Always get a decent bookkeeper. — Don’t ever expect people who say they know quick books to know what they are doing with your books. I have twice spent time recreating books that were either lost on a computer or completely messed up. Now I have a bookkeeping service as well as a CPA.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Buzy-Pucheu.
A sales and marketing veteran, Denise Buzy-Pucheu channeled her energy and talents into creating a bridal stationery company, which expanded into a bridal boutique by popular demand. The Persnickety Bride has not only become a popular fixture in Connecticut and the surrounding states, it’s been the recipient of countless awards from The Knot and Wedding Wire Magazine, and serves as a consultant to Justin Alexander brands. Buzy-Pucheu lives in Newtown with her husband and their 3 children.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was raised in Mt. Vernon, NY. I’m the daughter of a French culinary chef and a first-generation American mom of French and Italian descent. Mom spoke fluent French and had been a bi-lingual executive secretary for a WWII General. She loved life, people and was a happy, outgoing woman. My mother passed away from lung cancer when I was 5 years old. I am the eldest of three children. My siblings were 3 and 1 ½ years old at the time of her death. My maternal grandmother then raised us with my father. My grandmother was religious and we attended Catholic elementary and high school. It was my grandmother who impressed upon our faith, being respectful, kind, doing your best and never take anything for granted. Grandma had arrived in America at the age of 17 through Ellis Island. She lived through the 1918 pandemic, WWI, The Great Depression, WWII and had a great understanding of hardship. She raised us with my dad until we moved to Hyde Park, NY. Dad secured a professor position in French cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America. He was thrilled over the opportunity and felt he achieved his American dream. Unfortunately, it was to be short-lived. Soon after starting his teaching position, he became ill. I remember the day doctors diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer. I was the direct family member the doctors would deliver the news of his diagnosis. This was in 1973, so things were a bit different in telling next of kin. They told me that my dad was dying and he had weeks to live. I was 12 years old. I was then left to tell my siblings. I remember telling them that we were “losing another one”. A friend of the family had been staying with us in Hyde Park helping out while my dad was hospitalized. Weeks before his death, he married that family friend while in his hospital bed to keep the three of us together. My grandmother was deemed too elderly to be our guardian. Dad went into a coma on my 13th birthday and died two days later. We then moved back to Mt. Vernon where both my maternal grandmother and stepmother raised us together.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I believe you should “Live your best fateful life”. Every morning of every day can be a fateful day. The people that you meet make a difference in your life, they can make a small impact or a great impact. You can do the same for their life. See everyone or any situation as an opportunity to grow, change or create a new beginning.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
I am honest. I detest lying. Anyone who knows me knows they are going to get the unvarnished truth. I have been in sales for over 30 years. I don’t care if I’m selling a major retailer, a client for my promotional products business, or a bridal client. I sell what I believe will work for them.
In my book business, DBP & Associates, Inc. I use to sell David’s Bridal. We sold them wedding planners and etiquette books. This was years before I got into the bridal business. These books and planners would retail for 9.99 dollars to 24.95 dollars. I remember a publishing VP being adamant about my selling one of their proposed book projects to David’s Bridal. It was pitched by a TV celebrity chef who wasn’t in the field of event planning or bridal. They wanted to create a high-end couture bridal coffee table book that retailed for 75.00 dollars. The publisher came to me in advance of the book being created and begged me to present the concept to David’s Bridal. They sent pictures of interior shots of the proposed book etc. We call this a “vanity book” in the industry. The author was probably a friend of someone high up in the publishing house who persuaded them to create the book. I told the VP flat out it would be a waste of money to move forward on the project. That the concept wasn’t saleable enough in the market and certainly David’s Bridal wouldn’t buy it. They sell dresses for 99.00 dollars not books for 75.00 dollars. The publisher went ahead with the book publication and 6 months later asked me to remainder the stock (which numbered in the thousands) for 5.00 dollars each.
I believe my empathy for others and the capability of putting myself in their shoes is one of my best qualities. Through my own experiences and depth of loss, I can reach a place in working with people on a very personal level. I feel many times that clients become good friends by our shared experiences but also by lending a compassionate ear and just being there for them.
One of my favorite stories is how I have helped others adopt their children.
My husband and I have three internationally adopted children. I worked with one of my clients from a chain store in talking her through her initial questions about adopting children. When she left her job and moved back closer to her family, she adopted two beautiful boys through foster care. My husband and I also helped guide one of my bridal couples in adopting their two girls through a private adoption agency. I love seeing forever families being formed.
My last and probably greatest quality is humor. I love to make people smile and laugh. It feeds my soul and fuels my passion. In this day and age, we could always use more laughter. I feel business could be so serious at times that laughter is the best way to break the ice and make people feel at ease. There is nothing like making a person feel comfortable when you are working with them.
I guess the best way to see some of my humor in action is by looking at our IGTV. There so are many examples in one place. @thepersnicketybride
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I was sales manager for Great American Audio and my largest account was Waldenbooks Corporation. I sold old-time radio recordings to several chain store accounts and worked with the VP of sales to oversee independent sales representatives across the country.
When Waldenbooks needed a Sr. Buyer for their audiobook division, they pursued me to join them in handling buying for audiobooks, budget music, and children’s book/tape product. Once at Waldenbooks, I managed over a forty million dollar budget in those categories growing them significantly during my 3-year tenure in the mid-1980s. I was then approached by Michael Viner and his wife, actress, Deborah Raffin, to become their VP of sales and marketing for their audio division, Dove Audio. Their business grew 10 fold under my direction in three years. We were fortunate to have great title acquisitions and solid relationships due to my history with accounts. Upon leaving Dove, I immediately started DBP & Associates, Inc. which handled specialty market accounts, direct mail accounts, and general chain store sales for everyone from McMillian publishing, Rhino Records/ WEA Distribution, Abrams Publishing, and many other smaller book, gift, and record companies. At the height of this business we were making millions a year ourselves in publishing projects under Persnickety Press as well as commission, but creating multi-million dollar revenue streams for our clients.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
My second chapter came when I married my husband at the age of 40. I tell people that my love story and family were all thanks to the internet. My husband lived in NYC working for NBC. We met on Matchmaker.com and married about a year and a half later. He was transferred to Atlanta for GE Power Systems, and I moved my business to a home office out of Atlanta. I downsized accounts as we were planning on adopting children. We successfully adopted 2 children from the country of Kazakhstan and brought them home in February of 2002. In July of 2002, he was speaking to GE Finance about a job in Fairfield, CT, and by February of 2003, we were relocating to Newtown, CT. In 2007 we brought home our daughter Aeryn from China, thus completing our family.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
The publishing business was changing dramatically. Amazon was taking hold and online, shopping was becoming more prevalent.
Music was beginning to be downloaded the structure of all forms of media and book sales were changing. When we moved to Connecticut I wanted to continue to work and also raise my children. So I set up my office out of my home along with an assistant and continued to sell clients where my relationships mattered and would endure.
One of those clients was the Marmaxx Group. I decided if I was going to lose revenue from one business that I would start up another business that I enjoyed learning in my early 20’s. That was the promotional products business. So I started Persnickety Promotions as an additional revenue stream. Soon afterward, I was asked by a client if I would create invitations for his daughter’s wedding. Since I understood the stationery business pretty well, I accepted the challenge and created a bridal stationery business, The Persnickety Bride. At the time, I had no intention of going any further in the bridal business. It wasn’t until several stationery clients mention how poorly they were treated at a local high-end bridal salon that I decided to expand the business into wedding dresses. It took me five years to decide to open a shop. In 2018 we opened the bridal shop and have had great success.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Selling bridal dresses was an incredibly passionate transition for me. I had already been very successful in selling to couples and their families custom wedding invitations. My grandmother who I mentioned earlier, was an incredible seamstress so I had a great understanding of fabric, lace, and the construction of garments.
I truly live by the word “persnickety” and was very selective on the lines of dresses we have curated for our shop.
I believe the one skill set that I have been able to discover is my excitement in learning about my brides, their relationships with their fiancé, and the wedding day they have planned. There is such a personal connection that we create together. The trust and compassion for each bride especially through this pandemic, has made me realize the level of strength and spirit I truly have inside of me. This is such a personal experience for both my bride and for me. I tend to feel very motherly and protective towards all of them and the vast majority accept that love very freely. It’s not a feeling you normally get in a sales environment.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
I love what I do. I truly get excited about speaking to each bride and learning about their love story. I know how special it was to meet my husband in my late 30’s. I had to move through a great deal of personal pain and trauma to reach a point to allow love properly into my life. I love listening to stories on how my brides meet their future spouse, their careers, their mutual goals. I am fortunate to work with extraordinary women, they are well educated, vibrant, and loving young ladies. I seem to draw that level of clientele to the store.
In terms of stories, I found myself in many situations acting as a mother to many of my brides. Either because there is a rift in the family or their mothers are deceased or unable to go out during covid. It has been such an honor to help them through some difficult times.
I have stepped up and told brides that I am their mother through the process. It is my honor to be their “Mama” Denise. It is in these times that I realize I’m sharing a moment I never had with my mother. It brings me joy to know that I am helping another woman create her new family. I recently had a mother stop by and thank me for being there when she had covid and couldn’t be there in person with her daughter. She was on zoom with us, but it was special to have her make the trip to the shop to personally thank me.
One bride had a custom dress made by another shop that was completely ruined in production.
I couldn’t believe the pictures when I saw them. It looked nothing like the custom dress the bride was expecting. Her wedding was three weeks away. Her father was in the hospital dying of cancer and she literally found us online and drove down to our shop and we got her a beautiful wedding dress in less than a week.
Another bride came to us the day before Connecticut went into lockdown for Covid.
She had gone to a high-end shop to pick up her wedding dress and there was about a foot of lace missing from the bottom of her dress. The shop admitted the measuring mistake, but would not reimburse the bride. The bride and her mom called our shop and came down to order a brand new dress from us. I serviced her with my husband’s woodworking shield over my face. We had the dress rushed as we thought we needed to do so based on her wedding date. Alas, the bride needed to change her date to 2021 and in the interim, her father had passed away from covid-19.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband Cary has been my biggest cheerleader. We are total opposites in business, but we are so supportive of each other in our career and life goals.
I never felt as though someone had my back in life. I was always the one to make things happen for myself and then he came into my life. Cary’s support and enthusiasm in all that I do and what we have done together are what keeps me uplifted and always striving for a new challenge.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
In developing this business, I have ventured into pursuing PR outlets that are interested in my personal story and business story. It has been very liberating to come out and speak of my life experiences in the media as well as with my clients. If I can make a difference in someone’s life or encourage them to break away from the fear of success, then I am happy to help. I look at all my experiences both in business and personally as a success story. Overcoming adversity and learning to deal with trauma and loss are very big parts of who I am as a person. Welcoming joy and stability into my life was a big factor in my success.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
When I first started in sales I was terrified. I remember my very first corporate meeting with the J.C. Penny catalog in New York City.
I was in my early 20’s and my hands were so clammy and I was terrified. My boss and I were there to present our “crated cassettes” they were old-time radio broadcasts in crates that were a perfect catalog item. I remember my boss having a little frog in his throat during the presentation and I jumped into the conversation to give him time to regroup. A sense of calm came over me. Over time, I realized that buyers were just people with the same goals, dreams, and problems as my own. There was no mystery behind them. They were just people.
In my work, I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
Wow, I just honestly spoke to my husband and said “I think I am going to open a bridal shop”. He was my support system. So was my assistant who is a great person and a balanced individual. My children were also excited for me and encouraged me. My past clients thought it was a terrific idea. I had nothing to lose.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I have lived a very fateful life.
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and that reason brings me to different places. Becoming a buyer at Waldenbooks brought me my first business of working with publishers and media companies. My experience in promotional products in my twenties had me open Persnickety Promotions. A client asking me to do their daughter’s stationery brought me to the bridal industry.
In my personal life, the internet brought me to my husband, to our first adoption agency, to my children in Kazakhstan, and well our houses in Atlanta and Connecticut. Our third daughter, Aeryn, I located on a special needs adoption board on a Saturday night, and she had the same birthday as my brother who was visiting us from New York that weekend.
That is why I believe fate has played a significant role in my life.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Make sure you always have product liability insurance.
In having DBP & Associates, Inc. we almost got into a consumer lawsuit, avoided it, and then I immediately got product liability insurance as well as other insurances to cover us. This was something I didn’t plan for but got everything straightened out right away.
Always have a backup to your excellent assistant.
I relied heavily on my assistant for years at DBP & Associates, Inc. when I moved to Atlanta without an assistant and had to carry the load myself it became a monumental job. I did get another assistant when I returned to CT, but the almost 2 years without an assistant was brutal.
Always get a decent bookkeeper.
Don’t ever expect people who say they know quick books to know what they are doing with your books. I have twice spent time recreating books that were either lost on a computer or completely messed up. Now I have a bookkeeping service as well as a CPA.
Do not be afraid to cut off a client for not keeping a deal.
I remember a client that owed my company 250,000 dollars. They promised us the money by a certain date and didn’t deliver. I had to hire an attorney in Chicago and soon afterward we received a FedEx with a 250,000 dollars check in the pouch. Three months later, the owner of the company called me as to why he hadn’t heard from me and why I hadn’t sent on any lists of products for sale. I told him that he didn’t pay his bill on time and that he didn’t keep his promise of payment. I told him that other clients pay on time and that I didn’t need to hire attorneys to get money from them. Therefore we were no longer doing business together.
Always hire an honorable attorney that you trust.
I was very fortunate to have the previous Legal VP of Waldenbooks as my lawyer when I started my company. He was an excellent corporate attorney and did a great job for me.
I ended up in a situation with a recording company entrepreneur who broke a consulting contract with my firm. I was fortunate that the attorneys on both sides were able to amicably resolve the situation and make my company whole in regards to the contract agreement.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I believe I would try to educate and inspire people to adopt children. I would want people to become educated on early childhood trauma and how it affects not only institutionalized children but those that deal with neglect. Finding ways of reworking our current system in this country and finding children their forever homes with parents that are educated on attachment disorder and early childhood trauma.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
I am a huge fan of Ron Howard’s work, Also love Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!