From the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Clients of the Sudbury, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Grady skin-care salon don't expect the woman behind the counter to be an experienced cosmetologist or aesthetician. She answers calls and books appointments for waxing, facial and makeup services, so they assume she's a receptionist.

But Kara Chmielewski isn't the receptionist-'s the owner. What's more, she's not a cosmetologist or an aesthetician-'s a former IT project management consultant. Still, while the lines may seem blurred to others, the change makes perfect sense to Chmielewski, 34. After working for two and a half years in IT, she wanted something different- other words, something not tech-related. "When I started looking at businesses to get involved with, I looked at the companies I liked to go to [as a customer]," Chmielewski explains. "I'd been going to Elizabeth Grady for about 10 years."

As a former client, Chmielewski overcame any jitters about tackling a new field. "I had a good handle on what's involved, and since I'd owned a business before, I knew how to do accounting and advertising," she says. "It is completely different from the technical field, but I didn't think it was going to be difficult to learn."

Since opening her salon in June, Chmielewski has kept herself busy with the administrative side of her franchise. But eager for new challenges, she is considering taking yet another leap: enrolling in cosmetology and aesthetician classes. "I'm at the salon all the time, and I also have a 2-year-old, so I don't have much time right now," she says, "but I'm certainly trying to learn as much as I can."