On December 30, 2009, White Plains resident Linda Cuono was the Chief Executive Officer of the American branch of Clerici Tessuto, a high end textile producer based in Italy. On December 31st, she was unemployed. She's been trying to find work since.
Clerici Tessuto still has a foothold in Manhattan, but, according to Cuono, they are having a hard time. The company markets to high end fashion designers, haute coutouriers such as Giorgio Armani, Versacci and Chanel. Cuono, who lives in the Club Pointe development, executed sales, travelled frequently to Italy, checked the books, and worked with high end fabric designers.
"After that," she said recently, "you can't exactly go and sell some mass product made in China."
So she's changing tacks.
"Da cosa nasce cosa," she said. It translates roughly as, "From one thing, another is born."
Cuono participated in a program created by Westchester Jewish Community Services, Women Helping Women. In January the program gave a seminar in goal setting and Cuono attended.
The program was first presented in Greenburgh, and, after it became clear there was a need, quickly expanded into New Rochelle, Tarrytown and Pleasantville, as well as White Plains.
Lenore Rosenbaum, Women Helping Women's director, a Hartsdale grandmother who has worked at Westchester Jewish Community Services for more than 20 years, said the program grew from discussions in December of 2009. Women Helping Women operates under the aegis of the WJCS, with grant money provided by The Leir Charitable Foundation.
In addition to a series of six seminars for unemployed women covering social networking, resume writing, and" the elevator speech", among other things, Women Helping Women participants meet on the first Friday of each month (although not in July) to network and keep up with one anothers' progress. The job hunt for many is frustrating, and hearing others' stories helps them cope.
More than 400 women have participated in seminars since they began.
"This is telling me that this[recession] is not over," Rosenbaum said.
Before the goal setting workshop Cuono was told to cut out pictures that reminded her of goals she had for the forthcoming year. At the workshop, she and other participants pasted the pictures to large posters and wrote explanations of what the photos meant. She still refers to the poster, her vision board.
The photos show the goals Cuono wants to achieve. The first is a photo of a woman exercising. Cuono now does yoga regularly.
Another photo asks, "What will you celebrate?"
"I see the glass as half empty," she said. "I need to celebrate more."
Her other goals were to volunteer more and to start her own business. Attending the seminar led directly to her current involvement selling Mary Kay products. The seminar was run by Patty Franco, a corporate leadership consultant and a Mary Kay director herself.
At the end of the seminar Franco offered a facial to anyone interested in selling the products. Cuono agreed to the facial and a short pitch. By the end of the pitch she'd decided to join Franco at Mary Kay.
"I thought, 'What the heck. Instead of waiting, let me start.'"
She believes in the product and in the Mary Kay work ethic.
"Their work ethic is the golden rule," Cuono said. "It's worked into how people are paid. Having said that, it's difficult. It's not easy. Right now I'm in a slump," she says. "But I'm committed to it."
"I worked my whole life," she said. "School, graduate work: I've always been busy. Not being busy, it's scary."
Cuono found the workshop through the Westchester/Putnam One Stop Employment Program, where she'd been training in computers. She recommends Women Helping Women and another group, Lives in Transition, in Rye, New York.
Although she has taught high school English and worked in textiles, Cuono made a commitment to Mary Kay.
"What I'm aiming for is directorship," she says, a position from which she can mentor other Mary Kay sales people. "That's appealing to me. I'm also a teacher. I love that."
Still, textile production is a siren song she can't ignore.
"There's a small producer who wants me to work with him in Como. He's having a lot of success with luxury hotels," she said.
After her last job in textiles she thought she didn't want to work in textiles again. "I really was—forget it. That's over, it's done. But I'm thinking: Maybe. We'll see."