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UConn Magazine: Designing a Take-2 Career

Tips for designing a serene space — and a new profession — from exec-turned-interior designer Jeanne Collins ’05 MBA

Any interior designer would be ecstatic to be one of 15 finalists for the HGTV 2023 Designer of the Year award. But for Jeanne Collins ’05 MBA, the honor is particularly meaningful, as she is only three years into a design career.

“If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I would be an entrepreneur, I would have said, ‘No! Not me,’” says the founder of JerMar Designs of New Canaan, Connecticut, and the author of “Two Feet In: Lessons from an All-in Life.”

Collins had spent 11 years at a large corporation, working her way up to vice president of East Coast sales, when she was abruptly laid off. “I was burned out from quarterly goals, unrealistic expectations, and travel,” she says. “I was exhausted from the lifestyle, the lack of creativity, and values that didn’t align with mine. I realized I might be dead if I kept doing this. I knew this was a time for change, that I had another 20 years to work, and the chance to make a significant change wasn’t going to come around again.”

She’d liked doing interior design work for herself and for family, so she went back to school online to earn two certificates in interior design. But she had no portfolio to demonstrate her style — which uses design to create a sense of serenity and wellness in a home. So she posted to a local mothers’ group in town and offered to redesign a room for free. In 10 minutes, she had 35 people requesting her services.

Today her work is in such demand that she can choose the projects she wants to work on. “One of the reasons people hire me is that I will push the boundary of what they think they like.” The Executive MBA alum shared some lessons and tips with us in late 2023, in hopes of a serene and healthy 2024.

Read on for more.