Farah Merhi, founder of Grand Rapids-based Inspire Me! Home Decor, didn't always know she was going to end up having a wildly successful career in home decor and design.
Merhi, a Lebanese American who was born and raised in Congo, Africa, moved to the United States with big dreams of becoming a lawyer, to honor the sacrifices her parents made for her along the way.
"What I didn't expect was to feel lost and not passionate about the one career I was sure of," said Merhi. "Married and with two kids, I found myself feeling unfulfilled in my career path. As a mom and a wife, life was perfect, but there was still this tug, this emptiness inside. I needed something for me, to call my own."
Three semesters short of graduating, Merhi made the choice to drop out of school to focus on figuring out what she truly wanted.
"I gave myself time to go through a self-discovery stage that scared me so much because I had to face my fears and my inner doubts head-on," she said. She constantly asked herself, "Who am I? What am I meant to be? What's my calling in life?"
Merhi was confused and lost.
She dabbled in a few businesses during her journey, one of which was a success. But she still felt like it wasn't "it," so she sold the business and moved on.
"That's when my husband and I decided to embark on a home remodel project," said Merhi, who then had the realization her passion is home decor. "Finally, I found myself waking up with a sense of excitement toward 'something' I haven't felt in a long time."
Instagram was just taking off in 2012, right around the time Merhi and her husband started their remodel project. She made a personal account and looked up other accounts to follow, for added home decor inspiration. But she simply couldn't find anything that really spoke to her design aesthetic, which she describes as "glam elegance," a look that's timeless and classic while maintaining a home's warm and inviting feel.
It was then that Merhi decided to launch her own design page. Being scared, she told no one.
"I wanted to use it as a creative outlet to share pictures that inspire me and to document the remodel project," said Merhi, who initially hoped for 500 followers to get engagement going. After lots of hard work, the account now boasts an impressive 5.6 million followers. Merhi says her brand, Inspire Me! Home Decor, has become the most-followed Instagram account in its category globally.
"With my followers always asking me where they can find the home decor and furniture I buy and always asking me to help them with designing their homes, I knew I had to do something to better help them."
Merhi decided to step outside the world of Instagram and take her brand to the next level.
"Launching a product line was a dream of mine," she said. "My team and I reached out to QVC to pitch them my first-ever home decor line ... They said yes!"
Today, Merhi continues to design an exclusive line of home decor products for QVC and has expanded to offer furniture, pillow, and rug lines on sites like Wayfair—along with working with brands like LG electronics and Kohler and launching the Inspire Me! Home Décor online shop. No stranger to growth, she often speaks at events and on panels about how to be a successful entrepreneur and influencer, the importance of social media marketing, and how she found her passion and then built it into a brand.
Merhi wasn't stopping there.
"My ultimate goal was to write a coffee table book that would serve as inspiration for the reader and answer all of their frequently asked questions," she said of Inspire Your Home: Easy, Affordable Ideas to Make Every Room Glamorous, her newly published book. She landed a meeting with Simon & Schuster in New York and received a "yes" from them.
"Going from feeling lost and trying to figure myself out to being an author, influencer, CEO of my own brand, and an entrepreneur goes to show that anything is possible," said Merhi. "What I want women to take away from my journey is that life is short and to truly go after what makes them happy.
"You don't need all of the answers upfront; you just need to take that first step and you will figure the rest out."
Through the ups and downs, Merhi said, believing in yourself and working hard toward a dream is liberating.
"I truly believe that everyone needs to have their own 'thing,' their purpose in life," said Merhi.
"And that purpose can take many forms, but it needs to be yours and, more importantly, it needs to make your heart dance."
Inspire Your Home: Easy, Affordable Ideas to Make Every Room Glamorous Book Launch
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
2660 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
Tickets for the first stop on Merhi's nationwide book tour are available now. Merhi will be there signing copies of her book and doing a meet and greet.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of Farah Merhi