After building her company from scratch, the North Carolina entrepreneur aims to inspire more women to be successful business owners.
Melissa Rulli has lived several lives.
She moved from New Jersey to western North Carolina a quarter of a century ago, kicking off her entrepreneurial career as a restaurant owner and operator. She later sold that business in order to help run her family-owned roofing company while focusing on her family.
Then, after her divorce, Rulli got her real estate license. She was a natural salesperson and easy networker, and the lifestyle gave her the flexibility to spend time with her two young children.
Then, just 18 months later, the housing market crashed. As a single mom working on commission, Rulli couldn’t afford to delay action. She got to researching and found that she could leverage her real estate license to become a residential property manager—jackpot. Her next career move awaited.
“I wound up working for a local company, and I loved certain parts of it, like fixing leaky pipes and interacting with grateful homeowners. I was the Queen of Making Everything Happen,” said Rulli. During this period, she built up a portfolio of 130 owners and residences.
One weekend, Rulli’s kids were away, so she sat in front of her fireplace with some wine and began to manifest what she truly wanted out of her career and life. “I knew I wanted to work for great owners all day long. I decided that was what I’d create. I knew it was crazy because I needed a paycheck. But I wanted to figure it out.”
Suddenly, Rulli said, a lightbulb went off. As a property manager, she had noticed that absentee homeowners required particular support for their vacant homes. Who was taking care of the homes owned by western North Carolina’s “snowbirds”—people who head south for warmer winters—that were abundant throughout the area?
Rulli, as she does, got to work. She found out that western North Carolina is the ninth-most popular region in the U.S. for second homeowners, and that almost no one else was zeroing in on the niche snowbird market. “I realized I would have almost no competitors. It was kind of laughable,” she said. “So I decided that this was what I was going to do. I came up with the concept, how I’d do things differently, and I started Eye on Your Home.”
After a few years, Rulli knew it was time to maximize the reach of Eye on Your Home, so she began looking into franchising. Her model was clearly scalable. “I found that there were no other branded second home property management companies in the U.S. that offer support on every level—just mom and pop shops handling small portfolios,” said Rulli.
Rulli met a veteran developer from Arizona who believed in her concept. Though her costs were low compared with most other franchises and her model was profitable, Rulli was hesitant. Then the developer offered her two years of financing. “I had to meditate on it for about a week,” recalled Rulli. “I thought, ‘Can I really do this?’ And at the end of the day, I believe so strongly in what I’m doing, and I know it’s a needed service to the community, so I believed I could do it.”
Last year, Rulli sold her first Eye on Your Home franchise just south of her own Asheville territory, and now has a third territory in the works. “I’m the first one in America doing this, so there’s no drop-down in the forms I fill out. My developer said that selling franchises is about being tenacious, patient, and doing what you have to do every single day,” she said. “So that’s what we’re doing.”
Indeed, Rulli is quietly disrupting the industry is by specifically targeting women to become Eye on Your Home franchisees.
“I want a portfolio of women all over this country,” said Rulli. “Taking the leap into entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but I know women can run this business. It’s an awesome business—full of gratitude, task-oriented, social and flexible.”
That feminine touch has prompted some of Rulli’s clients to call her the “mom” of their home. “We oversee all the details and give peace of mind to the owner—out of sight, out of mind,” she said. “We don't create problems for clients—we fix them.”
The founder believes that women embody several traits and skill sets that particularly lend themselves to Eye on Your Home. “This is a relationship game. The property management business is personal, and women are amazing at networking and building authentic connections,” she said.
As a single mom herself, Rulli is passionate about giving outgoing, driven women a flexible career with Eye on Your Home. The franchise is a mobile business that allows owners to make their own schedules and do what’s best for themselves and their families. While starting a business from scratch can be a major financial and time commitment, the franchising model leans into continued guidance and support.
“I know I may be cutting my market by focusing on women, but I know what will make my business successful and who can do it,” said Rulli. “For me, focusing on women is personal. I want to be a catalyst for women to believe in their own success."