December 10, 2023

Cedarburg native Sophie Zang purchased her first house at age 23 for $340,000. The 1920s Whitefish Bay Tudor is set to close on Sept. 8 after being listed for $1.14 million.
But the deal was not the typical flip, and Zang, now 25, is not a typical 20-something.
An early-career interior designer, Zang has built a massive online following through her design-focused blog and social media brand called By Sophia Lee LLC. It’s become a seven-figure business, according to Zang, earning affiliate marketing revenue by recommending products to 467,000 TikTok followers and 117,000 YouTube subscribers.
The Whitefish Bay house project is a portfolio of sorts for Zang, who is launching her own interior design firm. And as she’s documented the process of remodeling and decorating it, it has fueled her influencer business’s content machine.
“Although she’s uber-creative, I think (Zang’s) biggest strength that maybe not everyone really realizes is (she is) so business savvy and so far beyond (her) years in having a sense of business knowledge,” said Tracy LaLonde of Powers Realty, who represented Zang in the house purchase and handled the listing for its sale.
Zang — who studied interior architecture in a joint program through Concordia University Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design — started By Sophia Lee during college, sharing tips for decorating her dorm room and then her first apartment.
Her intention was always to eventually start an interior design firm, but she knew it would be difficult to get clients without experience, she said.
That’s where the Whitefish Bay house project came in. Zang purchased the property in April 2021. Working with Waukesha-based architect Joan Sweet of Sweet Designs and Kate Schley of Coach House Homes in Cedarburg, Zang designed a full remodel, including a two-story addition to create a large open-concept kitchen and an upstairs owner’s suite.
In addition to documenting the process with her four-person By Sophia Lee team, Zang also hired a video production crew to document the process for a YouTube video series. Once construction was complete, she furnished and decorated the house, providing more shoppable content for By Sophia Lee which will continue to drive revenue for the business long after the house is sold.
All in, By Sophia Lee invested $985,000 in the property, Zang said. The deal is set to close Sept. 8; Zang and LaLonde declined to disclose the sale price.
“Our goal of this house is to get clients for a design firm, so it’s not necessarily about how much we’re making,” Zang said. “For the amount of work and effort we put into this house, we could have made money way faster and easier. But this was a long-term business decision.”
Zang’s design firm, BSL Studios LLC, will begin accepting clients this fall. By Sophia Lee is also looking for another older Whitefish Bay house to restore, Zang said.
“I don’t want to be known as an influencer,” Zang said. “I want to be known as an interior designer.”
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