When Lucia Paola Flores, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, grew up in Chile, she had some experience in sewing, but had no idea that this would eventually be a path to starting her own business. As a new mom, she moved to the United States and began making cushions at her stepfather’s upholstery business, where she mastered intricate sewing machine skills. And it was these specialized skills that helped her juggle her life when she became a single mother and held two jobs in different upholstery shops while pursuing her lifelong dream of graduating from college. So when her boss at a decorating company encouraged her to use her skills to go out on her own, Lucia felt the time was right and Slipcover Lady was born. Almost 20 years later, with her daughter Kimberly as a business partner, she opened two branches in New Providence and Madison, where customers come for custom upholstery, slipcovers, window treatments and cushions. We chatted with this mom Summit to explain why it was important for her to graduate from college, what it’s like to have her daughter by her side and the delicious treats that she and Kimberly swear by in their Favorite ice cream shop in Madison.
What is your background and how did it play a role in the launch of Slipcover Lady?
I am from Chile. As soon as I graduated from high school I got married and the following year Kimberly was born and we came to the United States. My ex-father-in-law has an upholstery business and encouraged me to start making cushions for him, even though I had little sewing experience. I certainly didn’t have any upholstery skills at the time. Using the upholstery machines was a challenge, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and I learned quickly. While I was doing this, my dream was to go to college – it was important to my mom in Chile, and it was important to me – and I knew I had to go.
Then I got divorced and had to juggle a lot. I was at Kean University full time while working two jobs at different upholstery companies. While preparing for my degree in Business Management Science, I also took an elective course in interior design and fell in love with it. It took me almost ten years to graduate, but I never gave up on my dream, and with a lot of hard work and self-confidence, I did. In 2002 I had a great boss in a decorating business, and he was about to retire and told me it was time for me to run my own business. I bought all of his machines, tools and almost everything I needed, and The Slipcover Lady was born.
When did you start working together with your daughter and how do you divide the responsibilities? Shortly after Kimberly started at Penn State, she left to return to Chile because my mother (her grandmother) was ill and needed heart surgery. She completed her university studies in Business Administration in Chile, but struggled to find a stable job to give her the lifestyle she had become accustomed to in the United States. Kimberly would go back to New Jersey during the summers and help me on the client side. Then in 2017, she returned full time. After following me for a few months, her confidence level and experience was enough to make her feel 100% comfortable with clients, giving estimates, calculating the yards of fabric needed, and more. Again. We are both happy in our roles, she works with clients and I do most of the work. Kimberly and I live in the same apartment complex (she lives with her fiance). Right now this is the perfect arrangement as we are still close enough to share our dogs and be there for each other.
What are some of your favorite local NJ businesses?
McCool’s Ice Cream Shop in Madison is the best. I love their salted caramel ice cream sundae, and Kimberly swears by their coffee frozen yogurt with a mixture of peanut butter and caramel and graham crackers on top. We turn to C & J’s Deli for our morning cups of coffee because it sets the tone for a positive start to the day. Besides the great coffee, there is this amazing vibe there, like everyone is always having fun. John, the owner, made us feel very welcome in town. While we don’t get a haircut at Esquire Barbershop, this is one of our favorites. As the clientele is almost entirely male, the owner has sent quite a few male clients to us. We feel so lucky to have been welcomed with open arms and fully supported by the surrounding businesses in the region.
What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey?
Summers are quite memorable in downtown Madison. Every Friday, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., there are free concerts outside the Museum of Ancient Trades and Trades, and they are always great. I love having adventures on my electric scooter, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City is the perfect place to take a ride. The park also offers a magnificent view of the Hudson River and Manhattan. Long Branch is my go-to beach. And it has the best boardwalk for walking a lot, besides it is illuminated so that you can also walk at night while feeling safe. I have a soft spot for diners because no matter who you are with and what you want, you can always find it on the menu. Prestige in New Providence is the one I go to again and again.
What advice can you share with another NJMOMpreneur who is considering starting their own business? Always think positively and be courageous. You have to be confident in whatever it is you want to do or be and be willing to sacrifice yourself and work hard to make it happen. If you have the will, there is a way.
For more information on Lucia Paola Flores and the Slipcover Lady, visit her website and Instagram pages.
TIPS OF THE DAY