"I feel real loyalty toward PNC. Everyone I meet with, from my business banker to the branch representatives, knows me and works to support my needs."
If you caught her on Food Network's "Restaurant Impossible" a couple of seasons ago, you might never guess that the gutsy, creative and confident interior designer who breathed new life into restaurants on the verge of collapse has spent the better part of her 11-year career proving and re-proving that she is a formidable contender in her field.
"Experience drives the design business," explains Vanessa DeLeon, who began Vanessa DeLeon Associates (VDA) when she was only 21. "Clients like to see years of experience before entrusting you with their six-figure projects."
Yet Vanessa wasn't inexperienced before striking out on her own. After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she worked with the prestigious Ralph Lauren and then partnered with her father in a furniture business, where she discovered her knack for interior design. When she returned to school, this time to Berkeley College for Interior Design in Paramus, New Jersey, she simultaneously launched VDA, which now has two offices in New Jersey and Manhattan.
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A pivotal point in Vanessa's career was her interview to appear on "The Apprentice." Although she made it to the final round, she wasn't selected to be a contestant. "The experience inspired me to press on," says Vanessa. "I knew if I had the chance to shine, I could move my business to the next level."
What happened next was a whirlwind of media exposure that has fueled VDA's growth. Vanessa was featured on HGTV's "Generation Renovation," "Designer's Challenge," "Bang for Your Buck" and "Design Star." After the Food Network recruited her for a season of "Restaurant Impossible," New York Spaces, Design NJ, (201) home, Latina, Time, Entertainment and Cosmopolitan magazines began tapping her expertise. As an editor of SOMA Magazine, she writes about restaurant and nightclub interior design, and she is the design editor of Bella Petite Magazine. Her work has also been featured in five books - most recently "Shore Decor." Vanessa has also filmed a pilot for a reality series about her design firm that's being shopped to several networks.
"My five-year plan includes leveraging my media exposure to build a brand of home decorating products," Vanessa shares. "I'm in the process of developing lines of fabrics, rugs, bed and bath ensembles, and ready-made window treatments. I continue to look for new ways to expand my business."
As VDA grows, PNC, which provided Vanessa's first business loan and line of credit, continues to offer the financial products, services and insights Vanessa counts on. "I'm not the multimillion-dollar account yet, but PNC treats me like I am; in fact, they've treated me that way from the start," says Vanessa. "Everyone I meet with, from my business banker to the branch representatives, knows me and works to support my needs. I feel real loyalty toward PNC."