds of different colors and textures [of flooring], so we try to find out what they want to see, and we bring as many samples as we can to them,” Sousa says, adding that her team continually looks for ways to serve clients better. “We try to take the stress out of the equation.”
Taking care of the company’s staff is equally important to the owners. They encourage team members to continue their education and strive to support them in reaching their personal and professional goals. Drawing on her roots when she learned the business from her father, Sousa considers Flooring Factory employees to be like family, and she applauds their passion for serving customers with excellence. “We have a culture that we work as a team,” she says. “As the company grows, they grow with us.” *
Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design and international travel. Read more of her work at lesliejthompson.com.