On Their Own
Three women’s paths to entrepreneurship
Many people dream of being their own boss, but not many get their wish. These three women started their own businesses, prospered, and never looked back.
As a journalism major, it never occurred to Sarah Worden that she would have success as a floral designer. A Connecticut native, she went west to Colorado College, played lacrosse, and thought about how to pursue a career in educational programming. “I went to work for WBGH in Boston,” Worden says. “I wanted to do real production and programming and WBGH only handled the business side, but I stayed and learned all I could.”
While in Colorado, she had met Nat Worden, also a New Englander, and they married soon after graduating. “I had worked for some floral designers while I was in Boston; I just had never imagined it as a real career.” The couple moved back to Connecticut and Worden took classes to learn more about trees, gardens, and landscape design, culminating in her master gardener’s certification from the University of Connecticut.
“When I became pregnant and took maternity leave, I decided that was as good a time as any to start my own business,” Worden explains. “I established a website, had cards made, and started promoting myself.” Thus, Sarah Worden Natural Design was born.
Her business has grown from creating floral arrangements for weddings to large dinner parties and major fundraisers. Last year she designed 25 weddings, which included the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids’ flowers, as well as all the table arrangements. “People usually hire me because I have a natural style. I do grow some flowers, but rely on wholesalers and I am a big forager.”
She has now segued into total event planning and can present a client with the whole package. While the business grew slowly, she now has become well known and people love what she produces.
Native Californian Frankie Winter was an English major but knew she didn’t want to teach. She got an internship at a graphic-design studio in San Francisco and decided that was her calling.
After working with Clement Mok, part of the original design team at Apple, she wanted to return to Italy. She made her way to Florence and landed a job with one of the most influential designers of this century: Tom Ford at Gucci. “They hired me as the assistant art director. I worked under Tom for six years and followed when they moved the design operation to London.”
Winter was in charge of all graphic design, from catalogs, advertising, invitations, and media kits, and helped develop the Gucci website. “It was an exciting time,” Winter says. “A lot of people have a dream and it doesn’t get realized. But mine did.”
Winter eventually moved to New York and took time off to regroup. It was then that she discovered Connecticut. “I had read an article about fly-fishing in Kent. I always wanted to learn how to fly fish and wound up renting a house on the Housatonic.”
In short order she bought a house, started Frankie Winter Design, got married, had two children, and got divorced. In 2001, she landed another influential design client: Jimmy Choo. “They needed someone in the States to do all the regional designing. I am still working with them.”
Locally she’s done work for organizations that include the Oliver Wolcott Library, Litchfield Garden Club, Berkshire School, and Indian Mountain School. “It’s the perfect combination for me,” Winter says. “I get to live in a beautiful place and maintain the excitement of working with an international company.”
As a branding manager Ronnie Maddalena has always focused on corporate identity. After graduating from Cornell, she started her own freelance business Social Comments. “Through local jobs for banks and art galleries I began to do work for companies in New York,” she says. That was when she met her husband Michael, a client at the time.
She found her niche in corporate identity and packaging design and with a friend started a company specializing in customer loyalty programs. Their client list grew to include Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Cunard, and Smith Barney. When her husband bought an interest in a company in Connecticut they decided to move here. “It brought us to this incredible community,” she says. She became involved with local nonprofits and joined the Washington Art Association.
Recently, a medical-technology company hired her as brand manager. While she still works for local organizations, her new endeavor has created a whole new challenge for her.
“I love being able to parlay my creativity ability into helping companies and making visual statements. Going to work is like playing and as long as that keeps happening, I am very happy—and feel very lucky.”
Photo of Frankie Winter by Peter Baker