Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Chicago Family Business Professional Christmas Decorator

  • We also offer decoration services for other holidays and special events, but Christmas is our main focus. 
  • We decorate about 30 houses and 30 eateries from November to December.
  • The best part of my job is getting to work with different people — and working with my parents.

This essay was based on a conversation I had with a friend. Megan Clauson35-year-old – a seasonal job as a holiday decorator elf and co-owner of the company The Ultimate Elf

My mom started a business selling holiday decor in Chicago when I was five years old. In just a few hours, she transformed huge, beautiful houses into classic Christmas scenes. I admired her confidence — the way she’d climb a high ladder and how she understood a client’s style.

When I was 17 years old, I began helping my mother with small tasks like decorating the tree and unpacking boxes of decorations. 

I graduated college with an education degree, but I have always held odd jobs. In 2012, I was working in a small family-owned flower shop. I started to wonder why my family wasn’t employing me.

So I decided to move back home to Chicago in 2013. I became a co-owner at The Ultimate Elf and worked there as a seasonal employee from October to January. 

We offer services for decorating other holidays and events such as Halloween and bridal showers. However, our main focus remains on Christmas. 

We decorate around 30 houses and 30 restaurant from November to December. We also offer a takedown and delivery service that keeps us busy until January. Since my mom has been doing this in the area for over 30 years, most of our clients come to us by word-of-mouth. We also reach to restaurants that could use more holiday decor. 

We get to know each client and their space first 

We first meet with a client to discuss their needs. I love to see photos of the space so that I can plan how my team will decorate it. Before we start decorating, we always share photos and explain our plans. 

We also inquire about whether the client wants us to source decorations. So that we are ready for Christmas, we usually buy Christmas decor from wholesalers in the summer.

String lights are strung through stairwell garlands and made bows. We also add berries to trees or swags. Of course, we’ve also created every type of tree theme imaginable — including a Chicago Cubs tree, a Disney tree, and a Notre Dame tree.

It’s not as simple as it appears 

Our attention to detail is what makes this job so rewarding. We ensure that electrical cords aren’t hanging, bows are not flat from storage, flowers are facing the right way, and that bows are not twisted.

The Ultimate Elf holiday decor designs

Clauson returned to Chicago, where she was a co-owner and manager of The Ultimate Elf. She made holiday decor her job from October through January.

Megan Clauson offers decorating services for other holidays, but the main focus is the Christmas season.

It is a big part of the job to climb up ladders and go into dusty storage rooms and unpack boxes. Also, we must ensure that everything is secure so no one accidentally removes a decoration.  

Although most of our decorating takes place over a single day, it can take up to 10 people depending on how large the place is. Pricing is a complex process that takes into account everything from the number and type of rooms we are decorating to the need to purchase items. This information is used to calculate an hourly rate. Most installations take between six to seven hours.

We get some unusual requests

Over the years, my ability to understand the client’s needs and preferences has helped me to be able to offer advice. Some clients have an extravagant taste. Some clients ask us to include large items such as a deer or nutcrackers.  

I do what they say, even though it’s not my style. Some of their items may be heirlooms or traditional, and we respect that. Our job is to make it fun and easy. 

It’s hard to find a good elf. 

Finding “elves”, every season, is one of the hardest parts of the job. We have people who leave the job if they are offered a permanent job. 

We have 22 elves working with us this year. We love to find people who are detail-oriented and handy. We need people who are reliable and can work quickly.

Here are my recommendations for Christmas decorating 

My top holiday decorating tips include adding battery-operated candles to your home and candlesticks to create a warm ambience. You can incorporate fresh greens in artificial greens to create a more natural look and add your favorite holiday photos. 

My job is my favorite part. I get to work with people from all walks of life and with my parents. It can be a bit strange after the holidays. There is a little relief after taking down decorations from others, but I’m also quite sad. I put my Ultimate Elf hat away and count down to the next holiday season.

The Ultimate Elf holiday decor designs

Megan Clauson

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