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Maria Grossi, Ceo and Founder of Designs to You, Sitting at a Desk with Fabric Swatches and Documents, Smiling at the Camera. in the Background, Various Colourful Garments Are Hanging on a Rack.

Maria Grossi, ‘The Uniform Lady’:
25 Lessons from 25 Years in Business

JUNE 14 2024

 
 
 
 

Not many people can say they’ve spent 25 years in the same business without going a bit bonkers. And Maria Grossi, our Founder and CEO, would be the first to admit she’s no exception.

Known best as “The Uniform Lady,” Maria’s journey is a testament to how passion, grit, and a love for high heels can build a thriving business—all while staying grounded and resilient.

Starting out as a shy girl from a migrant Italian family, Maria took her love for fashion and textiles—thanks, Mum!—and transformed it into an industry-leading uniform supplier, all from her family’s rumpus room. She’s faced everything from sceptics to COVID-19 lockdowns (sorry to go there) with a smile and a strong espresso.

To celebrate Designs To You’s 25th anniversary, Maria is spilling the tea on 25 lessons she’s learned over the years. From the practical to the profound, she’s got a lot to share. So, sit back and get ready for some expert (read: hard-earned) advice.

 
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  1. Believe in Yourself: In the face of doubt, trust your abilities and intuition. Believe that you are capable of achieving greatness and never give up.
  2. Be Prepared to Commit Wholeheartedly: When launching a business, personal time becomes a luxury. Prepare to make sacrifices for your vision. While the ride isn’t always smooth, the journey is worth every moment for the pleasure of witnessing your dreams grow into reality.
  3. Embrace Challenges and Failure: Every challenge is an opportunity in disguise, and failure is a stepping stone to success. Embrace them with courage, determination, and the understanding that it’s okay to fail—it’s part of the journey.
 
  1. Cultivate Meaningful Connections: Business is about more than transactions—it’s about building trust and respect. Invest your time in nurturing relationships with your team, suppliers, and everyone involved. These connections are the backbone of your success, supporting you through challenges and celebrating your achievements.
  2. Yes, Haters Will Hate: Having a thick skin is very important to anyone who sticks their head above the crowd, even a few inches. Surround yourself with positive people. Negativity won’t do you any favours, in life or in business.
  3. Embrace the Unknown: Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Embracing the unknown can be your greatest strength and set you apart from others. It opens the door to innovative thinking and unique solutions.
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  1. Trust Your Gut: Never underestimate your instincts. When faced with uncertainty, trust yourself. Even when you doubt yourself, remember: Yes, you do know what to do. Push through fear and risk, and amazing things can happen.
  2. Stay Curious and Innovative: Keep that fire alive for learning and exploring new ideas. Stay hungry for innovation—it’s what keeps your business moving forward. Remember why you started this journey, and let that passion guide you. Because once you lose that spark, reigniting it can be a challenge.
  3. Empower Your Team: Your team is your greatest asset. Surround yourself with talented individuals who inspire you to grow. Trust their abilities, support their development, and always give praise and encouragement. Lifting your team up benefits them and brings personal fulfilment and growth to you.
 
  1. Delegate with Confidence: Trust your team’s abilities and give them the freedom to thrive, even if mistakes happen. Supporting their growth leads to remarkable achievements and collective success.
  2. Customer Satisfaction to the Core: Our customers drive every decision. We aim to exceed expectations by being proactive, transparent, and honest. This commitment turns satisfied customers into enthusiastic advocates, fueling our growth.
  3. Celebrate Progress and Practice Gratitude: Cheer every step forward, no matter how small. Be thankful for each success, and appreciate how far you’ve come. Even setbacks can lead to new opportunities.
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  1. Take (calculated) Risks: Success often requires stepping into the unknown. Seize opportunities that require a leap of faith, but be thoughtful and weigh the risks. Focus on details while keeping the bigger picture in mind.
  2. Open Door Policy: Ensure your team knows you’re always available. Lead with empathy, listen to concerns, and encourage open communication. Don’t avoid difficult conversations; they are key to a positive work environment.
  3. Stay True to Your Values and Lead with Integrity: Your values guide your decisions. Stay true to them, even in tough situations. Say no when something conflicts with your beliefs. Integrity earns respect and trust.
 
  1. Family Life Balance and Self-Care: My family motivates me through hard work and sacrifices. Prioritise time with them, creating lasting memories, especially during key milestones. Cultivate a support network of partners, family, or friends who remind you of your journey’s purpose and value, making challenges manageable and successes meaningful.
  2. Support Your Team’s Personal Journey: Be ready for team members to move on and wish them well. Appreciate their time and dedication, celebrating their growth. Supporting them with humility and gratitude fosters a positive work environment.
  3. Lift as You Climb: Lead by example, supporting and empowering others in their success journey. True leadership elevates everyone together, ensuring collective growth and a stronger, more resilient team.
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  1. Blaze Your Own Trail: Focus on your vision and don’t let competition distract you. Success comes from forging your own path and doing things differently. Stay true to your vision to attract loyal customers who become your ambassadors.
  2. Get Out of the Office: Personal connections are powerful. Network through calls, coffee meetings, and face-to-face interactions. You are your best marketing tool. Genuine interactions build trust and open doors that advertising can’t.
  3. Embrace Adaptability: Adaptability is key to success. Stay organised, flexible, and open-minded. Be agile and willing to change, even when unexpected. Keeping creativity flowing helps navigate challenges and seize opportunities.
  4. Embrace Innovation and Evolution: In a dynamic environment, innovation is essential. Embrace new technologies, trends, and ideas to propel your business. Be adaptable and willing to evolve beyond your comfort zone. Flexibility and a proactive approach keep your business relevant and resilient.
 
  1. Balance Ambition with Patience: Building a lasting business takes time. Ambition is crucial, but patience is equally important. Trust the process, stay focused, and don’t rush. The early stages, where small achievements felt like big triumphs, are often the most cherished moments.
  2. Do Good, Feel Good: As your business grows, seize the chance to make a positive impact. Support charities, mentor entrepreneurs, or champion causes you care about. Giving back transforms lives and brings a profound sense of purpose, enriching both the world and your own journey of growth and success.
  3. Never Stop Dreaming: Hold onto your dreams through highs and lows. Let them inspire and motivate you. Dream big, work hard, and believe in endless possibilities.
Maria Grossi, CEO and Founder of Designs To You
 

As I reflect on the last 25 years as a business owner, I am filled with gratitude for the incredible journey I’ve experienced. My greatest achievement isn’t just the success of Designs To You, but the genuine relationships I’ve been so fortunate to build along the way—with customers, suppliers, and team members who have truly become like family.

Through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, my family has been my unwavering support and the backbone of our success. Similarly, my amazing team, both past and present, has shown unwavering dedication and passion, propelling us forward even in the face of challenges.

This journey has not only been about business; it’s been about the people. I’ve been fortunate to meet amazing individuals who have become lifelong friends. Their trust and support have been the fuel for our growth and success.

Looking ahead, I’m inspired by the possibilities that the future holds. I believe that as long as we continue to dream, to innovate, and to nurture the relationships that have brought us this far, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this incredible journey. Here’s to the next 25 years of dreaming, growing, and achieving together.

 

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