When Lucia Paola Flores, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, grew up in Chile, she had a bit of experience with sewing, but little did she know it would eventually be a path towards owning her own business. As a young mom, she moved to the US and started making cushions at her father-in-law’s upholstery business, where she mastered the intricate sewing machine skills. And it was these specialized skills that helped her juggle her life when she became a single mom working two jobs at different upholstery workrooms while pursuing her lifelong dream of a college degree. 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. Now almost 20 years later, with her daughter Kimberly as her business partner, she’s opened two locations in New Providence and Madison, where clients come for custom reupholstery, slipcovers, window treatments, and cushions. We chatted with this Summit mom to talk about why it was important she got her college degree, what it’s like to have her daughter working by her side, and the delicious treats she and Kimberly swear by at their favorite ice cream shop in Madison.
What’s your background, and how has it played a role in launching Slipcover Lady?
I’m originally 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 US. 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 had no upholstery skills at the time. Using the upholstery machines was challenging, 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 mother back in Chile, and it was important to me—and I knew I had to go for it.
Then, I got divorced, and I had to juggle a lot. I was at Kean University full time while working two jobs at different upholstery businesses. While working on my degree in Business Management Sciences, I also took an elective course in interior design and fell in love with it. It took me almost ten years to get my degree, but I never gave up on my dream, and with a lot of hard work and faith in myself, I did it. In 2002, I had a great boss at a decorating company, and he was getting ready to retire and told me that it was time for me to run my own business. I purchased all of his machines, tools, and almost everything I’d need, and The Slipcover Lady was born.
When did you and your daughter start to work together, and how do you divide the responsibilities? Shortly after Kimberly started at Penn State, she left to go back to Chile since my mother (her grandmother) was ill and needed heart surgery. She finished her college degree in Business Management Sciences in Chile but had trouble finding a stable job to give her the lifestyle she’d become accustomed to in the US. Kimberly would travel back to NJ during the summers and help me out on the client side of things. Then in 2017, she came back full time. After shadowing me for a few months, her confidence level and experience were enough that she felt 100% comfortable dealing with clients, giving estimates, calculating the yards of fabric needed, and more. We’re both happy in our roles, with her working with clients and me handling the majority of the labor. Kimberly and I live in the same apartment complex (she lives with her fiancé). Right now, it’s the perfect arrangement as we’re 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 Parlor in Madison is the best. I love their salted caramel ice cream sundae, and Kimberly swears by their coffee frozen yogurt with a peanut butter blend and caramel and graham crackers on top. We gravitate to C&J’s Deli for our morning cups of joe because it sets the tone for a positive start to the day. Besides great coffee, there’s this amazing vibe there—like everyone is always having a great time. John, the owner, has made us feel so welcome in town. Though we don’t get our hair cut at Esquire Barbershop, it is one of our favorites. Since the clientele is almost all-male, the owner has sent quite a few male clients our way. We feel so fortunate that we’ve been welcomed with open arms and fully supported by the surrounding businesses in the area.
What are some of your favorite things to do in NJ?
Summers are pretty memorable in downtown Madison. Every Friday, from 6-8 pm, there are free concerts outside the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, and they’re always great. I love having adventures on my electric scooter, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City is the perfect place to take it for a ride. The park also has a gorgeous view of the Hudson River and Manhattan. Long Branch is my go-to beach. And it has the best boardwalk to get a lot of walking in, plus it’s illuminated so you can also walk at night and still feel safe. I’ve got a thing for diners because no matter who you’re with and what you want, you can always find it on the menu. Prestige in New Providence is one that I go to again and again.
What advice can you share with another NJMOMpreneur who is thinking of starting her own business? Always think positive, and be brave. You have to trust in yourself in whatever you want to do or be and be willing to sacrifice and work hard to make it happen. If you have the will, there’s a way.