I always like to ask my Guests to describe their business in their own words. I think it’s very important to get their vision of what their business is and not what you or I might assume it is. In the case of Jodi Cali, of Voilà, this exercise was very important. Jodi has created a service offering for her clients that is fresh and unexpected. Jodi shares, “I would describe my business as kind of a mix. I do a bit of interior styling, I do a bit of staging, and I also do a bit of floral design.”
After 15 years in floral design, Jodi made an important self discovery. She needed variety. With her creative personality, she found that she was happiest when she had the opportunity to mix up her activity. She says, “When I was only doing floral design I found myself extremely bored just doing flowers. And even when I was having fun doing floral design, there would be times when I would want a break from it. For example, I would want to do the window displays and then I would just go crazy! I wouldn’t want to go back to flowers for a while and I realized that the break was really good for me.” She admits that it wasn’t until much later that she connected that she actually needed to do this; incorporate variety in her professional life.
Jodi’s floral background began in her 30s. Having never gone to college, Jodi pursued a career as an administrative assistant. She says, “I was pretty good at it so I thought it was my calling.” Jodi transferred her administrative skills to work in a doctor’s office for many years thinking she would use her skills towards something “good”; the health field. It was at this time that Cali’s husband, who worked for the Department of Justice, got an assignment that would require the family to move to Italy. After 7 years working at the doctor’s office, Jodi was in need of change.
Jodi admits that early on she did not realize that she was creative or had creative potential. She explains, “Growing up in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, if you didn’t play an instrument, draw, or sing, you weren’t creative so the art teachers didn’t push you, so I didn’t know!” When the relocation to Italy happened, Jodi started cooking. She says, “Cooking was my first creative love. I really went crazy when I lived in Italy; crazy, like obsessed crazy. Like I am now with interior styling and everything else that I’m doing.” That’s the spark that lit her creative fire.
When it was time to come back to the states, Jodi’s father inlaw, who had worked in the floral industry in New England for 40 years, offered to get Jodi into the Ritner’s School of Floral Design for free. Jodi took the three week class and hated every minute of it. She explains, “I hated it because I wasn’t perfect at it right away. There were other people in the class who had experience. They maybe were working in grocery store flower departments and were actually doing something involving flowers. I was just trying this to maybe do it for a living.” After she completed the class, her husband encouraged Jodi to go into a local flower shop to see if she could “help out”.
The owner happened to be hiring for a sales position. No flower design experience needed. This foot in the door led to Jodi eventually doing floral design at that shop for several years. Jodi shares, “I fell in love with floral design, but being in a small shop, over time I found it very limiting for me creatively.”
Jodi and her family then moved to Connecticut and lived there for 5 years. While there Jodi worked for a garden center. Says Jodi, “It was a big beautiful garden center. There was a full service flower shop, gift shop and a nursery. And there was a river that ran behind it with canoeing. It was everything all in one for me. The displays, flowers, learning about the plantings, doing outdoor window boxes and the fact that it exposed me to using cuttings off of some of the extra huge trees in the lot and using them for arrangements. That started a passion that I could not stop. I no longer wanted to use anything from a flower shop in my arrangements, I just wanted to cut from what was on the property.”
Through her work at that garden center where she made lots of friends and connections, Jodi started her own little business called Flowers on the Fly. The majority of her clients were a little bit older gardeners, or women from The Garden Club. Jodi would go to their homes, clip flowers from their yards and make them arrangements. Says Jodi, “It kind of took off from there and started growing rather quickly. I was featured in the local paper a few times. It was really exciting.”
Her business grew enough that Jodi started to get wholesale flowers and incorporated them which allowed her to do very small weddings. Jodi says, “I didn’t have a cooler, just like now. I don’t have a cooler in my home. I don’t do every day florals. You can’t call me and say I want something for tonight or in two hours. I’m not able to do that.” That business was really taking off when Jodi and her family moved to Australia.
During this time, the home styling, DIYing, and creating stylish homes on a budget was sweeping the nation. This is where it all started for Jodi. Before leaving Connecticut, Jodi took her own kitchen and redid the cabinets herself. She lightly sanded them and applied a gel stain. She changed all of the hardware, upgraded the counters and the appliances, added some legs to the island, and put in a window seat. Says Jodi, “The whole thing, including a kitchen table and chairs, a light fixture and a pot rack hanging over, was under $15,000.” Her transformation was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine! That’s when her passion took off.
In her experience, Jodi finds that most people don’t have the money to renovate, nor do they need to. She believes that they just need to improve, or update but don’t know how. So they stay stuck with what they have. Says Jodi, “Most of the time, it’s really just one or two simple things. It’s a paint color maybe, it’s new pillows, it’s a new rug, or it’s new chairs. It’s not always a whole room, and people don’t understand that.” This is where Voilá comes in. Literally.
Jodi is very clear in stating that she is not an interior designer. She worked as an assistant to a high end designer and found it just wasn’t her lane. She shares, “I am spontaneous. That is when I’m the most creative. It’s stressful at times, but that’s how I find that ideas just come to me. I’m not a big planner. Although I am capable of creating a traditional room board for you, I would rather just see your things in person and be inspired by that one piece that you’re in love with and work from there.”
When working for her clients, she’s eager to make all desired changes on a realistic budget. She shares, “You see on Pinterest the gals and the guys that are doing DIY and people think that is so great. I want to be that real life person for you right here, in Loudoun County and the surrounding areas. I can think of a lot of things to do with your belongings.” Her goal is to make your space look like those that you find when you search for inspiration. This is one of her strengths. Jodi finds that home styling is a lot like flower arranging. She shares, “Basically, it’s the combination of height, scale, texture, and color. That’s how I apply my styling.”
Jodi has also been doing home staging for years and is often called upon by local real estate agents to prepare homes for sale. Jodi shares, “Staging is the easiest thing for me. It’s moving home owners’ stuff around, decluttering, and making what they have look 100 times better. It’s not really buying anything or ordering anything. It’s a no brainer for me. I could do that with my eyes closed.”
Unlike professional stagers that you see on TV, Jodi does not have a warehouse, nor does she want to rent furniture. She adds, “I really just want to make it easy and that is by rearranging and styling what you already have.” Part of Jodi’s service for styling or staging involves trips to Target or Home Goods to pick up basics. She will also go for full shopping runs for a client, as well as accompany a client to make selections. She does not mark up any purchases and extends to her clients every discount that she is entitled to.
Jodi’s whole professional vibe is casual and fun. She shares, “I want to be a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to make people feel like they have to impress me, nor should they feel embarrassed to show me their house. That’s not me.”
Her creative use of home owners’ belongings has earned her nicknames such as Rumplestiltskin, spinning seemingly mundane into gold, or Tinkerbell because she, no doubt, has sprinkled fairy dust in the spaces she has worked.
And let’s not forget her floral design background. Jodi has several clients who she services with fresh flower arrangements on a regular basis. (MY DREAM!)
Jodi imparts, “When you find that thing that makes you so happy, you have to listen. You cannot listen to your parents, or teachers, or guidance counselors if your heart is telling you otherwise. I am living it now. When you do something that you love, it is not work. It doesn’t mean that your hobby can’t just stay a hobby. Go to college and figure that out. But don’t ignore it.”
She’s small, she’s fast, she’s fun and she’s cheery, all wrapped up in a professional package of a woman with years of experience and oodles of creative acumen. “That’s who I want people to realize that they’re connecting with or hiring. That’s who I am,” says Cali. She goes on, “What I really love is that it feels to me that the clients I’m making now feel like they become friends. I love it.”