Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Summer 2005Kellogg School of Management
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Margaret Johnsson
Margaret Johnsson '91
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Home improvement

By Chris Van Nostrand

The experience of remodeling her own home served as the catalyst for Margaret Johnsson's newest venture, Magnolia Restorations. As an "end-user," the 1991 Kellogg School graduate became aware that no single firm offered the broad array of services required when undertaking a major renovation. The company she founded in 2003 outside of Chicago has come to fill that void. In the process of restoring historic homes while making them amenable to modern living, Magnolia offers everything from bid assessment and budgeting to contractor selection and management with the purpose of acting as an advocate for the homeowner.

The company represents the convergence of Johnsson's long-term career goals, business acumen and personal philosophy of dynamic change. "I always knew I wanted to go into real estate," says Johnsson, who delayed entering the industry until she could raise enough capital to make it on her own terms.

Those funds became available after Johnsson sold her finance and consulting firm, the Johnsson Group, which she started in 1991 upon graduating from Kellogg and turned into one of INC 500's "Fastest Growing Companies" in 1999.

Her recent career transition exemplifies Johnsson's belief in pursuing a life of professional growth and change, rather than just riding the peaks and valleys of a single industry. One of the key lessons that guides her came by way of her academic experience at Kellogg. Says Johnsson: "In entrepreneurial studies, there's always this focus on the endgame. So many of the entrepreneurs I know don't have an exit strategy and miss crucial opportunities."

As she manages Magnolia through a growth phase, she appreciates the value of a Kellogg education when facing the realities behind all new companies. "My degree is in marketing and strategy," Johnsson says, "And when starting a company, strategy is all you have."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University