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How I Went From $6.20/hr Receptionist to 7-Figure Interior Designer

Open Home Plan Design by Michele Pelafas

How I Went From $6.20/hr Receptionist to 7-Figure Interior Designer

In life, we often find that our paths take unexpected turns. Some of us find our passion early, some stumble upon it by chance, and others (unfortunately) never get the opportunity to pursue their passion as a career. But me? I took a leap of faith. 

This is the story of how I went from making $6.20 per hour to building a thriving, world-renowned multi-million dollar interior design company.

The Paycut That Changed My Life…

Once upon a time, the name ‘Michele Pelafas’ didn’t ring a bell for anyone in the interior design world. In fact, the only bell that rang was the one on the reception desk at Latini Candy, where I started my career working as a receptionist for $7.20 per hour.

My job was simple. Most of what I had to do was:

  1. Smile! 😊
  2. Greet visitors
  3. Answer the phone

My co-workers referred to me as “the little girl behind the desk.”

It was okay… but honestly? I couldn’t see myself working there long-term. So, pretty quickly, I landed an interview at Belvedere, the top salon and spa furniture manufacturing company in the U.S. (possibly the world!) 

This. Changed. EVERYTHING.

The moment I walked into their 5,000+ sq ft showroom, I was in awe. The open ceiling, the lighting, the gorgeous furniture – it was like stepping into a dream. At that point, I knew NOTHING about the beauty industry or interior design. Yet, I was completely in LOVE with the idea of designing spas and salons, and I knew I wanted to make a career out of it.

I did the interview, and Belvedere ended up offering me a job, but there was a catch – they offered $1 LESS than what I was making at Latini Candy (from $7.20/hr to $6.20/hr). Now, for a 21-year-old, that dollar made a huge difference…  but something inside me said, “Take it.”  

So, I took a leap of faith and accepted their offer. It felt like a step back, but little did I know, it was the beginning of something extraordinary.

Climbing the Ladder at Belvedere

I’ll be honest… Working at Belvedere wasn’t glamorous at first. I was back to being “the little girl behind the desk,” but this time in a world that fascinated me.

The beauty, the excitement, the design – it all resonated with me on a level I couldn’t ignore. I was determined to learn everything I could about the interior design, beauty, and spa industries.

So, what did I do? I went to college and pursued a degree in interior design.

Balancing full-time work and night classes wasn’t easy. It took me 8 years to get my degree—(yes, EIGHT YEARS!)—because I was funding my education on my own, earning just $6.20/hr.

But every class, every project, every late night was 100% worth it. After seven long years, I landed a sales position. Finally, I was given a chance to shine… and I DID! A couple of years later, I became the #1 salesperson in the company, selling MILLIONS of dollars in furniture and eventually becoming the director of sales.

But my ambition didn’t stop there. I saw an opportunity to innovate within the industry by starting the first fee-based interior design service. At the time, this was given away for free with the purchase of furniture. BUT… I believed in the value of our work and convinced the company to charge for design services.

This decision worked beautifully and increased revenue and it also set a new industry standard.

The Moment I Decided To QUIT…

Fast forward a few years, Belvedere was acquired by Proctor and Gamble (P&G)… and things just weren’t the same. The whole vibe of the place was getting too ‘corporate-y.’ So, I made one of the boldest decisions of my life: I quit and started my own company. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Looking back, that “$1 decision” was the catalyst for everything that followed. From being the “little girl behind the desk” to having now designed THOUSANDS of salons, med spas, home spas, and even some of the most prestigious spas in the world. And last year we generated many millions of dollars.

Which still blows my mind.

We have an incredible team here and they all work together to provide the best experience and products for our wonderful clients. When I reflect on my journey, I remind myself to follow my instincts, embrace my passions, and never underestimate the power of hard work and determination.

Looking to Build Your Dream Space?

If I could turn my dream into a reality, so can YOU. So if you’re ready to bring your dream space to life and want to make sure it’s done right… I’m here to help.

Click here to request a free 1-on-1 design consultation with me.

Together, we can make your vision a reality by building a space that reflects your brand, meets your needs, and exceeds your expectations.



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