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Janine Mellinger brings perfection to every job

Janine Mellinger, owner of J-9 Paint and Design, an interior design contracting company. (Kalen McCain/The Union)

To many people, painting rooms, wallpapering houses and treating windows may seem like a mundane, repetitive way to make a living. Janine Mellinger, owner of J-9 Paint and Design, disagrees.

“There’s lots of places where creativity and design comes into play, knowing what goes together,” she said. “If they have countertops they’re not changing or flooring they’re not changing but want to change their space, you work with them on what can be done: different furniture, different paint color, that kind of thing.”

While she holds a degree in interior design, Mellinger said success as an contractor stemmed from sheer experience — J-9 has been in business since 1994 — and a carefully built reputation.

“Because it’s so based on word-of-mouth, it takes time to do enough jobs to get your name out there, and advertising is not enough,” she said. “People don’t want to hire from an ad alone. They want to hear a friend say, ‘Hey, I had so-and-so come, they did a great job,’ and because we’ve done it over 25 years, that happens all the time.”

That reputation is easy to see: Mellinger is in high demand, with a waitlist running 10-12 weeks.

“For the last year-and-a-half, it’s been busier than it ever has been,” she said. “I’m having to pick and choose what jobs I have to take. It’s terrible, I can’t say no, especially with clients I’ve worked for before.”

Those reputation-building habits go beyond work. Mellinger said she was a perfectionist in her personal life as well.

“I just like things neat and tidy, everything has to be in order,” she said. “I think it’s a personality type, not something that you learn. I think you can learn to be that way, but I think you’re usually born that way or you’re not.”

Mellinger paints a wall at a business in Washington. Despite being the owner of her business, Mellinger said she was a hands-on person, managing her desk work and her painting jobs with equal amounts of care. (Kalen McCain/The Union)

Mellinger said that drive for perfection was a big part of her decision to be her own boss, although it has some of its own appeals.

“Bottom line is, I don’t like being told what to do or how,” she said. “When you’re your own boss, you don’t have anyone telling you what to do.”

The independence of self employment is not without its drawbacks, however. Mellinger said work-life balance could sometimes be a challenge, especially for a completionist like herself.

“I’ve heard the saying before, ‘You need to control your work, not let your work control you,’” she said. “From a self-employed aspect, it’s easy to have the work control you if you never say no … that’s where I’m still learning to set some boundaries, but I still like the option of being able to say no, and when you’re working for someone else you don’t have that.”

While it’s a lot of work, Mellinger said her business was intrinsically rewarding.

“You’re always taking a project and making it look better, you get to see this huge change,” she said. “Clients love having that change, they love having that work done. And I’m doing something different every day, it doesn’t ever get boring.”

Though she's asked about her business name often, Janine Mellinger said her business name, J-9, was a simple play on her first name. (Kalen McCain/The Union)

Comments: Kalen.McCain@southeastiowaunion.com