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Mission to Design

An Army vet returns home to launch an interior decorating franchise.
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This story appears in the October 2006 issue of Startups. Subscribe »
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It was while serving out her final year on active duty with the 1st Cavalry Division in central Baghdad that Jill Caliri really started planning for her future--by first taking a look at her past. "People say you should think about what you did when you were a little kid to discover what you are truly passionate about," says Caliri, 29. For Caliri, who remembers spending her time rearranging living room and bedroom furniture, the answer came loud and clear: interior decorating. And the way to make it happen was spelled out in black and white in the form of a magazine advertisement announcing franchise opportunities with Interiors by Decorating Den, a full-service home furnishings company.

Once home from Iraq, Caliri set out on a whole new personal mission as an Interiors franchisee, officially opening for business in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in June 2005. Why did Caliri opt for this franchise opportunity over venturing out on her own? "Startup costs would have equaled the [franchise] fee," she says. "And I didn't think I would get as fast a start without support. The supplier access is huge in this business." For more than a year, she has single-handedly managed marketing, bookkeeping, sales, designing and some installations. She meets with clients, armed with questions about their styles, needs and personalities, and prepared to help them with everything from window treatments to full room makeovers. "With a client, you have direction," says Caliri. "A client has certain wants, needs or things they really like, and they'll tell you."

She eventually plans to hire a few decorators to assist her in reaching $1 million in annual sales. Expecting $200,000 to $250,000 for 2006, she's well on her way.

Edition: May 2017

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