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Meet Mary Lou Andre of Dressing Well in Needham

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Lou Andre.

Mary Lou, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my company in 1992 with no clients, no capital and very little personal money to put into the business.  I sold my wedding dress to pay for stationary and business cards and even more clothes out of my closet to buy a computer and memberships to women’s organizations where I could meet and network with women who could afford my services. At the time, I harbored some doubts about parting with my gown. After all, it was quite sentimental and represented one of the happiest days of my life. Now, years later, I can appreciate how perfectly that decision reflected my dressing well philosophy. My business is built around the concept of wearing the flattering pieces you own when you need them and getting rid of items that no longer serve you.

As the business grew, I realized that our wardrobe management and fashion tips and strategies could be taught outside the closet. Consulting with private clients led to seminars and presentations for the general public, as well as extensive corporate image consulting for such organizations as Estee Lauder, Fidelity, Harvard Business School, John Hancock, Nordstrom, Sara Lee, and Kimpton Hotels. We ventured into print, publishing the Dressing Well newsletter, a quarterly publication that offered seasonal wardrobe information and tips to subscribers. Our dressing well message is now shared with thousands of Internet readers around the world who visit and subscribe to our Dressing Well monthly newsletter and blog posts.

The enthusiastic response to our company’s private consulting, seminars, media appearances, newsletter and website helped us attract the attention of Perigee Books, a division of the Penguin Group.   In 2004, I secured a contract to write “Ready to Wear:  An Expert’s Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe.”  Ready to Wear has been published in Japanese and has been hailed as a timeless system for organizing, building and managing a wardrobe that compliments a variety of lifestyles and professions. As a graduate of UMASS Amherst with a degree in journalism and concentration in fashion marketing, this was a dream come true on many levels.

Today, I find the most joy working alongside our team of stylists who continue to deliver top level customer service to a growing list of private and corporate clients.

Has it been a smooth road?
For the most part, when you do work that you love, the struggles are much less memorable than the day to day wins. Three big “transitions” for me were;

1. Going from “free to fee” in the early days. I turned to a variety of incredible business mentors to help me get over that!

2. Becoming a mom to twin boys just as the business was taking off. Working mom mentors gave me great advice then too. The birth of my sons actually allowed me to look at the future differently. I took a big mental timeout to decide what I wanted for my family and business. I am proud to report both are thriving!

3. Managing through tough economic times. We have gone through three recessions as a company and thankfully have always come out stronger. Phenomenal client relationships, strategic partnerships and “sticking to our knitting,” so to speak, were all key.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
The three things that I am most proud of (and I believe these ultimately set us apart too) are the relationships our team has with one another now and over the years, the clientele we have been able to attract and retain and our charitable giving philosophy. I think we are known for our high caliber team approach for getting results for our clients, our collective work ethic and ability to form long-term and meaningful relationships with both our clients and reputable non-profits that our clients care as deeply about as we do.

To celebrate our firm’s 25th anniversary this past spring, we launched the Dressing Well Charitable Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) that provides monetary support to other 501(c) (3) organizations, especially those that use fashion to provide career support and social services to women, men and children while encouraging self-sufficiency. This was a proud moment for all of us and really cements our long-term philosophy of “doing well by doing good.”

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Boston is not only my home but the city that has allowed me to test drive and perfect so many of our core offerings. The business and professional development communities are superb for both our private coaching and corporate consulting work. The colleges and universities gave us fertile ground to start developing our seminars, first for students and then for employees. Of course, if you are a wardrobe consultant, the more climates people have to dress for, the better. Boston certainly gives us a great variety of weather and, and thus, wardrobe needs!

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