Keeping Small Businesses Competitive through Sharing Best Practices of Global Leaders

Sandy Dumont’s BIO

Sandy Dumont

IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

1. Oprah Winfrey has been inspiring us each month with her unique approach to life and to creating our very best lives so, as a tribute to her, A La Oprah, what did you know for sure when you decided to embark on your business?

Sandy: I knew with absolute certainty that I wanted to help people change their lives by making changes to their image, just as I had done at age 17 when I got my red dress.

When I was 16, I walked across the stage of my high school auditorium to give a piano recital. From behind the stage, two boys shouted, “Hey Boney Maroney, where’d you get that haircut?” I sat down to perform and blanked out completely. I hated the way I looked so much I wanted to drawl in a black hole and disappear. My mother had made by dress, and it was a drab ugly color and terrible style. My mother cut my hair, and it looked like I had stuck my head in the blender. There wasn’t anything about myself I liked.

A year later it was graduation and my birthday, so I went shopping for a new dress and experienced an epiphany. I found a perfect red dress that made me feel special. When I looked at myself in the mirror, in that exquisite moment I could see my own self peeping through. I had found the real me. My new red dress changed the way I saw myself and felt about myself.

I scoured the pages of Glamour Magazine and taught myself how to do makeup; I went to a hairdresser and used my hard-earned babysitting money to get a decent haircut. And, of course, I wore red a lot. Then the most astonishing thing happened – for the first time in my life, people told me I was pretty. They saw me. That dress and my new found self image gave me the courage to move to Washington, DC and enroll in a two-year fashion school. In demand long before I graduated, I became one of the top fashion models in town. Top designers and fashion coordinators shared their secrets. My life was changed forever – and I had changed profoundly. The “grey mouse” was gone forever, and in her place was a self-assured fashion model – whose signature color was, of course, red.

2. Take us through a typical day, from the moment you wake up until you call it a day.

Sandy: My day begins with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and green tea. It’s the only part of my day that is predictable. Some days I’m traveling to another city to do a workshop or keynote. Last week I returned from a 2-week speaking tour in Europe. I always arrive the day before, since flights are cancelled so often these days. I once missed an evening keynote in New Jersey because flight after flight kept getting cancelled. It was awful, and I never want that to happen again. When I’m in town, I may go to a client’s premises to do a three-hour staff workshop; other days I may do an all-day Total Image Makeover workshop in my studio. This is for two people, and it begins at 10am and is finished at 5pm. I provide lunch, and we break at 12:30 and eat while chatting about color and other things.

When I’m not doing workshops I’m in my office writing articles or working on my book. I write monthly columns for several publications. I’m also an active volunteer, so sometimes I have a board meeting with the local Chamber of Commerce. I’m also president of the SE Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Women business owners, so there’s a monthly meeting to attend and a monthly board meeting; and loose ends to tie up in between.

I usually leave my office around 5:30pm and begin thinking about dinner. For many years I was a gourmet cook, even attended Cordon Bleu School in London, but now I’m interested in simple, healthful meals. My husband grills something and I cook the vegetables.

3. What are your tricks for time management with all of the responsibilities you have and all of the demands placed on your time?

Sandy: I wish I could tell you I have a system, but I don’t. I have an assistant who looks at my daily 250 emails and sends me the ones I need to look at and answer. For the rest, I just do things as they need doing.

4. Best advice received when you started out in your business?

Sandy: An early mentor told me to do only the things you love doing, and that’s what I do! I love my business, so it doesn’t seem like work.

5. When did you know for sure that your business plan was going to work? (aha moment)?

Sandy: When I lived in Belgium, it became clear that Belgians were reluctant to wear the colors I suggested. They only felt good in grunge colors! That’s because they’ve been invaded since the days of Julius Caesar, followed by nearly every country in Europe. They have discovered that it is safe to dress to blend into the background, and in a primarily wooded environment, earthy grunge colors will do it! I have been told by many a client that they would rather look ugly than wear bold colors.

As a result, I designed a series of props to enable them to “look and see.” That’s an expression I use to signify that you’re no longer choosing colors from the “heart and soul”, but from the results in the mirror. It’s a powerful thing, and it enabled me to become an even better image consultant. I’m very thankful for this experience.

6. What resources do you turn to for direction, advice, fresh ideas?

Sandy: My affiliation with the National Speakers Association has helped me more than anything. Through their many extraordinary workshops, I have educated myself in the arena of Search Engine Optimization, designing newsletters and websites, marketing, and so much more. I recommend it to anyone who wants to succeed as a small business owner, not just as a speaker. Within NSA, there are also local Mastermind groups for brainstorming with associates.

7. What’s next for your business over the next 6 months? 3 years?

Sandy: In my spare time, I’m working on my book for businesswomen. It will be the culmination of everything I’ve learned about image.

Within the next two months, I also intend to produce a set of DVDs so that companies can use them to help improve the image of their staff.

My dream is to have a limited line of makeup within one year. Within three years my goal is to expand my school, The Impression Strategies Institute, to an even greater reach. This will mean training others to teach my courses.

8. What’s been your proudest achievement as an entrepreneur?

Sandy: Being chosen by the Belgian State television as their image consultant when they were launching their “new look.”

9. If you could re-start your business, what would you do differently and why?

Sandy: The only thing I would do differently is to produce products much earlier. It is necessary to duplicate your efforts.

10. What are some of the ways that you achieve balance in your life?

Sandy: I try to make time to have a “date” with my husband once a week. I also like walking and going to the Pilates studio for regular workouts.

11. If there was one piece of advice or suggestion (about anything) that you could provide to all of our readers, what would it be?

Sandy: I would pass on that wonderful advice given to me many years ago: Only do what you love doing and it will never seem like you are working!

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