Westchester County's Most Accomplished Women Entrepreneurs
Meet 28 of the county's most successful, move innovative, most respected business women.
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Designing Your Life
Founder and CEO, Damselfly Designs, Inc.
When Brenda LaManna was a hairstylist in her teens, she’d get a nagging feeling whenever she went to do hair and makeup for bridal parties. She’d look at the flowers and the decorations. “I would think, ‘I would change this arrangement,’ or ‘This isn’t in proportion to the event space,’” she recalls. Eventually, she realized that event decoration was her true calling, and she dropped the hairstyling, went to school, and founded Damselfly Designs, a business she expects to earn $2 million in 2013.
LaManna, today 46 and living in South Salem, started off her floral education close to home, earning a basic certificate
at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Then things got really serious: she got a master’s degree in floral arranging from the prestigious Keukenhof in The Netherlands. “That’s where the masters are,” she says. “I had to submit a portfolio to get into the program. When I got there, I realized I was thirty years younger than everyone else.”
She started her own business in Tuckahoe in 1988, before moving the company north and changing its name to Damselfly Designs a decade later. Now, things have come full circle, and LaManna and Damselfly Designs returned to Tuckahoe in a landmark building this year. “It’s the old Yorkville Bank. This huge, old vault is our floral cooler. The teller counters are still there. And I can cross the street, and I’m on a train platform to see my clients in the City.”
And, though she may be based here, the 100-plus corporate events, weddings, and bar/bat mitzvahs she does annually have her traveling around the world. In 2010, she was the floral manager for a wedding in Indonesia. “We cleared customs with thirty-one and one-half tons of flowers. There were one-hundred-forty-two designers working round-the-clock. It was a twenty-five-hour wedding. It was spectacular.”
To help her handle the event load, LaManna commands a staff of five full-time employees and 10 part-timers (plus more when there are big events). “I don’t advertise. My clients seek me out.” She counts among those clients corporations such as Clinique, Merrill Lynch, Continental Airlines, Lindt Chocolate, Morgan Stanley, and Porsche. She notes that the key to corporate events is “brand recognition.ˮ With Clinique, for example, “you know you have to do something pristine, white, architectural, and angular.”
Says Nanciellen Uniacke, Clinique’s director of global event planning, who’s used LaManna since 2004, “We know exactly what to expect from her. The only surprise is that it typically comes together even more beautifully than we could have imagined.”
Declares LaManna, “It’s not a bad living, staying in a room making beautiful flower arrangements. We’re the happy part of the event.”
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