My alma mater, Beloit College, profiled my company in their Winter 2017 magazine issue. I am featured alongside four other more recent graduates that have also started their own business. You can read my feature below.
Rethinking the Entrepreneur
By Paul Engleman’76
Jerrica Zaric’12 can pinpoint the moment when the seed for her career as an interior designer was planted in the fertile soil of her imagination. “I was about 6 years old, and I was at my grandparents’ house on Easter,” she recalls. “I was coloring, and my grandfather said I had to stop because there was no working allowed on Easter. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, is coloring work?’”
From an early age to when she entered college, Zaric remained seriously enthusiastic about pursuing an art career. Of her double major at Beloit, she says, only half facetiously, “Studio art was my serious major, econ was my fun elective.”
Shortly after graduation, Zaric landed a job as a project manager at an advertising agency in Milwaukee, where she worked on digital-based projects such as website and app development, doing budgets, and setting timelines. She worked there full-time for about two years and continued working part-time from home as an independent contractor for another six months while transitioning to her own business.
“I was lucky to get a job in the city that I wanted,” she says. “Through working in project management, which is kind of the opposite of being an artist, I realized quickly that what I wanted to do was interior design. I always had a passion for interiors, architecture, and furniture design. I was doing interior design on the side for family and friends, and I decided to try to make a full-time career out of it.”
For the last two years, Zaric has been a one-person band, operating her company, Jerrica Zaric Interior Design, a full-service, independent design firm, out of her home in Milwaukee. Soon, she plans to be in a position to rent an office and hire an assistant designer.
Noteworthy on her early roster of clients is her alma mater. She has completed two projects at Beloit College: the lounge at the Emerson Hall apartments and the new visitor center on the main floor of Middle College (shown at right). Her other clients are both residential and commercial, mainly in Wisconsin and Illinois, but she’s started offering a room design service across the country through remote consultations.
While a student at Beloit, Zaric worked at CELEB as the assistant director of Gallery ABBA, a student-run art gallery. Although her work experience at CELEB is not directly related to her current endeavor, she notes one similarity: “Getting people to sign on to what you’re selling. Sometimes it would take a lot of convincing to get a student artist to put together a show.”
In the early days of establishing her business, she says it was a challenge to identify customers who sought her services, which include layout, design, material and product selection, purchasing, competitive bidding, and management of everything from smaller budget face-lifts to full-scale renovations.
“In my first year, it was kind of a struggle to get clients,” she says, expressing some disappointment with a 50/50 success rate, bidding on 22 jobs and getting hired on 11. “But this year I’ve tripled my business,” as a result of referrals and the use of a lead generation service.
One area in which Zaric feels a need to improve her game is being able to accurately estimate the number of hours a project will take. It may be the one aspect of her business in which her optimism is not an asset. “I’m the type of person who thinks I can do it faster,” she says. “At first I was drastically underbidding. I still feel like I’m underbidding. I’m still spending more hours on a job than I’m billing for.”
She was somewhat surprised to discover that launching her own firm is “80 percent business and 20 percent creativity.” As her company grows, and she has employees to delegate tasks to, she looks forward to being able to focus more on design and less on project management.
Although Zaric has no expectation of tripling her billings every year, she is confident that the business is designed to succeed and thrilled to be on her own.
Read the full article to learn more about other entrepreneurs on the Beloit Magazine website.