Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Most Comfortable Job in the World

Who knew it’d be a startup?

Tina DeLorenzo may have the most comfortable job in the world.  No, she doesn’t have out-of-this-world job security or a chicken that lays golden eggs.  Instead she owns a company that uses the word “comfortable” much more literally.
Tina DeLorenzo is the owner of Casa DeLorenzo – a deluxe custom pillow studio.
But Tina DeLorenzo does not create just any ordinary throw pillow.  According to DeLorenzo, they’re “collages of colors”, “rich and intruiging blends of texture” and the results of “passion for fabric.”  In other words, you can’t find these pillows at your local Pottery Barn.  The pillows designed and created by Tina are all masterpieces for her small business pillow studio located just north of downtown Cincinnati; Casa DeLorenzo. 
It all started with one easy proposition:  “Tina, I need some pillows,” one of her good friends asked one day.  With DeLorenzo’s degree in fashion design and her “second nature sewing” abilities, Tina designed and sewed a couple of pillows for the friend. 
“You should do this as a side business,” were the next words to leave her friend’s mouth.  And after that, DeLorenzo was hooked.  After creating 20-some pillows, a few table runners, and a handful of placemats, DeLorenzo took her creations to a home show and sold everything for over $2000.  Just like that, a small business and an entrepreneur were born. 
“I make Casa D different because of my design aesthetic and the fact that I have been an interior designer for 20 years,” says Tina.  “I bring another dimension to the project in the creation of a client’s pillows and integrating them into a room.” 
But DeLorenzo’s startup was not always super cushy.  Believe it or not, there are uncomfortable times in the pillow industry as well.  In order to pursue both her passion for interior design and her love of Casa DeLorenzo, Tina spent seven years working corporately from 10am ‘til 6pm and then entrepreneurially from 8pm until 2 in the morning.  Today, De Lorenzo does her best to moonlight both her interior design work and her custom pillow business. 
“It’s often more difficult than I thought it would be to continue with my interior design work in tandem,” she says.  “If I get a large design project, it is all consuming and my pillow biz takes a backseat.  It’s hard when you are the business.” 
So what’s next for Casa DeLorenzo and the mastermind behind it all? 
“I would love for my business to have a strong internet presence and to be able to reach a broader market.  I would love to be able to sustain it without relying on a storefront.  I do have an e-commerce store on Etsy which reaches people internationally.  I would love to be able to live anywhere and be able to run my business off the Internet.”  And who wouldn’t? 
Tina DeLorenzo knows what it’s like to run a successful store, a booming e-commerce site, and most importantly, a moonlighting lifestyle.  Her advice to startups out there?  “Be prepared to wear a lot of hats initially and get help wherever you can.  Focus on your unique strengths and delegate the rest.”  She adds, “Passion is the fuel that will get the business through the hard times.”
How does Tina DeLorenzo Think Big?
“To Think Big is all about having a vision and looking forward—two things that are counter-intuitive to my wiring.  The biggest challenge for me in my business is looking at the BIG picture and moving away from all of the details.  Having the e-commerce store has helped me to think with the 'big picture' and to think of the potential and possibilities.”
Written by Allison Way.  Allison is a writer for Think Big Partners, Kansas City’s early-stage, mentorship-based startup accelerator and business incubator.  To read more of Allison’s work, check out the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner as well as her articles on Helium, eZine and BrooWaha.  Follow Allison! @AllisonThinkBig

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