Military Wife Finds Startup Success with Leather Goods

Lily Grillo

Lily Grillo, an entrepreneur and military wife of an Army National Guard member, found startup success selling leather goods through Grillo Unlimited, LLC.
Lily Grillo, an entrepreneur and military wife of an Army National Guard member, found startup success selling leather goods through Grillo Unlimited, LLC.

Lily Grillo’s husband is serving in the military overseas. She is also the proud mother of two young boys. While many military wives in her shoes might feel overwhelmed, Grillo did not hesitate at all to pursue her dream of startup success.

Grillo, who is a client of 1-800Accountant, operates her own small business known as Grillo Unlimited, LLC. She formally launched the home-based enterprise in February 2015 in Flemington, New Jersey. Through the new startup company, Grillo intends to sell leather-based products for both men and women. Her selection will include handbags, wallets, and other handy accessories. Some are even outfitted with the latest RFID blocking technology to keep customers’ credit cards protected. She is currently developing prototypes with David Hauser of Dragonthorn Leatherworks.

Based on her early experience, Grillo shares why she thought starting a business in this particular industry was the right move for her to make on the entrepreneurial chessboard.

“I used to work for my brother who owns a wallet company,” Grillo explains. “My family is full of engineers and scientists. I wanted to try something new and different.”

Grillo is a former middle school science teacher and daycare operator. Her husband, Joseph, currently serves in the Middle East as a member of the Army National Guard. In her words, those around her will ultimately help in her quest for startup success.

“I feel like the Julia Child of the fashion industry,” she confides. “At this point, I don’t have a huge background in this field, so I’ve spent lots of time finding the right people to work with and surround myself with.”

On a related note, she says it’s these individuals with whom she gets to work that make her job as a small business owner so enjoyable and rewarding.

“It’s really the people that I enjoy most about all of this,” she says. “In the past, people have used my skills to help get their businesses going, but I’ve seen a lot of unprofessionalism. Everyone I work with now is very professional, and I mesh well with them.”

Competing as a Small Business Owner in the Fashion Industry

Grillo explains how she is separating her small business from the rest in the very crowded fashion industry.

“I don’t want to make millions. I just want to accomplish my entrepreneurial goals so that I can provide my family with financial stability and provide my customers with a good product. I think all of this will reflect in my customer service.”

To make others aware of Grillo Unlimited, the entrepreneur is launching a website through which she’ll sell her leather goods. She also plans to use the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, in addition to creating social media pages for the small business.

Challenges to Small Business Ownership

She admits she has faced her fair share of challenging decisions and circumstances in starting a business like this.

“This is a completely new industry for me. The hardest thing has been finding the right supplies and materials at the best rates out there. It’s the little details I have had to iron out that have taken up so much time.”

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Thanks to what she’s been through during her entrepreneurial journey, Grillo shares some tips for entrepreneurs.

“The biggest thing is making sure you really want to start a business,” she advises. “Starting a business and actually setting it up is easy, but then you have to decide what you want to do with it. Personally, I have to keep reminding myself of my end-goal. Another thing I’ve learned is that you have to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to certain decisions – sometimes when you’re pressured to make one. Stay true to yourself.”

She adds that self-employment often comes with both advantages and disadvantages.

“The advantage is that you have complete control and can do whatever you want to do or don’t want to do. The disadvantage is that you have to rely on other people and trust them.”

1-800Accountant Review

“Everyone has been very helpful and so easy to work with,” Grillo says. “I don’t have to worry about all of the stuff involved in business taxes and finances. I always get reminders about when certain things are due.”

Photo credit: The photograph of Lily Grillo was provided by Grillo Unlimited, LLC and is used with permission.

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