Best Under 40: Connie Perez
Occupation: Designer and proprietor, Aesthetics
Family: Husband, Mark Perez; twin sons, Anthony and Christopher, 10
Education: Bachelors of fine arts in fashion design, Savannah College of Art and Design; teachers certification, secondary education, Eastern Illinois University
Favorite movie: "The Devil Wears Prada"
One word that describes you: Driven
What is your job and what makes you so good at it?
My job is helping others find their confidence in their own aesthetics by honing in on their style. I am good at what I do because I love helping people. I have the ability to see potential of great design in common objects and even unwanted ones. My creative approach to art and design has both humor and passion. My attention to detail is consistent from the execution of design, display, product and down to my customer service. I love my job. Because of my customers, I get to be the best version of me everyday with constant encouragement.
What accomplishments and innovations are you most proud of this year?
Moving forward toward my dreams while continuing to inspire and mentor the dreams of others. Starting a business in a recession is like having another child – you do what you can to support it and put many of your dreams and wants on hold. But this year through the encouragement of a great group of positive women I expanded the boutique side of my business. First growing by a foot, then half-way and finally all the way to the wall. I began carrying more fashion accessories that encouraged a leap into carrying clothes. This spring I began with one tower of clothing and now the store is full of clothes, accessories, and home decor. But there is a theme to my specialty boutique – it is affordable!
My other accomplishment was my decision to start an internship program this summer. Leaning on my expertise in the garment industry, teaching, and being a business owner I created a curriculum to give college students substantial experiences to build strong and competitive résumés and portfolios. I know I have given them a true taste of the industry and that they will have been exposed to real challenges and have the capacity to problem solve.
How do you give back to the community and what drives your community service?
I have always been a huge believer in community service. My kids have seen me pour countless hours into coordinating the Focus Raue event to give children a stage in which to discover their art. I give to the schools, arts, churches, the military, cancer research, homeless, and numerous charities and organizations. Some I seek out and others are brought to my attention through my customers and community members. I cofounded the Focus Event at the Raue Center for the Arts for three consecutive years. I also serve as a board member of the McGowan Gin Rosica Family Foundation. I volunteer in many service projects in Chicago through the foundation and serve as the representative for grant reviews and site visits for McHenry County Region.
What is something you have never done but want to do some day?
I usually don’t wait until someday, I am not a dreamer, I am a doer. I am inspired by life. I do not dream about living. I live!
What is the best career advice you have received?
To listen to all the suggestions people give you. It is the suggestions and perspectives that others have about my business that have been the compass of my journey. Every artist and designer has to be subject to the critique, otherwise they are being and artist for themselves and not a voice for others.
“Connie’s business is now set up as more of a retail store than ever before, but the individuals who shop there leave feeling a part of something special and genuine – not what you would expect from a retail transaction,” said customer and friend Noel Thelander.