Avon Spirit of Enterprise Award
Mary Lou Andre’s Acceptance Speech
June 10, 1999 — Le Meriden Hotel, Boston

What a wonderful way to start my maternity leave. I’m ready to start a new chapter of my life and feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to achieve a very personally satisfying level of success with Organization By Design.

When I started the company 7 years ago, I defined success as getting at least one paying customer! Over the years, I have redefined what success means and can honestly say that to me it is about getting up every morning knowing that you are doing your life’s work. Success also represents freedom — freedom to choose who I work with, freedom to create my own destiny, freedom to shape the message of our firm in a way that brings deep meaning to my life and to the life of others.

Avon has asked that I share the Organization By Design story with you all today. I have literally practiced the concept of Organization By Design my whole life and strongly believe that some things are meant to be.

I attended the University of Massachusetts and graduated with a degree in journalism with a concentration in fashion marketing. After several public relations jobs in the non-profit sector, I took a freelance public relations job to promote the Enchanted Village at Jordan Marsh. I always knew I wanted to start my own business and this situation seemed perfect — fashion and public relations combined with community service and the ability to be my own boss with a secure contract.

Retail ended up being very disillusioning for me. However, I ended up working with a woman who forever changed my life. We became fast friends and she was intrigued with stories I would tell of helping family and friends organize their closets, dress and shop. She asked me to come to her home and show her what I do. Organization By Design was literally born in her closet! She encouraged me to follow my dream, referring her friends to the service and helping me develop my original marketing materials.

The company was started with no capital and I had very little personal money to put into it. I had just gotten married so I had health insurance and my husband's support (and paycheck!) to get me by in the short term. The pressure was definitely on to prove that I had a winning concept!

I bought a used Macintosh computer by borrowing a small amount of money from my parents and consigned my wedding dress to pay for stationary and business cards. I sold clothes out of my closet to be able to afford to attend networking events and even more clothes to buy memberships to those organizations that had members that could afford my services.

I creatively overcame this lack of cash and got the business going by working out of my home for 5 years and pouring my heart and soul into very low/no cost marketing, promotional and PR activities. I have a strong belief that if you give, you get and did everything from bartering to donating my time and OBD gift certificates to charities to build credibility for my company. This approach continues to be a key business concept in the success of Organization By Design.

One of our best innovations was the creation of our Dressing Well™ newsletter. In the six years that it has now been published, it has opened many doors and created a significant amount of business opportunities. Dressing Well™ now has a life of its own, with subscribers from all over the country. It has been trademarked and now serves as our global connection through the world wide web.

It is my goal to continue building equity in the Organization By Design and Dressing Well™ names and concepts. I am enjoying the corporate image consulting I now do with national companies such as Nordstrom, Estee Lauder and Lillian Vernon and will continue to work with them in new and exciting ways when I return from my maternity leave this fall.

So how does one find balance in the hectic world of running and owning your own business? I firmly believe that it starts with surrounding yourself with supportive, loving and smart people.

My mom attends every one of my events and is here today with the rest of my family. My sister is here in spirit (she’s expecting a baby this very moment!) and my dad who passed away three years ago is definitely looking down on all of us here today. He was never one to stay away from any type of celebration, never mind one for any of his four children. He and my mom gave me and my three siblings a fabulous foundation for personal success. I hope I am able to bring this same gift to my children.

I am also blessed to work and interact with an extraordinary group of people on a day to day basis. My colleagues at Organization By Design, my tight network of friends, business mentors and clients are what keeps me going. I am grateful that so many of them could join us here today.

I also run my business and my life with a strong belief that there is no such thing as coincidence. The day my husband TJ walked into my life, my life forever changed. We are best friends and each other's biggest cheerleaders. I don’t think I would have had the courage to start this business without him. It’s easy to jump off bridges when you have such loving arms to fall into. Other than client service ( I don’t think many women would let him into their dressing rooms!) he has performed every function at Organization By Design. This award truly belongs to him as much as it belongs to me and the people with whom I work.

In closing, I would like to thank the Boston Chamber of Commerce for nominating me for this award and Avon for continuing to support the entrepreneurial spirit of all women.

Thank You.