I confess: I am a slob — which makes me the target audience for Debbie Wiener’s Slobproof products. She is the Silver Spring mompreneur who has built a thriving business on a “camouflage the dirt” approach to home decorating.
Her philosophy is to decorate for the way you really live, not for impressing the neighbors.
Wiener is no Martha Stewart, but she is raking in a high-six-figure income. She earned more than $1 million one year — enough to take her son to Israel for a month to be bar mitzvahed. She built a dream house on the Chesapeake Bay.
Wiener is also the mother of the Paint Pen, a gimmicky household item that helps moms paint over the nicks on walls and furniture.
“Having a neutral color is like having another kid in the house,” said the 54-year-old mother of two. “It requires constant care and supervision. I live with slobs, and I spend my life trying to outsmart them. Everything I do is in Slobproof.”
Like most successful people, she runs on confidence, not reflection. Describing Wiener as voluble would be selling her short.
She is a hurricane.
“Nothing scares me. No one intimidates me. I know who I am. I have been through menopause. I don’t let anyone make me uncomfortable,” she says. “Second, I am not afraid to fail. I am terrified of doing nothing.”
Wiener said she is first and foremost a mother. She is also a passionate advocate for female entrepreneurs. She is a semi-regular on Steve Harvey’s talk show, where she gives advice to businesswomen.
Wiener’s business education began where she grew up, in Boston. Her father had the New England business for Sealy mattresses.
“He was a very good businessman and the single greatest influence in my life,” she said.
After graduation from the University of New Hampshire, she had a successful career advising chemical companies on how to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
“It was a ball,” she said. She traveled frequently, was her own boss and earned a nice salary with benefits.
She gave it up in 1991 to raise her children, living on savings and family help.
Then came what she calls “my Scarlett O’Hara moment.”
Her charge card was declined while in a Kmart checkout line buying stuff for her son’s Thanksgiving project. She called her husband, she said, and he confirmed they were broke.
“I put my hands on the steering wheel and said, ‘As God is my witness, no way will my charge card ever be denied in a Kmart again.’ ”
But her attempts to resume her chemical-industry career went nowhere. Her phone calls went unanswered.
Then she had an idea. She would cash in on the decorating advice she had dispensed for free to her friends.
“The only thing I have to sell is my own good taste,” she said. “I didn’t know if I had good taste. So I said I will start charging my friends for designing advice instead of giving it away for free.”