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Co-Founder of PDL Distributors: Penny Parolis

What business do you run?
My son Dimitri and I founded PDL Distributors (a distribution company) in October 1993 importing luxury women’s hosiery from Italy.  Dealing with such a fine quality product which made woman look and feel beautiful, was to become the PDL mantra and the beginning of our journey.   Today, besides the hosiery, we also import and distribute heritage world brands of lingerie, swimwear and shape wear.  Our belief and passion to be a positive influence on every woman, led us to open our first retail lingerie boutique, Inner Secrets Lingerie on the Atlantic Seaboard in 2005.  We have since opened 2 additional boutiques in Cavendish Square and at the Waterfront where we offer professional bra fittings by trained corsetieres and have also recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of our online store www.innersecrets.co.za

Why did you start your own business?
My children had left school and I was determined to start working after being mostly a stay at home mom. After a business partnership had gone sour, my son and I decided to start something of our own, hence the beginnings of PDL Distributors.

What are the hours that you work?
As this is a business that grew and developed from scratch, the hours we put in, depend on the demands, deadlines and developments needed to keep the business buoyant and striving ahead.

How many people work in your business?
We employ 35 people and some of our staff have been with us since our inception and have grown in rank.

What are the goals for your business?
The goals of our business are to motivate and make a positive difference in every person’s life that crosses our threshold, be it a client or a member of our team. We welcome women of all ages and sizes into our stores, offering them a personalised fitting and showing then how the correct fitting inner wear or foundation garments, as we call it, will make her automatically feel confident and beautiful within herself.  Time and time again, we have seen clients leave our stores feeling transformed after a professional fitting and exuding a new found confidence. This is a very satisfying and fulfilling part of the work we do

How do you handle pressure?
Pressure manifests itself in all walks of life, and in our company, we find that regular meetings at management level and going back to grass root levels, i.e. being in touch with all members of our team and listening and sharing with them their thoughts and experiences, often provides us with an answer to the way forward.

How would a man run your business differently?
As a woman, I feel that, I pay more attention to running the business holistically, not just concentrating on the finances, but also paying attention to the welfare and wellbeing of our team employed. As a family run business, I like to nurture the values of caring, respect for each other and equality within the business and of course as a woman who loves wearing lingerie, I can speak first-hand about the value of our brands

What do you do to relax?
I go to Art Classes every week, where, with the brilliant tuition of my art teacher, Paul Birchall, I have discovered that I enjoy doing portraits in oils.   I also enjoy taking long walks close to the ocean.   This clears my mind and feeds my soul.

If you had to start again what would you do better knowing what you know now?
I do not have regrets on how we started.   We started from scratch, humbly acknowledging that we had many lessons to learn as we advanced step by step on life’s journey.

Did you have to borrow money and if yes what route did you follow?
Naturally, to grow both the distribution and retail company, we needed capital to finance each step we took in the direction of growth.   Initially, my husband who was always behind us, lent us money to get our feet off the ground.  Over time we reinvested our profits in the company and borrowed money from the bank to finance new development stages in both our distribution and retail company.

What satisfaction do you get from running your own business?
The satisfaction I get is that our business has a positive effect in reaching out and uplifting a woman’s psyche and fortifying her wellbeing from the portfolio of brands we offer.

What makes your business successful?
We try to have our finger on the pulse, as there is constant change and nothing remains the same. We attend international conferences in Paris, Atlanta(USA) and Israel, where we are updated with new developments and trends.  It is also an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with the global family of suppliers whom we meet with annually at these conventions.  We always leave feeling inspired and ready to implement fresh ideas. 


What is your favourite mantra when things get tough to help you through difficult times?
Never give up and never lose the ability to laugh and see a funny side……laughing is therapeutic.  
We have had to face many challenges over the years as the company has grown, but together with our team, step by step and united, we are able to see the positive always and we have pulled through. 

5 important lessons we have learnt

  • Our faith and spirituality is the crux on which we base the actions of our existence
  • Be passionate in everything you do and follow your dreams
  • Nothing is built overnight. We strongly believe that everything is achieved step by step.
  • Try to make a positive difference, however small, by reaching out and touching someone’s life.
  • Don’t forget to smile and laugh daily; it has a rippling effect.

5 tools or tips we use:

  • Effective and efficient communication within the company and with our clients.
  • Passion and belief in our choice of the brands that make up out portfolio.
  • Integrity and standing by all we stand for.
  • Sharing knowledge with others
  • Ability to listen

Five books that have taught me the most in life and business:

  • The seven Habits of highly effective people-Steven Covey
  • Long Walk to Freedom -Nelson Mandela
  • The Alchemist-Paulo Coelho
  • How to stop Worrying and Start Living-Dale Carnegie.
  • The Legend and Life of Coco Channel-Justine Picardie