Cydney Cockerill considers herself a storyteller. Throughout the variety of jobs she’s held in the past — along with the multiple ventures she currently pursues — the common thread is telling stories. She might do that through photography, writing, staging a home or even selling a honey-sweet treat on a hot summer day.
“I like to get my hands in the story,” Cockerill said. “Whether that’s building a brand, staging a home in a way to highlight its best features, or actually writing, my primary occupation has been focused on highlighting the diamonds, no matter if the surroundings are rough or not.”
Wacoan writer Megan Willome spoke with Cockerill by phone (and through email, amid power outages) to learn more about how home staging can benefit buyer, seller and real estate agent, and how having extremely weak eyes actually helps her use the camera to see.
WACOAN: It looks like you’re a Waco girl. I saw you went to Midway ISD and Baylor University. What did you study at Baylor?
Cockerill: I am a Waco gal. Actually the chronology is kind of confusing, but to summarize, my dad married my mom while she was in college. He was in the Navy, so she paused Baylor to live with him in Spain for two years, and that’s where I was born.
They moved back to Waco so she could finish her degree and then four years later moved to Washington because Waco had just experienced record-high heat and they were over it. We moved back here in 2008 and have been here ever since.
I’m actually a third generation Baylor Bear, so Baylor was always the goal for me. I studied business, photography and journalism and graduated by the skin of my teeth with a [public relations] degree because that’s pretty much what you get when you add all of those random study topics together.
WACOAN: You’ve done several different things in your career. How would you describe your professional journey? Is there a common theme?
Cockerill: I have done an almost laughable variety of jobs throughout my career, and if I had to draw a common thread among them it would probably be storytelling.
You could consider my first job to be photography, though you can barely count it because I was taking some product photos here and a few headshots there and frequently forgetting to charge for services.
Then I worked at Spice Village, and that was fun for so many reasons. I learned a lot, had a killer boss lady, and met so many amazing Waco business owners that were vendors there. I didn’t tell many stories there, but I heard a lot of them and learned firsthand every day at the counter how many stories there are in the world to tell.
WACOAN: And you worked at the Wacoan as well.
Cockerill: I worked at the Wacoan for a bit over two years in college, and it was one of the most rewarding jobs I could have had. I got to work in the photography, editorial and social media sections of the company and tell the story of Waco during the very beginning rise of Magnolia.
I actually credit my turning into a writer to the Wacoan crew. I’m terrible at grammar and always used that as an excuse to disqualify my attempts at writing, but I’ll never forget the day I turned in a blog (I honestly can’t even remember what the topic was) and Michelle [Johnson] laughed as she read it. She turned to me and said, ‘That’s freaking funny, Cyd. Why don’t you think you’re a writer?’ And I’ve been writing as part of my career ever since.
After that I had to step aside to graduate college. My senior year I took 22 hours the first semester and 20 hours the second semester to graduate on time. I don’t recommend that. During that time I missed being an active participant in cheerleading for Waco.
WACOAN: Is that where Wacobound comes in?
Cockerill: That’s where Wacobound came in. Originally it was supposed to be more of a gear and T-shirts kind of thing.
My then boyfriend (now husband) and I took a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and saw the Fayettechill brand and thought Waco needed something like that. But with no funds and just an idea, we thought we’d get a start with an Instagram account. That evolved to a website, which is actually how I got my next job at Magnolia.
WACOAN: Tell me more about Wacobound.
Cockerill: Wacobound is a passion project my husband and I will always have a soft spot for. We used to walk around Downtown Waco late at night and look at buildings we wanted to someday buy as a storefront and office. Now that we have a somewhat realistic grasp on how finances work, all I can say is it’s kind of cute to think about the things we used to dream.
In many ways I’d say the mission of the site came from my husband. He’s a Rhode Island transplant who chose Baylor for Waco because he saw its potential. Every time he said where he was going, he was met with ‘Where?’ or the classic question, ‘Is that where that cult was?’ That was right before [Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III] won the Heisman [Trophy] and the McLane Stadium era of Baylor began. He got to witness Baylor get notoriety for football success, all while he was climbing these obscure abandoned silos downtown because that’s just what you did in college. Then suddenly those silos turned into a national phenomenon, with Magnolia, and he got to see Waco finally get the attention it deserved.
WACOAN: What’s the situation with Wacobound currently?
Cockerill: It’s just dormant right now. What’s funny is we’ll look up something on the internet, and a Wacobound article will come up. We both ended up with different jobs because, honestly, passion didn’t pay the mortgage. But the ‘what ifs’ of how to make Waco even greater are still very much alive in our daily conversations.
WACOAN: So Waco has been a passion for the two of you for a long time.
Cockerill: It didn’t take us long after we met to realize we both had a weird spark for this city. When we both realized how much we loved Waco, it turned into a conversation of, ‘Well, how do we get people to love Waco as much as we do?’ And T-shirts were the first obvious option in our mind.
I got an inkling he wanted to marry me when I asked about an equity split [in the company], and he said, with a smirk, ‘Ah, we don’t need to worry about that.’
WACOAN: What did you do with Magnolia?
Cockerill: One of my husband’s pledge brothers worked at Magnolia and knew the Wacobound website and liked my writing, so he recruited me to hop on board as a content curator in the marketing department. Let me tell you, that was fun. Talk about a hard-working crew. Getting to be a part of the Magnolia team was truly an irreplaceable experience. I watched marathons come together in seemingly impossible time frames and product lines launch by the blood, sweat and heart of so many departments and teams. The amount of creativity working all around me was always pretty admirable.
The story of Magnolia is the story of a creative community of people making the most of their surroundings. Getting to curate the content for them took my writing to a whole other level, both from exposure and from a perspective of the stakes involved. I had a team of writers that I learned so much from, people who brought everything to the next level for me.
After a little over two years there my husband got a job offer in Dallas. We had our first daughter, Carter Eloise, so I kept an eye out for more remote work. We ended up not taking the Dallas job offer, because admittedly neither of us could really swallow leaving Waco, but I saw a job listing to be the editor of Style Me Pretty: Living, so I applied and somehow got the job. I’ve been there over a year now.
WACOAN: What is the company?
Cockerill: Style Me Pretty is a wedding website, basically on online magazine. It connects brides to vendors. Recently we opened up a product line. It’s sold at Michaels and online. As an extension of the brand we started a what-comes-after-the-chapel lifestyle brand, Living. It not only focuses on home decor, but it’s in an online-magazine format that is a field guide to a styled pretty life.
I was hired on as editor, so I do a combination of writing articles, handling submissions that come in through the portal and running the social media accounts.
I get to tell the verbal story of home. Where people dwell is such a dominant part of life these days, and I’ve personally come to believe and experience firsthand that home is really the most important place on earth.
WACOAN: I’ve also heard something about a frozen lemonade stand you run, Lemy’s.
Cockerill: Another aspect of my career life is that I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs, and for whatever reason, it is a family hobby to talk through business ideas. Many times those ideas have come to fruition. So while I was on maternity leave with Carter, my husband and I thought, ‘We’ve got a month, so why not start this frozen lemonade cart thing?’ And thus Lemy’s was born.
So despite my continuous declaration of love for Waco, every summer when it hits a week straight of 100-degree temps, my husband and I become very, very familiar with the East Coast housing market. But at the end of the day the love of Waco wins out. We came to the conclusion that we just needed to do something about the heat. That’s where the idea of Lemy’s was born.
We sell one product: honey-sweetened frozen lemonade at a slush-like consistency, and it is shockingly refreshing. Its season is from March until pumpkin spice lattes come out. We pop up around town for public sales and also do rented private parties and events.
We have big dreams for this cart and expansion possibilities. But, admittedly, it has been a true labor of love to get it off the ground. The 2019 season just so happened to coincide with the birth of our firstborn, leaving us a whopping 13 days of operation. The 2020 season was supposed to start at Spring at the Silos, and we all know what happened next, #hellocovid. We made some necessary adjustments and trudged our way through the season, but ultimately we were only open 45 days last year.
And this year our preferred launch date is actually my exact due date for baby number two, because why should the season start smoothly? Our 2021 opening date is to be determined at the moment simply because, well, life gave us a lot of lemons to juggle at one time, and while non-metaphorically speaking, we do, in fact, turn those lemons into frozen lemonade, we need to get our also non-metaphorical kitchen built first.
WACOAN: You said your family is entrepreneurial. How has that expressed itself?
Cockerill: My mother and sister also have the entrepreneur bug (bad, I might add). My mom saw a pretty big hole in the housing bubble for Waco. As a Realtor she’s seen more houses sell for less than they’re worth or sit on the market for way longer than they should or drop in price simply because no one took the time to tell the story of that home to its highest potential. And thus The Lyn Taylor Company was born. This all happened pretty simultaneously as I left Magnolia for my remote job, so wearing many hats became essential.
WACOAN: Since your mother is a Realtor, does that mean real estate services are something Lyn Taylor offers? Do you work with other real estate agents?
Cockerill: We work with a lot of different real estate agents in the area. She brokers out of [Camille Johnson, Realtors], but we work with different brokerages in Waco.
When she steps in as a stager, she takes away her real estate title in that instance. We have Realtors call us when they have a particularly difficult house. Typically it’s realtor-prompted to have a home staged, but if it’s buyer-prompted before there’s an agent, then we can offer our services if they’re interested. But if they have [a real estate agent], we can step right in stride with that.
WACOAN: So is Lyn Taylor your main job?
Cockerill: Lyn Taylor is my hands-on job, for sure. Home staging is a newer application to the Waco home market, but my favorite thing about it being my job is that at the end of a project I feel like I’ve done true value-adding work. And not just from a visual perspective but from a statistical perspective, too, helping houses move more quickly.
WACOAN: Where did the name come from?
Cockerill: It’s a combo of our middle names, with my middle name being Taylor and my mom and sister both sharing Lyn as a middle name.
For being related, we have shockingly different strengths that all work together pretty smoothly. We have fun while we get the job done. And we’re close enough to (cough) cordially disagree, so the end process is refined, filtered and curated. So when we stage a home, it is truly a well-thought-out process.
WACOAN: How are responsibilities divided up among the three of you?
Cockerill: My mom is the spearhead, as the business was her idea. And as a Realtor she has the firsthand experience to see what happens to a home when it’s not prepared well for market. She has been my favorite hardworking boss to watch. She has the brains, the savvy and, honestly, just great natural taste.
My favorite example of her instinctively good taste is when my parents built their house on their farm. She stopped watching HGTV and buying home magazines during the entire process because she didn’t want to be influenced by trends but rather do what she personally liked.
When all was said and done, an article came out around the time they finished up the construction titled ‘18 of the biggest trends in home design.’ I went through and counted, just out of curiosity, and she had unknowingly nailed 11 out of the 18 trends in their home.
WACOAN: That’s uncanny.
Cockerill: As to job descriptions, technically I am the older of the two sisters by 4 1/2 years, but if you look at height and professionalism you’d never know that I am, in fact, the oldest. Alex runs the ship, to be frank. She’s the one who creates agendas for our meetings, and she organized the entire warehouse of furniture and accessories. She has exquisite taste, and she just so happens to actually be good at accounting, so she does that for us as well. But most admirably she’s extremely personable; everyone that meets her loves her. I consider it a compliment when people ask if we’re twins.
My role in the company is very aesthetically based, and that covers a wide range of tasks. I curate our marketing efforts. I make balloon arches for open houses, and I get my hands deepest in the homes themselves. I love looking at how a home starts and seeing where we can take it with some strategic rearranging of furniture and accents. An overlooked landing space at the top the stairs can be transformed into a perfect little book nook when you think through the potential of what buyers can connect with. That’s where I like to dive in headfirst. I like to think I specialize in a good ‘shelfie,’ and when you balance it all correctly, it makes a potential buyer want nothing more than to put their own items in those carefully curated shelves.
But all in all one of my personal favorite aspects of staging is actually collecting the furniture. We have a warehouse packed to the brim with furniture that we use in homes. But because we all went through the class to get our certifications, we get the added benefit of trade and discounts, and that makes shopping all the more fun.
Overall I like to say our goal is to make the home-purchasing process fun again. It can be so stressful on the seller’s side, trying to figure out how to make a home appealing to potential buyers. And from a buyer’s perspective, it’s so hard sometimes to see a home as potentially yours when the seller’s items are still in it. We bridge the gap of making the seller’s life easier in the decision-making process and making the buyer’s life easier in their ability to see themselves in a home more fluidly. And all the while making the Realtor’s life easier by getting that house off of the market statistically faster.
Personally I miss the nostalgic days of home buying where the market offerings weren’t so available online that you had to go to open houses and see things in person for yourself. My parents used to take us to open houses just for the fun of looking at houses, and now it feels like such a rare thing.
WACOAN: How does home staging benefit seller and buyer?
Cockerill: Staging homes to sell is more of a standard in markets like Dallas and Austin, but it’s coming to Waco fast. If you’re a fan of the Netflix show ‘Selling Sunset,’ you know they don’t even think about listing a home without having it staged first. Although I can promise you we don’t take as many artistic liberties as some of their stagers do.
Home staging, in a nutshell, is preparing a property to go to market by replacing the homeowner’s tastes and preferences by using different furniture and accessories to highlight a home’s bestselling features. Each project is totally different and catered to what a house needs to make it appeal to the widest pool of buyers. We’ve had new-builds that need an entire house worth of furniture, and we’ve had clients who actually have amazing taste and just need some simplifying to depersonalize their house.
For the seller, we take the stress and guessing game away for how to properly prepare your home for market. For the buyer, we help you see yourself in the home you’re viewing without the obstacles of personal taste or a totally blank room. And as Realtor, we help make you look good and highlight all of the hard work you put into getting a home sold. Realtors work hard for their clients; we just help in the translation.
WACOAN: You’re juggling a lot, career-wise.
Cockerill: A lot of it is seasonal.
For Simply Pretty, my boss lives in Amsterdam, and a lot of the team is on the East Coast, so it’s a morning-oriented job.
WACOAN: It seems photography is a passion for you. I did see your Instagram, which had some great pics of your daughter, especially with her holding a lightsaber. She’s obviously destined for greatness.
Cockerill: Thank you! It was one of our proudest moments for sure when she selected that as a favorite toy.
This is totally weird, and I know it, but I think I love photography because I have terrible eyesight. I’ve worn glasses since I was 18 months old. I’m technically cross-eyed, but contacts and glasses fix it. No one’s really sure why.
Taking photos helps me see things how I think they should be seen. My parents always supplied me with disposable cameras growing up, and I enjoyed taking pictures for memory’s sake on trips and vacations — always leaving at least one photo left on the roll just in case something surprisingly magical happened. And then when digital cameras became an option, I did what any normal preteen would do and took a lot of selfies, shadow photos and pictures of nature.
The first time I took photography seriously was when I kind of accidentally won the H.O.T. Fair photography contest in 11th grade. I was testing a telephoto lens and took a picture of corn that had two different spiders in the leaves. Of course I didn’t know the spiders were there until I got home and looked at the photo in a computer. That’s exactly what I mean about photography translating what my bad eyesight can’t. In hindsight I should be very glad it was a telephoto zoom lens because I’m pretty sure the spiders were poisonous.
I pursued photography as a career for a while, but ultimately I found the most joy in taking photos for myself. My proudest photo to date is a black-and-white film photo of lightning. I was in a film class at Baylor, where they gave you a tiny point-and-shoot camera, no bells and whistles. The assignment was to do a backlit photo. Lightning is one of my favorite things to take pictures of, so it was at the intramural fields at Baylor during a lightning storm. I just shot the roll. It did not qualify for backlit, but the professor was impressed that I got lightning with a point-and-shoot camera. I went through an entire roll to get that one photo, but it was totally worth it.
WACOAN: You mentioned earlier that you’re expecting. When is the baby due? How do you foresee your work shifting once you have two little ones?
Cockerill: Her due date is mid-March, and if there is any silver lining to the pandemic situation it is the fact that I’ve been able to be a bit of a recluse during this pregnancy. I always joked that my dream situation would be to leave for a nine-month trip and come back with the baby, and lo and behold, that’s pretty much how it turned out. Except I’m stuck at home, sort of on bed rest. I actually did catch COVID. It was not at all the tropical oasis I originally pictured.
I’m pretty work-driven and am consistently over-optimistic about my ability to handle large loads at a time, but we’ll see how two kiddos works out. I’m extremely fortunate that Lyn Taylor is a family business that actually asks me to bring my kids along with me. My mother is a big, big fan of being a grandma.
When I was a kid myself, I remember coming along with my parents to work on the businesses they owned and how fun it was feeling like I got an inside scoop on seeing how things ran, so I hope to create the same kind of experience for my girls. The nature of family business means you can tuck the kids under your arm and bring them with you.
My mom has always been the hardest worker I know, and she doesn’t stop until the job is done right. I think it’s a great thing for my own kids to grow up seeing. And not to brag or anything, but my almost 2-year-old is a pretty great pillow organizer, and I have Lyn Taylor to thank for that.
I do, however, have a few tricks plays up my sleeve to hopefully keep them continually occupied and distracted. I have decoy laptops and phones in the arsenal, and I’m not afraid to pull them out.
Cydney’s 5 Must-Have Items
1. 40-oz Stanley tumbler. I literally had to hunt it down to find in stock. I’m talking text message sign-ups, giveaway sign-ups, restock email sign-ups. You name it, I put my info on the list to get one. But it was totally worth it. It’s in my hand 24/7.
2. Lip balm. The actual brand changes monthly, but the Fresh Sugar advanced therapy treatment lip balm seems to circle back as a favorite quite a bit.
3. Budget cash wallet. Big Dave Ramsey [fan] over here.
4. Pepcid. Because heartburn is the least talked about pregnancy symptom but most striking in my case.
5. Planner. I’m a big planner girl, I typically fluctuate between Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner and a traditional Moleskine, but this year I went out on a limb and got an hour-by-hour weekly planner from Target.