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VOL. 37 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 26, 2013

Starting over, risking retirement

Interior designer risks 401 (k), 'couldn't be happier'

By Tony Troiano

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As a child, Bohnne Jones scoured construction sites for discarded lumber, took it home to her basement and hammered out small buildings.

She wanted to be an architect and took drafting classes in high school, even though it was outside the norm for a young girl at the time. She married and took up nursing while attending college off and on, finally landing in health information management.

Jones was successful in corporate health care for 33 years before being laid off four times in three years.

“In IT, I worked in several cities with Nashville being the last,” Jones says. “I started seeing employment getting shorter and job searches longer.

“I decided it was time for a serious change, and that change was going to be focusing on my love, which was decorating.”

“This is a challenge I have always wanted to take,” Jones adds. “I dabbled in it while working my other jobs and then certain circumstances led me to fulfill my dream. I couldn’t be happier and wish I had made the change a long time ago.”

Jones discovered Decorating Den Interiors, which offered franchises, while browsing through a magazine. The business turned her down, but Guidant Financial, which assists aspiring small business owners, didn’t.

Guidant, located in Bellevue, WA, provides a platform for individuals to pursue their dreams by helping them buy businesses using their retirement funds without incurring tax penalties.

Jones used a structure called rollover as business startups (ROBS), which allows investment of existing 401(k) funds into launching a business or franchise.

“Franchising is a great way to go for prospective entrepreneurs, but it still can be a scary proposition,” says David Nilssen, Guidant Financial chief executive officer.

“There are so many challenges and so much to do,’’ he adds. “Partnering with a financing company makes a lot of sense. We do the heavy lifting for our clients so they can focus on identifying, evaluating and acquiring the right business. With a rollover for business start-up the person has control over their investment.

“The slow economic recovery has more and more people thinking about self-employment. Our vision is to be the financial engine that powers successful start-ups.

“We’re always looking for ways and devising new tools to provide additional help.”

Jones purchased a Decorating Den Interiors franchise and runs everything: sales, marketing, merchandising, design and decorating, handling and installing products.

“Bohnne finds out what her clients like, and she wants what the client wants,” says Donna Nock of Mt. Juliet. Jones has helped her design and decorate three baths, a master bedroom, kitchen and den, and has more tasks to come.

“She has the knowledge and personality to satisfy her customers. She’s a trusted advisor,” Nock says.

“The biggest challenge is getting the client to step outside their comfort zone,” Jones explains.

“This is where the trusted advisor part comes in. My customer must learn to trust my design abilities.”

Kristin Linn and her husband moved to Middle Tennessee a little more than a year ago, building a house in Franklin. Linn needed help with an open area encompassing a kitchen, breakfast nook and great room.

“I’d never needed a decorator before, but with the fresh start, I wanted to make it special, and Bohnne did just that,’’ Linn says.

“I told her what I wanted and gave her a blank check on putting together the design and décor. Everything is perfect.”

Jones says says appreciates the people who have helped her business, and gives back accordingly.

She is community-conscious, sponsoring New Neighbors League Club of Nashville, which assists people arriving to the area.

She also conducts seminars for various groups, even visiting college sororities.

The award-winning decorator also is a workaholic.

“I do what needs to be done,” she says. Her schedule is usually 12 to 13 hour days, seven days a week.

“As time goes by, maybe two more years, I’ll have the business where I envisioned,” Jones explains. “I want to move from my home studio to a larger commercial one. I’ll also add a staff of designers, decorators and office help.

“Maybe I can catch my breath then.”

As for now, she has this advice:

“If you have a dream, go for it and don’t give up.”