Michele Bessey, 41
After her second child was born, Michele Bessey no longer wanted to commute from her New Jersey suburb to Manhattan, where she and her husband ran a production company specializing in televised concerts (by the likes of U2 and the Dixie Chicks) and other extravaganzas (like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony). But she still wanted to work.
Her Aha Moment
"We were driving through our town when I first uttered it aloud: 'Maybe I could open a store!'" Bessey recalls. A home store, to be exact: Friends had always praised her decorating style, and she'd been a happy scavenger at estate and rummage sales since childhood (when her dad would pull over to the side of the road if he spotted a treasure in someone's trash).
In 2006 Bessey opened Perch Home, a suburban nester's bazaar with an "urban farmhouse" aesthetic: The selection ranges from antique furniture and lighting fixtures to seersucker shower curtains, vintage-inspired jewelry, and handmade soaps.
Bessey and her husband squeezed every drop of equity out of their house to get the store up and running, though she never fretted about going under. "Because of my producing background, I knew how to budget, how to cover rent, insurance—all that unsexy stuff," she says. "But I did worry that by leaving our production company, I was abandoning my whole definition of myself."
"When I first opened, another business owner in town told me, 'Be nice to everyone.'" Taking this maxim to heart, Bessey began personally delivering purchases to customers' houses and offering antiques-shopping day trips to eastern Pennsylvania. "Coming home, we'd drink Champagne on the bus," she says. "Word started spreading. I think those trips are one reason Perch is successful."
Her Surprise Payoff
"Thanks to the store, I now know everyone in my town, and they know my kids," Bessey says. "When I worked in the city, I just slept here."
— Meredith Bryan