With a passion for fashion and a head for business, Lauri Zessar of Highland Park turned a dream to own her own company into a reality.
Bienali Promotions, which specializes in promotional items and top-quality fashion accessories for companies in the retail and beauty industry, is a thriving business with hundreds of clients after being established just last June.
Last October, Bienali Promotions was given a special distinction, a national certification as a Women's Business Enterprise by the Chicago Women’s Business Development Center, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
"I'm excited because it legitimizes us as a well-run business. It's a seal of approval," said Zessar, whose all-female staff includes business manager Stephanie Koretz and account manager Natalie Centeno.
For more Highland Park business news, sign up for our free newsletter.
The application process for the special certification was detailed and lengthy, said Zessar.
"There were stacks of papers to fill out. They wanted everything from customer invoices to recommendations and tax returns. This was a lot of stuff."
The meticulous process also included an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.
Zessar said she is proud to have the WBENC certification, which carries a lot of weight and respect.
She looks forward to continuing to grow Bienali Promotions, a domestic supplier of a range of fashion accessories and products that are designed in-house and imported from China for customer cost savings.
Bienali Promotions specializes in Gift with Purchase (GWP), Purchase with Purchase (PWP) and accessory product development and overseas sourcing.
"I pay a lot of attention to detail. I'm the primary designer. I'm inspired by trends in the industry," said Zessar, who also gets inspiration from her two teenage daughters, ages 14 and 17.
"They love fashion and keep me in line trend-wise."
Zessar said she gained valuable business experience working for her father's promotional business catering to the direct marketing industry.
"I'm entrepreneurial. I have it in my blood."
"My specialty within the direct marketing field has always been with fashion, including catalogs, magazines, and consumer beauty product companies. These fashion marketers always liked to give a free bag with purchase. As their supplier, they looked to me to come up with the next 'Tote to Top the Charts.' Finally, I decided that these bags needed my name on them because I knew that I could do anything that the LA and NY designers could do" said Zessar on her Website.
In the future, Zessar said she plans to start a high-end handbag line that could be sold in stores such as Macy's and Bloomingdales.
Customers can find Bienali handbags in some local stores including Garden Fresh Market and Walgreen's.
To learn more about Bienali Promotions, visit www.bienali.com.