I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle DiMarco, a South Florida based small business owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Michelle’s award-winning boutique, Lilac And Lilies, just celebrated its ninth anniversary in business and is dedicated to sourcing up-and-coming designers from both coasts. Her female entrepreneur film, Small Business, Big Dreams, was screened at The Palm Beach International Film Festival, and her blog aims to help women achieve daily inspiration and success in the retail industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was just coming home to Florida after graduating from FIT and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew one thing and that was I could never see myself working for someone, and I wasn’t afraid of hard work. Asking myself “what if” or “I wish I would have” wasn’t an option. So in 2009, in the midst of a recession, I decided to open Lilac And Lilies Boutique. We are now in our 9th year, and I’m proud to say we have been featured on major television networks and received numerous awards throughout the years.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
When celebrities come to the store is always equally funny as it is interesting. Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Taylor, Dan Marino, Kathy Wakile from The Housewives of New Jersey and the cast of Basketball Wives of Miami have all been to the store. Watching these celebrities interact with customers and our staff is most definitely interesting.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What I think makes Lilac And Lilies stand out is that I hand pick unique styles that I personally love and curate them into an ever-changing, always growing collection for our fashion-forward clientele. I want my shoppers to stand out as individuals on a daily basis through my selections. At Lilac And Lilies, you can expect to find reasonably priced and sought-after dresses, tops, skirts, and jackets nestled among embellished displays of accessories, gifts, and other stylish curiosities.
Our unique shopping experience is enhanced with in-store stylists, designer trunk shows and monthly special events designed to connect like-minded women. We pride ourselves on extending a family-like atmosphere to each customer. Many of our customers have been shopping with us for years. We have seen them get engaged, married and have children.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I was first beginning my career, I crossed paths with a businessman named Ronnie. He believed in me enough to want to become my business partner and has been instrumental in helping the company grow.
I remember this story like it was yesterday. I was attending my first tradeshow (mind you it was during the recession) in New York City, and the odds were against me. The wholesale vendors were hesitant to sell to me because I was brand new and a lot of other stores were going out of business. It was almost impossible for me to place orders. I called Ronnie from a bathroom hysterically crying. He said to me “Wash your face and get back out there. I promise you one day they will know who you are.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
How are we making a difference? I ask myself and our team that question often. We have built a following on our social media platform and we use that platform to raise awareness for various organizations and charities. I also love to share my personal and professional trials and tribulations with other women. I use our blog to give back knowledge, encouragement, and inspiration. I also use the platform to showcase incredible people who are redefining roles and doing amazing things.
Personally, I volunteer at Kids In Distress, and I am on the board of The Humane Society of Broward County. I am very aware we are in an over-saturated market that is not need-based, but want-based. To earn a living off of what we do is a blessing, and giving back is the least I can do.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale.
I was taking a course at FIT and it was a recommended book on our list. I read it, reread it and made flash cards. It has helped me tremendously, and it trains your brain to think in a more positive way in every aspect of life. I have this book on my kitchen countertop, and the flash cards are taped in my bathroom as a daily reminder. It’s my bible.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You will experience some dark and lonely times. When you start a business you must give it your all, often sacrificing time with friends and family.
- Never ever burn bridges.
- Cry when you have to.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
- Some people will be waiting to see you fail. Believe in yourself enough to prove them wrong.
- Bonus: When time allows network as much as you can.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.
It would be my dad. I’d want to tell him that I created a pretty amazing business.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!