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Name: Anelia Andonova

Business: Pearls, Diamonds, and Satin Events, event design

Industry: Design, Arts & Entertainment 

Location: Chicago, Illinois, U.S

Reason for starting: When I came to America, I left my oldest daughter with her grandparents in Europe and worked as a nanny and housekeeper for 16 years. I was not satisfied. I needed an outlet for my creativity. Dinner parties, then friend’s events, then finally, people were asking for me to help them decorate their celebrations. I had a vision for aesthetic beauty. I started out with a pearl-ended pin, a pen, and a napkin. I was sitting at a coffee shop and I sketched out my first design on a napkin for a friend’s Christening! I realized that I must do this for myself and for the financial welfare of my family. I wanted my daughters to look at me and say, this is what a hardworking woman who lives her dream looks like. So when I started, I found that I was praised for my custom design and my cultural competence.

Related: TSE Special Series: Immigrant Entrepreneurs

How do you define success? When my client finds me after hosting an event and holds my hand and cries and says, “Anelia, you’ve inspired so much hope in me regarding this wedding!” It brings so much joy.

Biggest Success: For a long time, it was just me. I didn’t have anyone to help me. All the heavy lifting, every single pin, every flower. I think it was as difficult as it was empowering to say, yes, I just did this. Yes, I prepared a wedding for over 500 people just by myself. My biggest success is probably that despite all the struggle of trying to start this on my own and with all the work I’ve put into this, I’ve come out empowered and ready to take on more. I think my children really see this sometimes when I share little successes and their smiles just illuminate with the very reality that I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do. It makes them believe they can achieve their dreams, too.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? The biggest challenge is obviously a financial one, but also a technological one. We have yet to procure an office, which I think will be very helpful. Instead a lot of my expenses involve transportation and storage of a lot of decor. Additionally, there is a technological barrier because I am very old school. I grew up without internet so learning all the special stuff about social media and websites is all new for me. I can’t compete with my competitors in that way. In this regard, my daughters are helping with social media and we even had an intern to help one summer (paid, of course!) I also find that word of mouth has worked very well so far, especially given our focus on cultural competence and client-provider relationships.

Related: Who Are America’s Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs? 

Definitely being an immigrant has affected a lot of decisions. Negotiating my identity as an immigrant and a new American at many times has left me feeling scared to tackle really big projects. Perhaps I am most affected by my accent and writing. I feel like too many people tend to overlook me when they hear my accent, so I’ve always had to let my work do the talking (literally).

Who is your most important role model? My daughters. The eldest came to America as such a young child. She learned English so fast and every day she says, “Done. What’s next?” She’s accomplished so much in her 21 years. Her intellectual vitality excites me and motivates me to be the very best mother and business owner that I can be. The youngest reminds me to look at the world with wonder and approach everything I do with creativity and amazement.

Twitter   @eventsbyanelia

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Edited by The Story Exchange