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My Other Life: Nellie Neal, Holiday Home Decorator

by Judy Lessin | December 2, 2015

Not all kids are lucky enough to have a Christmas tree in their bedroom. But Nellie Neal did, and the fun he had decorating that tree each year sparked an enduring love for the holidays and a lucrative sideline later on. “That tree fueled my passion for everything bright and sparkly,” says Neal, a pedicure specialist and the owner of Get Nailed by Nellie in Minnetonka, Minn. Over the past five years he’s successfully established a custom holiday decor business — called Jingle Nells — that warms and brightens clients’ homes during the long Minnesota winters.

“I got my start by decorating a salon I had previously worked for,” says Neal. “Guests loved every inch of the space and requested my services in their homes. After finding out the income potential for spending a few days covered in glitter, I happily got to work with my hot glue gun in hand.” Since then referrals and demonstrations at local home shows have kept him so busy he occasionally has to turn prospective clients away.

Neal specializes in all types of interior holiday decor, but his favorite areas are trees, mantles, and staircases. “When going into a home I do a minimum of one tree and one mantle with a coordinating wreath and garland to bring a cohesive overall look,” he says. “Doing a holiday transformation in someone else’s home is truly a beautiful experience. From consultation to creation, I love customizing every aspect of the decor and seeing the joy on my clients’ faces when experiencing it for the very first time.”

Neal’s holiday decor business has also provided a welcome solution to the downtime he faces at the salon each winter when his snowbird clients leave for warmer climates. “It really helps with that loss of income in the colder months,” he notes.

There’s just one downside to spreading all that holiday cheer. Says Neal: “I can’t say I love taking it all down. If it were up to me I’d leave it up all year round!”

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