Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Story...How Marianne Strong Interiors Came To Be

After this POST the last week, I had several people ask me how I came to where I am now. So, I thought I would give you a quick history. Growing up I knew I wanted to run a business, from an early age in fact. This newspaper clipping was given to me by my Mom FOREVER ago, I'm talking about 15 years or so.
I went to Ole Miss ( I am from Nashville) where I graduated with a Business Management degree and it was off to the real world. Well, not immediately. I decided to take a year off and I lived in Destin, FL and Vail, CO. It was a dream and I highly recommend going away for a while to everyone. I scooped ice cream and skied, life was good.

Then, it was time for the real world. I decided to move to Memphis because my now-husband was in law school in Oxford, MS which is 45 minutes away and I had several good friends living there. Besides, if it was good enough for Elvis, it was good enough for me!
My first job was in sales and very short lived for several reasons, mostly I hate sales. My second job was with a Technology company and ended up being mostly sales. I HATED THIS JOB. I mean hated it! We are talking the last months I was there I would go downstairs regularly and call my Mom who would remind me I couldn't quit until I had another job, since EVERY day I wanted to quit. This was a bad time. Well, when you hate what you do, you have 2 options-stay miserable or figure out what you really want to do. You know what? Life is too short to be miserable. That is where this book came in-48 Days To The Work You Love. I had heard about it from my man Dave Ramsey (a financial guru who will tell you like it is and trust me, most of the time you don't want to hear it). He endorsed this book and I decided to give it a try. It has been several years since I read it so I can't remember the details but a large part is focusing on what you like and how to get there.

I knew I wasn't cut out for sales. I knew I didn't want to be at a desk all day, every day. I knew that I had a creative side that I wanted to put to use. I had always loved decorating, even as a little kid. While I was doing this soul searching, I took another job doing marketing at BPI, a flooring distributor.

This was one of those moves in life that you know someone is looking out for you. It was a great job, with a great company, with great people, and I was exposed to several brands and products, all home related. While I knew it wouldn't be permanent, I was sad to leave.

As life goes, things were changing and Patrick (my now husband) took a job in Birmingham, AL so I left Memphis. At some point, after A LOT of thought I decided to go back to school for Interior Design. Trust me, I didn't just wake up one morning and say, "I think being a designer will be fun", it was a LONG process.
(image Southern Accents)
That August I started classes at Samford for Interior Design and a few weeks later I went looking for a part time job in the industry. This is the part of the story where my whole life changed. My adviser at school had written down a list of names (from the phone book) of designers I should go talk to. I was on my way to one in particular and suddenly changed course and ended up in a different office first.
(Image Southern Accents)

My future boss, Jenny, shared an office with the person I went to go see and when I told her why I was there she said, "I don't know if she needs help, but I am hiring an assistant". So I was hired then and there. It was a trial run because as Jenny put it, "you either have it or you don't". Jenny is a decorator, not a designer, and I quickly learned that I wanted to decorate, not necessarily design, so I dropped out of the program to work full time for her. (I would love to be a designer, but 4 more years of school that I was footing from my own pocket was not worth it, and decorating is what I love).
(Image Southen Accents)

Let's pause to say this, and I am not trying to be cheesy- I truly believe God has a plan for each of us and you go in life where you are supposed to. Finding Jenny was one of those things I know he had planned. That job was the most crucial step in my career to date. Not only is she a great decorator, but she was a great friend in a new city, and she and her sister (our office manager) have a strong faith that made an impact on me. The things I learned there would have taken me years to learn on my own and for that I am grateful.
(Image Southern Accents)
So after about a year of working for her, different people started asking for help and I started my own company on the side. It started with 2 clients and grew from there. It wasn't easy and there have been many tears along the way. All my business is basically word of mouth. I am very lucky because while growing my business I have been able to continue working for Jenny a little which has made a huge difference.
(my first yard sign, it is ridiculous the joy little things like this can bring you)
So, that is how I got here. A few years later, I am still growing my business, which as we all know is not the best timing, but so far so good. I think one thing that has helped me is that since I am young and fairly new to the business I am not as intimidating as decorators can be. I love small and big projects and I understand budgets as well as anyone does.

If you are thinking about starting your own business I say go for it. There has not been an easy moment since I started- I didn't even sleep the first 3 months, seriously- but it is very rewarding. If you currently hate what you are doing, you need to change. I know, it is not that easy, but take one step at a time and it will get easier.

So that is it in a nutshell. Feel free to e-mail more specific questions. Sorry for the mini novel, once I got started I couldn't stop! As for the future, who knows. I love to help people but I hate the business transaction part of it, I would much rather do it for free, but that is not an option. I would love to own a home store (I know this contradicts the last sentence), but that is a big step......


paula said...

Talk about a wonderful story. God is so good. I know I am doing exactly what I should be doing, but your story is my dream. Also, Dave Ramsey, huge crush on his money smart ways.

Kara said...

I think you just wrote out MY life story. Seriously, so many similarities from the south to sales jobs to law schools.
Beautiful journey, and the best part is, IT'S JUST BEGINNING FOR YOU! :)
God bless you, Marianne. You are such a cutie. Wish we lived closer.

Kara said...

oh yea, and dave, he's the bomb. i have his books and they have changed my life. seriously.

Stephanie Sabbe said...

good story! I didn't know you worked at BPI...we could have crossed paths professionally if you were still in Memphis. I ALWAYS think of you when people try to get me to explain the difference between a designer and a decorator. said...

Great story! And I VERY MUCH appreciate your willingness to help with small projects and not frown on my love of junk stores :) You are the best Marianne!!!

Blueprint Bliss said...

M- thanks for sharing! I am so glad that God has blessed my life with you... and I love seeing you each week at Bible study. Thank you for always answering my many decorating questions... Huge help. xo- Brooke

Sweet Nothings said...

what a wonderful story!

and , as a ny giants fan, i have a warm place in my heart for ole miss( I still dream that me and Eli will end up together) :)

Jennifer said...

what an inspiring story! thanks for sharing!

Tenley said...

What a great story Marianne! I had no idea you were a business major too. There is hope for me yet!

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

I love this post!!!!!

I'm happy to see that I'm not the only one going through this. I like you didn't going to school for design. I ended with a major in Communications. I've had numerous jobs after college and just never felt fulfilled. Design/decorating is what I love to do!

So you know I'm now in the stressful process of starting my own decorating business along with finishing up a decorating program that I started a couple of months ago to get all my ducks in a row.

I'm so proud of you for venturing out on your own! Plus I loved reading about how it all came to be and how you met Jenny.

Loved this post!!!

ACQUIRE said...

Great story and a good lesson that success does not happen over night-but is the direct results of actions we take to get there.

LindsB said...

This is an amazing story and I'm going to copy it and read it whenever I get down. While I dont HATE my job, I know it is not forever and I would love to do something more creative. I know I wont be at my job forever because my BF is planning on applying for a job abroad and I will be going with him (ring must be on finger first, I refuse to leave my life here for just a boyfriend, haha) But, I need to start thinking about what I can do while we are traveling around and its just so daunting and overwhelming.

Thank you for breaking it down for me, it means alot to hear other peoples stories and I truly hope that mine has a happy ending (or should I say beginning) like yours does.

Blair said...

Oh, this was so fun to read! I love the way that this all unfolded for you and your wonderful attitude about it all. I currently am the Director of Development at a non-profit and am actually thinking about maybe trying to try to pursue an interior design career but I don't want to leave Jackson Hole (for school and what not) so the options are limiting. Just desperately want to do something more creative:)

Lauren said...

So awesome Marianne. I can totally relate & I'm just so happy you found your dream. I so know what you mean about doing it for free too hahah

Haven and Home said...

Thank you for all your comments and e-mails. I really love reading each one!

Colour Me Happy said...

Such a great story, thanks for sharing it with us. I tell my students; Here's how you know you should be a designer:

First, if your dog your cat, your aunt and uncle, your friends (friends of friends), your mom, if they are NOT already saying PLEASE help me hang my pictures, take me shopping, help me move my furniture around. If that is not already happening, then get in line with all the other wanna be's. We all want to paint (metaphorically speaking) for a living and get paid to do it. But it takes a serious level of commitment (not to mention born-to-do-this kind of talent) to not have that safe corporate paycheck.

2) If you can't ask for the money, you will starve or you better have a rich husband. We are not like a lawyer, dentist or doctor with a receptionist at the front asking for the money so we have to get real good at asking the client (who is many times now a friend) for the money.

Everytime I don't charge enough, or do extra without charging, I take that as a learning and next time I charge. I'm getting way better than I used to be but that's because I've been single most of the 10 years of being in design so I was forced to get good at it.

The business side of design is the most important!!

Sorry I got started here and couldn't stop :)

Pink Wallpaper said...

love your story!! thanks so much for sharing makes me smile :)

No.35style said...

that is so great you are living your dream! i would love to branch out and try something different but i also like that steady, reliable income, too. it is a hard place to be in...good for you for taking a chance!

southern daze said...

This was so inspiring! Thank you for sharing it with all of us!!