The Invincible Judy George

THE INVINCIBLE JUDY GEORGE

READ UNABRIDGED VERSION AND BIO AT BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE

INTERVIEW BY CHRISTINE CROSBY WRITTEN BY JONATHAN MICOCCI

In our exclusive interview Judy reveals her simple secret to discovering our own design style, and just how far she would go to get the job of her dreams! Meet an audacious and energetic woman with volumes of wisdom to share.

Brand guru, serial entrepreneur and founder of Domain Home, Hotel Maison and Chic Boutique is into something new!

The visionary who turned home furnishing into home fashion has joined with her sons Robert and Simon to bring the ENVIE Hair Care brand to market.  

Highlights from our conversation with Judy…

 

Judy George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiring a banner plane to get a job? 

It was the first big job I wanted so desperately to get. I rented the plane and the banner, Hire Judy George, She’ll Make You Money. And I buzzed the CEO’s house for a week with this plane. The police came to my house and told me to stop. But I got the job!

On what motivated her –

Being a middle child, I always yearned to be noticed. And in that yearning, I liked to dream dreams. Tarzan and Jane were big. I wanted to be Jane…whoever was the movie star or whoever was famous. I was a dreamer and my childhood was all about dreaming.

On her talent for interior design –

I had to share a room with two sisters, so I created a tent-like bed because I had no privacy. I was so into creating shapes and colors and textures…the one private place was my bed. I made all my own bedding and I created a little fairy land. It was a way of separating myself, of being special from my other two sisters.

How to find your interior design style? –

Before you can even think about decorating I think anyone, even if they’re on a budget, can do what I call a scrapbook. I still have my scrapbook from when I was a young teenager. I called it Ideas by Judy. I’d wrap up every idea that I loved and then I would go searching. It’s no good to do that without identifying what you really want the environment to look like. 

On being an entrepreneur –

My mom and dad left us alone most of the time and started their own business two streets over. And so I was brought up being left to my own devices. It was war time and we were very poor.  At some point in your life, if you have any dream of being an entrepreneur, it’s got to come out. …there has to be something inside of you; a yearning to do. I took out mortgages to save my business. I did everything you shouldn’t do. So I think that it has to be somewhere inside you. Maybe it comes out later in life but it’s in there. I’m starting again at 77. I’ve got a lot of pain! 

On business failure –

The failures were in not surrounding myself with people who had experience and had been there before. We have an aging community of brilliant talent.  There are people like me out there, men and women, who are forced into retirement or just don’t have any work that could bring the white-haired wisdom and lifelong lessons you can’t buy. 

Being a grandmother –

I have four children and 11 grandchildren. The youngest is 12, up to the age of 26. They call me Grandma. And they are unique. I’ve taken two of them into my new business. They love me, because I feed them well and I am the ATM machine, but now, they’re interested in me.

On learning to be a grandmother –

It was not good in the beginning.  My son told me, “I don’t need you to save me. We’ve got to make the same mistakes you made. You can’t protect me the way you try. So basically, step back.” It took me a while to learn. Now I’m in good standing with everybody, but it wasn’t easy. I just didn’t want them to suffer.

On causes in her life –

I work with children on addiction. I travel to schools and colleges speaking to them because I had a problem with food addiction. I can talk about that, as a child, as a mother…what it can do and what it took for me to pull myself up. I talk to my grandchildren about this all the time because I want to be able to speak to these kids on their level, not on my level.

On the value of grandparents and elders –

Grandparents offer the most special communication that children will ever experience. To take that further, there’s no reason why we can’t be normal contributors to the workforce. People our age saved my career. Grandparents and people over 65 bring value in every aspect of home, business, life, social media. They bring a vision of hope and love that isn’t available anywhere else in the universe. 

judy george

Judy with her beautiful family

Judy developed a system for identifying personality types titled, “The Intuitive System.”  Her system identifies four broadly drawn archetypes: Visionaries, Artisans, Idealists and Adventurers. She coauthored two books about the process, which can help marketers shape their product appeal to these personality types.

 

judy georgeThe Domain Book of Intuitive Home Design

Do you love bright, airy rooms with sheer curtains that allow light to flood in? Or are you attracted to intimate, jewel-box rooms with rich fabrics and colors? Are you most comfortable when nestled among pretty objects to touch and enjoy, or do you want your home to be free from all clutter?  These decorating choices aren’t just a matter of taste. They’re true reflections of your personality, and they speak volumes about who you are.

 

TAKE THE INTUITIVE DESIGN QUIZ – CLICK HERE

 

The Intuitive Businesswoman – Achieve Success Through the Power of Your Personality

Why do some women gravitate toward the arts, while others are scientifically minded? Are some women natural-born entrepreneurs? How can co-worker A work in the midst of chaos, while co-worker B insists on keeping her office compulsively neat? An Intuitive businesswoman will tell you that it’s all a matter of personality: the four archetypes of the Intuitive System.

 

TAKE THE INTUITIVE BUSINESSWOMAN QUIZ – CLICK HERE

 

 

 

Judy with grandsons. Eli and Xander

Judy with grandson Peter Cedrone at his graduation from Stonehill College

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy having a ball at her high school reunion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Age is no barrier

Judy with her sons and new business partners, Robert and Simon

 “Age is no barrier to doing something new. My sons were agonizing about how to bring a revolutionary new hair straightener product to market. I’ve had frizzy hair all my life! I’d been spending three, four, five hundred dollars and hours in a salon. I’ve launched and sold big successful businesses.  And here they were doing all this without me. That’s when I stepped

  in!”

“ENVIE saves women time…it doesn’t require three hours in the salon.  And of course, money. Maybe best of all, we eliminate the harsh chemicals.  These things are very personal to me.”

From our interview, we learned how excited Judy is about this first business foray with her sons.

GRAND wishes this special lady continued success!

 

Unabridged Version Of Interview With Judy George

And Her Biography

GRAND: We are speaking with the unique, Judy George 

Judy George: My parents were entrepreneurs. Both my mom and dad left the three of us alone most of the time and started their own business two streets over. It was war time and we were very poor. There was not a lot of food. And so I was brought up being left to my own devices.

Being a middle child, I always yearned to be noticed. And in that yearning to be noticed, I liked to dream dreams. Tarzan and Jane were big. I wanted to be Jane…whoever was the movie star or whoever was famous. As a woman, and in those days there weren’t too many…I mean there was Eleanor Roosevelt, we all know about her, but we didn’t have a lot of role models so I went quickly to the movie star play. I was a dreamer and my childhood was all about dreaming.

I was always wishing and hoping and wanting to do things. My poor parents…I started a lemonade stand and I raised money so I could go on park trips. And I did something that got me in trouble a lot which was, I started a clothes co-op. People would give me their clothes and I went on the street and set up a little store with tables of everybody’s clothing that they’d given me. I think that’s my entrepreneurial spirit.

Then at the age of 14, I became the young adult March of Dimes representative.  I raised all that money…sold all those clothes. The polio epidemic had begun and I gave all that money to the March of Dimes and began to get recognition. And I think I felt good about it, and though I was doing something good. I’m not sure I went into it holistically.

GRAND: In that period of your life, you said your parents were working and leaving you guys pretty much on your own which gave you a lot of independence. Did you have grandparents in your life? Were they still living?

Judy George: No, they weren’t. My grandparents on my mother’s side had died just before I was born. On my father’s side, they were both entrepreneurs but didn’t speak English very well. My father was born in Lebanon and came over at three. I always felt loved by them but communication wasn’t easy because I didn’t learn the Arabic language. They spoke love in their eyes,  that’s what they spoke. They had a candy store on Tremont Street. I remember that. But I never had any real communication except feeling loved by them.

GRAND: So, let me jump ahead a little…How would you describe your special intuition around home furnishings? Were you interested in that as a child?

Judy George: We had to share a room. So, I created a tent-like bed out of burlap because I had no privacy with three girls in this one room. I was so into creating shapes and colors and textures…the one private place was my bed. I made all my own bedding. I stapled and glued…didn’t know how to sew in those days. And I created a little fairy land. And so from the time I was a little girl this impulse to create shapes and colors and textures began to tell sort of who I was.  it was a way of separating myself, of being special from my other two sisters. My older sister was my father’s favorite and my baby sister, because we’re seven years apart in age, was my mother’s favorite, so where did I stand in all this?  Well I had to stand out and my way of doing that was this feeling of independence that, no matter what, I was going to be somebody. And I did that through that instinct of creating this environment that separated me from everything else that was around me.

GRAND: Regardless of budget, everyone wants a home that expresses their best self. Are there any resources that you recommend to readers who want to refine their own interior design style?

Judy George: I grew up in an atmosphere where everything I ever bought I either had to find in a flea market, or I’d look in the newspaper for home sales…people were getting rid of stuff.

But before you can even think about decorating I think anyone, even if they’re on a budget, can do what I call a scrapbook. I still have my scrapbook from when I was a young teenager. I called it Ideas by Judy. I’d wrap up every idea that I loved and then I would go searching. You can go today to some of these consignment stores and get unbelievable deals but it’s no good to do that without identifying what you really want the environment to look like.  I believe it can be done on a budget if you know who you are.

GRAND: This question’s a little bit more about the limited employment opportunities for older workers and how so many are starting their own businesses: Do you think anyone can learn what it takes to go out on their own or do you think entrepreneurs are born and not made?

Judy George: At some point in your life, if you have any dream of being an entrepreneur, it’s got to come out. It might not be at age 10, but it’ll come out. I don’t know that they necessarily have to be born. But there has to be something inside of you; a yearning to do. To either be on your own, or you dream of an idea you have. I don’t think entrepreneurs come out of corporate executives. Most would never dream of wanting to put their family there. I mean I put my home up. I took out mortgages to save my business. I did everything you shouldn’t do. So I think that it has to be somewhere inside you. Maybe it doesn’t come out right away and maybe it comes out later in life but it’s in there. You can’t be risk averse. You have to have tenacity and perseverance and you have to be able to take a lot of pain, being an entrepreneur and starting your own business. And I don’t care what age it is, what I’m going through now at 77, starting over and now using my own personal funds to launch. I’ve got a lot of pain. I’m experiencing the same pain I felt when I took the mortgage out to start Domain! You know, I was anxiety free!

GRAND: There is a story out there about you and a banner plane like those little planes that tow banners over the beach. Tell us about that.

Judy George: It was the first big job I wanted so desperately to get. And I started working very late. I was married when I was just turning 20 and I had four children by the age of 26. When I was 40, a new company called Hamilton’s was opening up and they wanted a director of design, with all the credentials that go with that. And I put together all my beautiful clippings. They were very impressed with the book I put together, showing different personalities and styles. They said ‘we love you, Judy’ but you’ve been raising beautiful children and have no experience. We need somebody with ASID credentials to be our director of design. This was a brand new 200,000 square foot store and they wanted a famous designer.

And I went home so defeated. Then I was laying there on the beach and I saw a plane fly over with a banner advertising…I think it was a car dealership, and they keep buzzing the beach until you get the message. And I got this idea.

I found out where the plane came from and I borrowed my husband’s bank book. We were just starting out and by no means, wealthy. I didn’t tell him…it’s a character defect.  I hired the plane and the banner, Hire Judy George, She’ll Make You Money, and somebody filmed this because, when I won the Lifetime Achievement Award they pulled it out of the newspaper.

And I buzzed the CEO of Hamilton’s for a week with this plane. So much so that he sent a police car up to my home. But I got the job. It took a long time to pay my husband back, but that’s what an entrepreneur will do; she’ll risk everything if she has a dream.

GRAND: You talk very candidly in your book about bumps in the road. Can you share anything you may have learned through those experiences that might help other people who are struggling today?

Judy George: I failed so many times by hiring the wrong people, making the wrong decisions around people, that I went and studied under the great professor and teacher, Helen Palmer. It’s called the Enneagram and the Enneagram was all about understanding personalities. The intuitiveness. And that led me to writing the book, because without studying what drives people I would have kept making the same mistakes and probably even lose my companies.

I think this is where many entrepreneurs fail. I’ll tell you how I got through some of the worst failures of my life. I went out into the world and I hired gray-haired people well past 65 to come in and help me reboot my business model, help me understand my failures and what I needed. And here’s how somebody described me, so I would get it. This fabulous executive is really brilliant and went to from Harvard. He was an investor in Domain for $10 million. But he said, “Your problem, Judy, is you’re a home run hitter, and home run hitters strike out a lot because every time they go up to bat they only want to hit home runs. If you would go up and hit a single a day you’ll get on base a lot more and create a lot more runs and winning teams, than by trying to be a famous homerun hitter.”

And I began to then realize that I had to surround myself with people who had the experience instead of all this fabulous young talent because I was in love with talent. If you were creative, if you had an idea I’d want to go out and do it. It wasn’t always about me. I fell in love with people and what they could bring, instead of watching the balance sheets and income statements.

I was ignoring some of the issues that can bring you to your knees. The flow of markets, the flow of furniture, the inventory. That’s where all my mistakes were. They were never in design, the look of the stores or the feel of the furniture. When people would walk into my stores they would always say I could live here in the store.

So the failures were in not surrounding myself with people who had experience and had been there before. To go back to your earlier question, this country and all the world have to recognize that we have an aging community of brilliant talent. There was just a retirement of a genius businessman, I don’t want to put his name in, but he built billion-dollar companies and at 65, was forced to retire. And that genius talent was lost.

There are people like me out there, men and women, who are forced into retirement or just don’t have any work that could bring a business the white-haired wisdom and lifelong lessons you can’t buy.

GRAND: Speaking for a moment about children, you have four children is that right?

Judy George: I have four children 11 grandchildren. The youngest is 12, up to the age of 26. They call me Grandma. And they are unique. I’ve taken two of them into my new business. They love me, because I feed them well and I am the ATM machine, but now, they’re interested in me.

GRAND: When your children became parents, did you find it a challenge to step back and let them be the parents? How did that work for you?

Judy George: It didn’t work well.  It took years for my daughter to like me. It was not good in the beginning.  My son told me, “I don’t need you to save me. We’ve got to make the same mistakes you made. You can’t protect me the way you try. So basically, step back.”

I took me a while to learn. Now I’m in good standing with everybody, but it wasn’t easy. I just didn’t want them to suffer. It was so hard. I had been fired once. I had lost a company. I was trying to take away the pain of mistakes. And they were right. “You’ve got to let us go through that. How are we ever going to learn? You learned from yours and you’ve been successful your whole life.”

GRAND: It is a curse of the Boomer Generation….being the boss and thinking we know everything. You love them so much and you don’t want them to have the pain. But it happens to be the one of the biggest issues facing families today. It isn’t always a happy road.

On another subject, do you have charities or causes that you support or feel strongly about?

Judy George: My mother was a real role model. She was for women’s rights when there were no women’s rights. She died a really horrible death from Alzheimer’s. I was her caretaker and it was probably one of the most emotionally draining and devastating periods of my life.

And because of that I went out into the world and spoke to groups of nurses and doctors as a lay person….I joined Project Hope and had my brain examined and tested in every which way. I’m terrified after watching the way my mother died. They’re desperate for high functioning people who still work.  So that’s one.

I work with children on addiction. I travel to schools and colleges speaking to them because I had a problem with food addiction, so I could talk about that, as a child, as a mother…what it can do and what it took for me to pull myself up. So today not only do I not have any weight issues, but my doctor said I’m in better shape than I was 10 years ago.

I wanted to give back. I go to schools and colleges talking about addiction whether it’s drugs, food, gambling, alcohol and what it can do to your life and what’s out there to get help. So that’s where I’m spending a lot of my time.

They don’t want me to speak to anyone below the ninth grade, and I don’t blame them, but we have an epidemic in this country with children and addiction. This is another connection with my grandchildren. I talk to my grandchildren about this all the time because I want to be able to speak to these kids on their level, not on my level.

And the devices…that’s a big problem for the schools. It’s proven…the same thing holds true. It is an addiction.

LAST WORD. Grandparents offer the most special communication that children will ever experience. If they’re blessed enough to have grandparents who will take the time to be in their company. It’s so important that the children and the grandchildren take advantage of that.

To take that further, there’s no reason why we can’t be normal contributors to the workforce, to be consulting with struggling companies. People our age saved my career. I sold my business based upon the guidance and devotion of a couple of fabulous people who helped me identify the opportunity.

People over 65 bring value in every aspect of home, business, life, social media. Grandparents bring a vision of hope and love that isn’t available anywhere else in the universe.

JUDY GEORGE BIO

 

Judy George is the power brand maker who created Domain Home, Hotel Maison, Chic Boutique and now, at age 77, has created the ENVIE HAIR CARE brand with her sons Robert and Simon who inherited their mother’s entrepreneurial genes.

Judy George has a 40-year history of making waves in the consumer products industry. In 1986, this Milton, Massachusetts business leader and mother of four pushed her way into the furniture industry when she created Domain Home. In so doing she revolutionized furniture retailing in the U.S.

Her formula calls for creating vignettes, making furniture shopping a fashion experience and an extension of one’s wardrobe, and personal branding, all of which are now the furniture retailing standards.

She turned home furnishing into home fashion

When she founded Domain Home she wanted her stores to be a fashion experience for consumers. Says George, “We educated shoppers to think about color in their home as an extension of their personal style. Our vignettes, featured one-of-a-kind antiques, and fashion influences by European designers. We showed consumers how to make their homes more dramatic. All without spending a bundle.”

George partnered with leading venture capitalists including Mitt Romney and with leading interior designers in the U.S. Her Domain Home was a huge step forward in furniture retailing, with its trend-setting store design and displays, and affordable designer looks. While building Domain to 35 stores on the East Coast, she also authored two books on home design and women in business—her two passions.

George’s approach to furniture merchandising has become the industry standard. Retailers universally rely her merchandising and marketing strategies including personal identity branding, which she pioneered by creating a Judy George personal brand that resonated with women who shopped at Doman.

After 20 years of heading up Domain Home it was sold to new owners. However, George said. “the heck with retirement.” Instead, she founded Judy George International and developed Hotel Maison and Chic Boutique, two aspirational home furnishings licensed brands that included furniture, mattresses, home textiles and more.

But George wanted to connect with women consumers on a more personal level, which she has achieved with the ENVIE hair straightening system. She notes that ENVIE is formulated for any type of hair or hair color and taps into three contemporary needs women have:

1.        Avoiding harsh chemicals

2.        Less costly that salon visits

3.        More convenient than a three-hour salon treatment

Marketing savvy

During her career, George developed a system for identifying personality types titled, “The Intuitive System.”  Her system identifies four broadly drawn archetypes: Visionaries, Artisans, Idealists and Adventurers.

She coauthored two books about the process, which can help marketers shape their product appeal to these personality types.

“The Domain Book of Intuitive Home Design” identifies how the four different personality types express themselves through their aesthetic choices.

“The Intuitive Businesswoman” applies the same concept to women and business.

Widely honored as a business leader

President Clinton recognized George twice for her work: in 1993, she was chosen to participate in the NAFTA Conference and in 1996 was named to participate in the first Women in Trade Business Development Mission in Amsterdam and London, representing U.S. women CEOs.

In 2003, in commemoration of the SBA’s 50th anniversary, she was honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration at its “Celebrating Women in Business” breakfast.

In 2004, she received the Anti-Defamation League’s prestigious American Heritage Award.

She was ranked 12th of 100 Top Women Led Businesses in Massachusetts, by Babson College and The Commonwealth Institute.

 

 

 

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