Thursday, February 11, 1999

Judy George's Domain

A small Broadway one-woman show is what Judy George presented to a room full of members and guests at the National Association of Women Business Owners monthly program on Thursday, February 11th, at the American Express Financial Tower on Vesey Street. Not billed as such, but that's what it turned out to be in fact. The occasion was to hear her tell her story of how she and her company became to be so successful. Betty Wong, president of, Beth Bencel and Audrey Contente from Advantage Global Enterprises, and Diane Rieck, manager, new business development, AmEx Relationship Services and Sangeeta Prasad, vice president, AmEx Small Business Services were among the women who came to network and hear this dynamic woman speak. Bruce Haber of Financial Solutions Group, Ltd. and Michael Ringel of Let's Talk Business Network were among some of the men who came to network. Attendees could also purchase Judy George's new book "The Domain Book of Intuitive Design," which I thought was going to be a book on how domain names can influence design! (Read more about this woman's stunning career developments at:

It turned out to be a rich evening hearing about how this Lebanese-Italian mother of four from an arranged-marriage began writing an advice column for the "Boston Globe," and through a series of successes and failures came to be the founder, chairwoman and CEO of Domain Inc. This chain of retail home furnishings stores has made $60 million and won this year's National Retail Store of the Year award, beating out Crate & Barrel. George told guests in a very personal and human way her story of how she got to be where she is today. A driven woman who wanted the national design director position at Hamilton stores, she stole $10,000 from her husband's bankbook and hired a plane to fly around their headquarters announcing, "Hire Judy George, She'll make you millions." For a woman with only two years of Finishing School her "chutzpa" took her far. She got the job and turned Hamilton stores (now Scandinavian Design) around. Just when things were going great, she got fired and that's when she really became driven. She began to do her homework: went to an MIT Enterprise Forum, conferences, bought books and magazines and called people for help. But she wouldn't let the people she called get off the phone till they gave her the name of someone who might give her money. Those 22 recommended people became her first investors. She attributes her success to a few things: hire a great public relations firm to get the story out (that $25,000 was the best investment she ever made), know your audience and Negotiate! Negotiate! Negotiate! (she still owns a big piece of her company). When she went out for her second round of VC money, she raised 7.5 million from a video with Simon & Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" and shots of single men alone in train stations, trains going across the countryside, shots of homes and interior shots of furnishings and rooms. Then to show who her clients are, she played the scene from "When Harry Met Sally" when the debate ensues over the wagon wheel coffee table. She appealed to the human side of the venture capitalists, the side of us who wants to go home and to all it symbolizes.