From the September 2002 issue of Startups

Most people wouldn't think of being laid off as a particularly pleasant experience. But when Carla Johnson lost her job in banking, she suddenly found herself knocking on opportunity's door.

A self-described crafty person, Johnson decided to put her creative skills to work by starting her own party-planning business, Special Occasions by CJ. Meanwhile, she happened upon Thrifty Impressions, a business opportunity that provides people with party-planning equipment to do everything from making signs to creating balloon arrangements. "They have so many things that I thought would be able to help me in my own business venture," explains the Queen's Village, New York, entrepreneur.

Johnson officially launched her business in March, and now she offers party-planning and decorating services to individuals, businesses and organizations. Johnson helps clients decide on a theme and select what decorations and favors they want, then she customizes a package to fit the client's vision and budget.

Besides operating Special Occasions by CJ, Johnson is also a student and helps take care of her young nephew, considerations that made working from home very attractive. "It was really convenient for me to have something that I could do at home," she says. "I have more family time [now]."

While having a homebased business currently suits Johnson's needs, she would like to expand beyond the confines of her home. "I would like to see [my business] get to the point where I can do a larger variety of events and [offer] one-stop shopping," she says. "That's my overall goal, where the client can come to me and get every single thing they need, both to purchase and to rent."

Until then, Johnson is happy being the sole proprietor of a small party-planning business and having a one-on-one relationship with clients. "I love when the project is complete and everything is beautiful, and whoever it is I'm dealing with says 'The event was great'--and I know I was responsible for doing the whole thing," she says. "I want my customers to be happy--when they're happy, I'm extremely happy."