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An Unexpected and Celebratory Path

Meadows alumna enjoys success as a small business owner, credits SMU

Armando Aguirre | B.A. Creative Advertising '12

Heather Centurioni,
B.A. Journalism, '98.

In the spring of 1998, a young Colorado native named Heather Centurioni received a degree from Meadows in broadcast journalism and began navigating her adult life. The transition, which is a struggle for many, is something Centurioni handled quite well – as the survivor of a skiing accident that resulted in her leg being amputated while in high school, Centurioni is very accustomed to overcoming obstacles.

Shortly after leaving SMU, she relocated to Los Angeles. With medical considerations in mind, finding a job was crucial. "A lot of entry-level jobs aren't sufficient to cover the medical costs associated with having a prosthetic leg," she explains. "Disabled Americans have to have a full-time job with a group policy, or be married to someone with a full-time job."

Unable to buy her own health insurance, and too old to still be covered on her parents’ plan, Centurioni began looking for work. After several jobs that left her feeling unfulfilled, she finally landed a job she enjoyed. "I was able to reach out to connections I had made at SMU, and as a result found a paralegal position working for a patent attorney,” she says. Her strong research and writing abilities kept her in this role for nearly seven years.

In 2002, she got engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Steve Centurioni. Having always loved crafts, she opted to design her own wedding invitations. "I really enjoyed the experience and had a great response from my guests," she says. "People started asking me if I would make invitations for them, and I knew I had a business prospect on my hands." By 2004 her business was officially established, while she continued her job as a paralegal. With business steadily growing, she and her husband began planning their relocation to Dallas. A year later, she had quit her job, moved back to Dallas and made the decision to devote herself to her business: the design and production of custom, fabric-based stationery under the name "HBDesigns" (an homage to Centurioni's late sister, who used to refer to Heather as "HB").

Centurioni's booth at a May 2012 stationery show.

Since then, her business has tripled, but not without some initial doubt on Centurioni's part. In 2010, an old friend from Colorado, Randi Jaerbyn, visited Centurioni as she was planning a trip to a stationery trade show in New York City. "Randi decided to come with me. The feedback we received while in New York was great, and we took a lot of orders," she says. "Several trade publications gave us very good press, but I was still overwhelmed." Fortunately, Jaerbyn's encouragement spurred a partnership that has since proven very successful. "Randi and I have a great relationship – we truly have fun doing what we do. How can you not? We're in the celebration business!"

Although running a business in a rough economic climate can be challenging, Centurioni is optimistic and vows to "keep at it." When asked about the origins of her success, she says she owes SMU and Meadows a great deal. "The reason I'm able to run a small business is because of SMU. The combination of multi-tasking and leadership skills I learned there have proved invaluable to me."

Today, HBDesigns can be found in numerous nationwide stationery retailers including Papyrus, and is finalizing its product placement in several local stores as well.

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