I draw huge inspiration from Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss. But my guy friend didn’t recognize her story. Instead, he said Charles Barkley was an inspiration for losing weight. So I ask: Who is Charles Barkley? If you follow NBA players, you would know this Hall of Famer.
Regardless of whom you admire–a tough guy or a sexy chanteuse–the best way to start the new year is to BELIEVE that if THEY can do weight loss, YOU can too.
Switch the challenge now and focus on your career mojo. Begin by believing in yourself.
Despite consumers’ closed pocketbooks and the sputtering of businesses on Main Street, Mimi Filipovica offers true inspiration. In two weeks, she will open her third retail store at the tender age of 70. And if she can start something successful at 70, so can you!
I first met Mimi two years ago when I entered Fiamor in Dobbs Ferry with a vague intention of finding a gift for my sister. In fact, I became one of the 80% of shoppers who leave with a purchase. Amid display cases filled with jewelry and baubles, aisles where manikins show the latest European gowns, racks of ultra-feminine suits, and every conceivable surface overflowing with scarves, gloves, and stylish handbags, there was Mimi, an expert conversationalist.
“When customers come in, I let them walk around and I study their manner. Then I ask: ‘Would you like me to help you?’ I interview them about the occasion, the place, et cetera. Then, I solve their problem.
“What’s offered here is the most upscale of European fashion, coming one year ahead of the market. I sold an ensemble like this–a lace-embedded jacquard suit–and the next year it was on the cover of Bloomingdale’s mail catalog.”
Her immigrant story began during the Thatcher era, when she started work as a nanny
This first store was launched 10 years after Mimi came to America from Bulgaria to pursue her dreams during the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions. She was 50 and nearly retired. In her home country, she had been the whiz of textile technology, going from factory to factory, telling them what to produce.
“I started in my 60’s with a $1,000 investment, after I had been a nanny in America for 10 years. I didn’t even speak English when I came here, so I really began at the bottom.”
She is quite modest in explaining how she decided on retail.
“I followed the rules. I opened an import/export company first to know the business side, and only later, with ten years of preparation and great success in importing, I developed the retail side.”
Why import? “I was very disappointed that Americans were shopping in the Gap. I wanted to show them a European boutique; that’s my contribution to America! Everybody in gray and dressing up in Target, I don’t like that. I aimed to conquer the high fashion clothing and accessories market.”
Fiamor did extremely well so three years ago, Mimi opened a second store in Tarrytown, and in two or three weeks’ time, will launch her third location.
It will carry certain brands from France, Italy and Canada, amid a gorgeous pastiche of Tuscan colors, murano glass and chandeliers. Each store has a slightly different focus, but all are upscale boutiques where she personally selects every item from the newest print tunics to Picasso-inspired silk jackets.
Her secret to success:
- She is a schmoozer with incomparable warmth: “I love people, I love both negative and positive people.”
- “I don’t sell, I dress people.”
- “I am changing my shop non-stop. I’m always giving it a new look.”
In other words, she does not start with the product, she starts with the people.
Recently, two young boys came with their aunt to buy their mother a present. They were very passionate about what they picked. One child grabbed a cross and declared, “I must give this to my Mom.” The aunt replied, “That’s not a present,” but the boy insisted.
The next day, their mother entered the same shop. Her bare head was covered, but it was evident the woman had been through chemo.
“My heart sank when I saw her [the mother] as I had not known about her illness. I didn’t tell her that her son had bought a cross as a gift. She explained that she needed to shop in my store that very day because the doctors had just pronounced her free of cancer.
“We cried together. Imagine, for six months she didn’t do anything except battle cancer, and just before Christmas she heard she had won.”
New customers come to celebrate their sexy smaller size
Mimi offered yet another prime source of new customers: “Ladies who lose weight come here right away to reward themselves in their battle with the pounds. They ask me, ‘Why don’t you bring big sizes?’ because I only carry small or average sizes, and I answer, ‘You come to my size, you are going to feel better.’”
Mimi exudes ideas and creativity. “Creativity comes naturally. I have a lot of knowledge and huge experience traveling all around Europe. I love music and art, and that brings your ability up.”
Beyond the strategy to hold fashion shows in schools and churches, Mimi has conceived and implemented live street fashion shows where models literally walk up and down and across the street.
As part of Third Friday, and in collaboration with a hair salon across Main Street, Mimi created a fashion show with true urban mystique, where models sat on the windowsill of her store, strolled up and down the sidewalks, and posed for gawkers who snapped impromptu photos. “It was summertime and it went over beautifully. We really enjoyed ourselves, and I learned that two companies can work together to connect to customers.”
“Here I am running two stores and planning a third. I don’t have much time to manage construction, painters, and all the other details pre-launch, but working more than 60 hours a week I find the time anyway. I know that the store will be glorious.
“My advice: You need to be brave and BELIEVE. But you need to work hard, and not JUST believe.”
Do you doubt that this most passionate, inspiring woman will continue to convert customers as she expands her empire?
In a season when standard styling ideas will make you look as modern as an antique piano shawl, what lady wouldn’t crave some unique fancy … and a look personally selected just for her?
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, camshot and Fiamor, Dobbs Ferry NY.
Are you starting your New Year with an invincible belief in yourself? Tell us about it in the comments.
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