After 20 years in business, Nola Shivers says she and her interior design team have hit their stride. The franchisor seems to agree.
Just this month, the Decorating Den Interiors franchise company recognized Shivers’ team as No. 5 in 2017 sales out of 300 franchisees. Her office produced more than $1 million in revenue last year to beat franchisees in Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Shivers says her franchise has designed all sorts of spaces from commercial jobs, such as doctor’s offices, to high-end residences.
Shivers, previously a stay-at-home mom who attended college for home economics, bought into the franchise in 1995, about the time franchisee Debbie Carroll was diagnosed with cancer.
Carroll died in October 1997, and Shivers decided to purchase ownership of the franchise business in January 1998.
Shivers recalls some soul searching before the investment decision, but she felt it was right.
“I had a very close relationship with (Carroll), so the question was ‘did I love this business, or did I just love working with her and for her?’”
Shivers’ team comprises her husband Pat, a franchise qualification specialist; interior designers Heather Smith, Maggie Strafford and Jillian Johnson; and Jennifer Green, vice president of operations.
A larger network
Shivers started out as a decorator, but now she and Pat are field managers for the region, overseeing five franchisees including the Kansas City area and part of Arkansas. Pat and Nola purchased development rights for the western Missouri region in 2009.
The international Decorating Den Interiors company held its awards ceremony in early May in Orlando, Florida. The local franchise came home with several awards, including Field Managers of the Year, first place Decorator of the Year for Smith and fourth place Decorator of the Year for Strafford, and others, in addition to the franchise sales award.
“In the last 15 [years], she’s probably been in the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada,” says Pat Shivers.
The business has grown 43 percent in sales over the past year, he says, citing improving economic conditions. In addition, she credits the reliability of their franchise company.
“I think it’s the longevity of the company and the designers in the company,” Shivers says. “Repeat and referral customers make up 80 percent of our business.”
The franchise parent company, Decorating Den Systems Inc., based in Easton, Maryland, charges a 7-9 percent royalty fee after the initial nearly $40,000 franchise fee, according to Entrepreneur.com. Financial requirements for starting a franchise include an initial investment of $55,708-$81,700, net worth of $80,000 and liquid cash totaling $50,000.
The Shiverses declined to disclose their current fees. She notes the variable fees are determined by sales numbers and tenure with the franchise. Pat Shivers says once a business hits $1 million in sales, franchise fees are reduced. The local franchise first hit the $1 million mark in 2001.
While many franchisees work out of the owners’ homes, the Shiverses opt to work out of a 6,000-square-foot private studio.
Nola Shivers says client desires determine price, style, line of furniture, and everything in between, but not all clients know what they want.
“Most clients know what they don’t like,” she says. “So we work with them to find out what they do like. We don’t just go in and say this is what you need. We get to know them. We get to know their lifestyles.”
Other clients know exactly what they like, but they don’t know how to make it happen. Shivers says this is where Decorating Den Interiors pulls from its network of over 140 furniture and accessory lines. From there, she says the company buys at wholesale prices.
“(The manufacturers) sell to us like a big company, so our buying power is larger,” she says. “Also, we do not charge design fees. We come in, design the whole room and provide the product. So it’s a one-stop shop.”
Shivers says prices for a client range from one piece of furniture for $75 to a single-room remodel for $10,000 and up.
“The vendor network is so large that we can match anybody’s budget whether that’s moderate to luxury,” Pat Shivers says. “There’s not a budget that we can’t hit. A lot of people think they can’t afford a designer, but under our business model, you can actually save money.”
Projects have included complete home remodels for entertainers in Branson, including one of a magician in the late 1990s that was featured on HGTV. The local franchise team currently is working on about 30-40 projects.
Real estate markets
The Shiverses’ franchise also handles decorating work for banks, office complexes and real estate companies.
David Martin, a broker assistant with Team 24/7 at Murney Associates, Realtors, says he’s worked with the Shiverses for 15 years.
He hires Decorating Den Interiors for homebuyers and for staging homes when sellers want to get more value out of their homes.
“Does (the seller) want to bring this home up to a certain quality to sell quickly to make it easy for a buyer to get into it? Or do we want it to be investment quality and sell it at 20-25 percent less than they would get for it otherwise?” Martin asks.
He says a recently sold home on Park Street in Nixa netted the owners $215,000 after they spent roughly $5,500 on interior improvements through Decorating Den. He estimates the changes yielded an additional $20,000 on the sale.
Martin says he uses Decorating Den Interiors eight to 15 times a year, and his team sold 165 homes in 2017.
“They stand behind everything they do,” he says, “and they pick out the unique things you just don’t see out there.”
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