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Making gains: Chip and Joanna Gaines had halting first steps, too
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Making gains: Chip and Joanna Gaines had halting first steps, too

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If your home improvement projects don’t look as good as the ones Joanna Gaines does, don’t fret. Initially, hers didn’t, either.

“It’s easy to be intimidated at taking that first step,” she says during a Zoom call. “It took me years to really start trusting my gut when it came to design. And a lot of that required practice and failing and practice and failing.

“Now, I feel like I know my gut instinct. But we wrestle with it every day.”

To get to that “Fixer Upper” level, “you just have to take that first step and say, ‘I’m going to go for it and I’m probably going to make some mistakes. But I’m only going to get better as I keep moving forward.'”

To help move in the right direction, Gaines, her husband Chip and their team of designers are launching an app July 15 that will bring all of their Magnolia content to one place. Additionally, the shows (like “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home”) can be found on Discovery+ before the Magnolia channel launches in January.

A big second step? You bet, says Chip Gaines. “When we used to do ‘Fixer Upper,’ what a layperson may not realize is that a season’s worth of content translated to a year (for us). You’re trading a year of your life for, essentially, 13 to 18 episodes.”

By extending their brand (and pulling others into the mix), “it feels like an unquenchable amount of content that you have to provide the machine,” Chip says. “Now when somebody calls me and says, ‘Hey, I binge watched your entire season last night,’ you’re sitting there going, ‘My entire year got that person one night of information.’”

It’s a daunting concept, but one the Waco, Texas, residents warm to. “One of the things Chip has always taught me is just to be a lifelong learner,” Joanna says. “When people watch these shows across the network ... our hope is that they learn, they’re inspired and they’re entertained. It’s kind of one of those things where we try to put it all in a pot and, when people are done watching, they feel like, ‘Hey, I can tackle that myself.’”

When “Fixer Upper” premiered nearly 10 years ago, the Gaineses were sweating even the small stuff.

They wanted to have a big reveal for their clients, but they didn’t know how to hide a whole house. “We sat there and debated blindfolding these poor people,” Chip says. “We thought about dropping them out of a helicopter like black ops might do and retract – and then we thought the liability would be too extreme. One of the guys we became good friends with had this idea where cranes would hold up these two pieces of fabric.”

Instead of going the expensive (and dangerous) route, they used their “cowboy ingenuity,” built a frame on wheels and, on the front, put a billboard of what the house used to do look like. Total cost: A few hundred dollars. “It’s interesting that it stuck because we didn’t think that was going to be a long-term solution,” Chip says. “But people really kind of fell in love with that idea.”

Now, of course, that one little show has grown into an empire. In addition to a Magnolia product line, the parents of five have a series of stores in Waco that have become vacation destinations for fans of the show. There’s also a Magnolia magazine, several books by both Chip and Joanna, a cooking series and a place for other entrepreneurs to showcase their wares.

That one step outside their comfort zone was all it took.

Joanna, though, did consider a career in broadcasting. “I always thought I’d work on a news magazine,” she says. “I was always inspired by Connie Chung. I thought, as an Asian woman seeing her, she was so professional, so well-poised.”

Joanna got an internship at “48 Hours,” but while she was there something changed. “I missed home so much that I found myself going into these little boutiques just trying to figure out how I’d find that sense of home here in this big city.”

She returned to Waco and her goal changed. “It wasn’t until I got married to Chip that he pushed me to do that dream."

And, now as they're on the cusp of launching an entire network, Joanna admits, "I never looked back.”

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