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Melissa Oholendt: A Career Dream 15 Years in the Making

APPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY Melissa Oholendt is the Founder and Design Principal of Oho Interiors. After beginning her interior design education in 2001, it took more than 15 years, a fast-paced career in finance, and a decade-long photography business for Melissa to circle back to her true passion. Since 2019, Oho Interiors has been featured in magazines […]

Photo of Melissa Oholendt lead designer of Oho Interiors



Melissa Oholendt is the Founder and Design Principal of Oho Interiors. After beginning her interior design education in 2001, it took more than 15 years, a fast-paced career in finance, and a decade-long photography business for Melissa to circle back to her true passion.

Since 2019, Oho Interiors has been featured in magazines like Midwest Home and nationally recognized for their traditional yet livable design.

It was such a joy to have Melissa on the show! I’ve always said that if I had to choose a career outside of finance, it would be interior design. In this episode, you’ll hear Melissa’s story of rediscovering her passion, trusting the path, and how she’s built a sustainable business doing what she loves.

Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!

A Long and Winding Path

“Oho Interiors is my third career,” Melissa says, although she always had a love for design. Her parents designed and built her childhood home back in Utah and she jumped at the chance to take interior design classes in high school. “Color theory, balance, proportions…all of those things ignited a passion in me.”

But that passion came to a standstill after a conversation with her college professor about the realities of the interior design industry. For the first time, Melissa started to doubt her purpose.

She ended up switching her major to communications and PR. After graduation, she worked for a fast-paced hedge fund – but she could only bury her creativity for so long.

Building a Successful Photography Business

After working in the finance industry, Melissa says, “My creative muscle was atrophying. I needed an outlet.” So she picked up a camera.

Before long, she was juggling a photography business on top of her day job. In 2011, she left the finance world to go full-time in photography. “I knew I wanted a business of my own, and photography was just the outlet of the moment.”

Melissa knew how to market herself and build a brand. She was featured in Brides Magazine and Martha Stewart, worked with Target on their corporate photography, and was named one of the top 50 photographers in the world.

“By all measures, I’d hit a level of success that felt unattainable just years prior.” But something still wasn’t quite right – and when tragedy struck in 2016, Melissa realized she needed to change course again.

A New Business and Fresh Start

Within the span of a year, Melissa lost her grandfather, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she was told that she and her husband wouldn’t be able to have children biologically. All of this hard news made her reevaluate what she wanted out of life.

Her photography work was causing stress on top of an already difficult year. The business was built entirely around her, and Melissa knew it wasn’t sustainable. So she gave herself until the end of 2019 to figure out a new business.

“During that time, interior design never even entered my brain.” Melissa was renovating her own house and posting photos to Instagram, but it was her friends who encouraged her to turn it into a business.

Melissa decided to take a chance on her old dream of being an interior designer. A few months later, Covid hit and her life was changed forever.

Finding Opportunity in Uncertainty

In March 2020, Oho Interiors was a fledgling interior design business. Then the pandemic hit. Everyone was stuck at home, and suddenly Melissa was inundated with inquiries. By the time quarantine ended, she had more than enough clients to sustain the business.

To keep the business growing, Melissa shared her own renovation journey on Instagram and hosted regular design Q&A sessions.

Trying on Different Pricing Models

Melissa quickly realized that pricing interior design services was very different from photography. She searched for resources online to learn as much as she could, but there was limited information on how to price interior design.

For her first few clients, she used a flat fee model – which backfired when projects that were supposed to take six months ended up taking three years to complete. Oho Interiors now uses hourly pricing to control for factors outside of their control.

If you need help pricing your services, check out my proven pricing strategy for small business owners!

Hiring Help

After working solo in her photography business for years, Melissa was eager to hire help this time around. By 2022, she was in survival mode, working 60-70 hour weeks to keep up with demand. Hiring her first full-time employee was a welcome relief.

That hire, a designer named Kate, brought industry experience that filled in the gaps and allowed Oho Interiors to grow even more. “I don’t know how to describe the growth trajectory other than that it’s been an absolute adventure.”

Marketing on Instagram

A big part of Melissa’s growth strategy has been Instagram marketing. Unlike some interior design firms, the team at Oho Interiors isn’t afraid to show their personalities. They like to have fun with their work and that attracts people who share the same values.

Another strategy Melissa used to stand out online was to share behind-the-scenes of their projects. Instead of just sharing the pretty pictures of the final design, she shares the in-between and brings her audience into the process.

Are You The Bottleneck?

Because of her business background, Melissa thought she could handle the financial side of Oho Interiors on her own. But as the business grew, she found she was the bottleneck.

“Our best move last year was outsourcing accounting. Now we have someone who’s in a good place strategically to look at our numbers and say you’re in a good place to hire now, or maybe you should wait on that. I took myself out of the equation.”

As the Oho Interiors team has grown, Melissa has learned to see hiring as an investment in the company’s growth. “I can’t view that as taking away from revenue. Their working hours just add to the overall revenue.”

Finding Peace, Not Balance

“Balance is an illusion,” Melissa says. “We can spend so long, especially as women entrepreneurs, chasing some illusion of work-life balance that we may never truly achieve.”

What’s helped Melissa find peace is defining what her priorities are and allowing the rest to fall where it may. Most of the time, that top priority is her five-year-old daughter. But occasionally she needs to put Oho Interiors first.

Her advice to other mom entrepreneurs struggling to find harmony is to let those priorities fluctuate. “It’s not balance, it’s peace.”

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Profit for Creativity

The best advice Melissa has for her fellow entrepreneurs is: “You don’t have to sacrifice running a great business as a creative. Sometimes we lean into our creative side and say we’re not good at the business side, but you can still run a profitable and successful business.” If you’re a creative who wants to make a sustainable income doing what you love, check out The Blueprint Model!

More from this Episode

To hear the full story and more about Melissa, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.




Photo of Melissa Oholendt Founder & Lead Designer of Oho Interiors

Melissa Oholendt

Melissa Oholendt found her passion for interior design in her youth; buying shelter magazines with her allowance from picking strawberries in the backyard and painting her bedroom that perfect shade of navy blue. However, after beginning her interior design college education in 2001, it took more than 15 years, a fast paced career in finance and a decade long entrepreneurial career in photography, for Melissa to step into her purpose in 2019, where Oho Interiors began.

In the years that have followed, Oho Interiors has been nationally recognized for their English-inspired updated traditional yet utterly livable interiors and exists to craft fully custom homes that speak to tradition with eyes on the future with the goal to truly contribute & enhance our client’s lives, all in the name of great design.



Website | Instagram



March 28, 2024

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