Dianne Grossman says she always knew she wanted to run her own business. She just didn't know a joking insult from her husband would provide the impetus to get started.
“One day, I was waiting to go to lunch with my husband, Seth, who had worked in flooring for over 30 years,” she said. “I was reading Floor Covering Weekly, an industry trade publication, that said, ‘80 percent of flooring decisions are made by female homeowners, yet more than 80 percent of sales are conducted by men.’”
When she suggested to her husband that his family’s business, Paragon Mills Wholesale Carpet & Flooring Co. in Union, should hire female sales staff, he said something that spurred her to become the founder and CEO of The Carpet Girl in Springfield.
“He said, ‘It won’t work because women don’t know how to use a tape measure,’” Grossman said.
“When someone tells me no, that gives me the drive and determination to prove them wrong.”
Grossman had zero experience in starting or running her own business. She previously had worked as a travel agent when she was single, and as the director of a child care center while she was raising four children.
Women helping women
As founder and CEO the only female-branded flooring company in New Jersey, Dianne Grossman of The Carpet Girl in Springfield estimates more than 80 percent of her clients are women.
“There are plenty of female-owned flooring companies, but we deliberately created a brand to target the female consumer,” Grossman said.
In order to generate more clients — and potential employees — Grossman remains involved in women’s entrepreneurial and networking organizations such as Believe, Inspire, Grow, or B.I.G., in Summit, Leading Women Entrepreneurs in Clinton and the Women in Business Committee of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
“If you swim in those organizations, you will organically attract the people who want to be part of your organization,” Grossman said. “And I believe that women are the best business owners.”
Women, Grossman said, often don’t put themselves out there because they have an internal dialogue that says they’re not worthy.
She knows how it feels.
“We just qualified for a Small Business Administration loan,” Grossman said. “Linda Wellbrock (founder and CEO of Leading Women Entrepreneurs) wrote an article that really inspired me to go after the funding.”
That’s why Grossman said likeminded, successful women are those who are constantly pursuing self-education and are active and accessible in their communities.
“I simply worked in whatever career was most conducive to my lifestyle at the time,” she said.
At her friend’s recommendation, Grossman connected with Believe, Inspire, Grow, or B.I.G., a female-driven entrepreneurial organization in Summit, in 2011 to discuss her business idea.
“They were a tribe of women supporters,” she said. “They all said it was a great idea, whereas the men in my life told me to get a job at a furniture store instead.”
In addition to helping Grossman gather recommendations for small business needs such as lawyers, bookkeepers and accountants, B.I.G. helped build her confidence as an entrepreneur.
“I needed to feel inspired and empowered, and that is the role B.I.G. filled,” Grossman said. “They helped me believe in myself and gain access to resources that I might not have found on my own.”
A year later, Grossman founded The Carpet Girl, a flooring and carpeting company specifically created to attract and target female consumers.
“People might not remember my name, but they will certainly remember what I do,” she said. “Our company’s mission and marketing is driven toward women. We are a company created by women for women.”
New Jersey has proved to be a lucrative market for such an endeavor.
While The Carpet Girl has mostly residential clients as far south as Maryland and as far north as Connecticut, it conducts nearly 80 percent of its work in New Jersey.
“The salaries are higher and the homes are more expensive,” Grossman said. “People here make better financial investments in their homes.
“I don’t know if we would be as successful if we had opened in a $350,000 housing market versus working in homes that are worth $650,000 and more.”
The Carpet Girl keeps costs down by conducting business from an office building instead of a storefront.
“We opened our showroom in an office building so we could offer great pricing without huge retail overhead,” Grossman said. “That allows us to stay cost-effective and competitive. People need an appointment to buy from us.”
The company has more recently been approached by several commercial projects, too.
“City Bay Builders Corp. hired us for a 100,000-square-foot building in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Elizabeth,” Grossman said. “That was not only exciting, but it also challenged me and helped me to figure out that I actually do love the commercial side of this business.”
Biz in brief
Company: The Carpet Girl
Revenue: On track to earn over $1 million in sales this year
One More Thing: Dianne Grossman, founder and CEO, is pushing for trade schools and specialty certification programs in New Jersey. “The pool of certified installers is shrinking nationwide,” Grossman said. “We can sell carpet all day long, but we still need fabricators and installation technicians.”
Due to such repeat and often referred business, The Carpet Girl has doubled its sales every year since opening in 2012.
“We are on track to earn over $1 million in sales this year,” Grossman said. “That is a great dig to the man who said it would never work four years ago.”
Seth Grossman, as well as one additional full-time and one part-time employee, now works for The Carpet Girl after his father sold the family business in 2013.
“We had the choice to take the equity from our home and reinvest it into our business,” Dianne Grossman said. “We said, ‘No one is ever going to invest in us except for ourselves.’
“It was the best thing to ever happen.”
She has high expectations for her business from here on out.
“I want to be the Mary Kay of flooring,” Grossman said. “So many women have the gift of gab and want to be involved with interior design. I want to create a company whose mission it is to provide work-life balance for not only myself, but for other women like me.”
The Carpet Girl, Grossman said, will become a franchise in order to achieve the fastest and most efficient growth.
“Franchising will also allow me to complete my mission of empowering other women to get involved in the flooring industry,” she said.
Grossman is working with Carl Gould at 7 Stage Advisors in Riverdale to launch The Carpet Girl franchise next year.
“We also outsource quite a bit at the moment and are looking into options of what to bring in-house, such as controlling our warehousing and buying our supplies directly,” Grossman said.
If the business continues to grow at its current pace, the company may also need to open a second showroom in Morris County in late 2017.
It’s all in a day’s work for Grossman.
“This is not a job — I haven’t ‘gone to work’ in four years,” she said. “I’m simply welcomed into beautiful homes where people trust us with their most expensive investments.”
It’s a feeling Grossman wants to share with fellow female entrepreneurs.
“Just always be working on something. Don’t let your passion die. Put yourself in positions where, when that opportunity knocks, you can open the door,” she said. “Women often get caught up in making money — they put their dreams on ice to pursue jobs that will just pay them.
“Work that job, provide for your family, but always be thinking and planning for your dream.”
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