April/May 2012 - Issue VI
"If there’s a will there’s a way." It’s as if this quote was modeled after the life of Darlene Casias. Talk about dedication, as the owner and CEO of her own company, D.C. Interiors, you can see why there is so much success to talk about, that’s because there’s a Chicano woman, but primarily, a true leader behind the wheel.
In a nutshell, D.C. Interiors is a federal contractor that primarily provides work for the federal government. They sell office furniture to the federal government all over the world and have been in business for about 8 years, yet "I have been in the business for about 20 years helping other companies," said Darlene.
The D.C. Interiors corporate office is located in San Antonio, yet they too have offices in Tennessee, Kentucky, and in Virginia. Soon, they will also have offices in Florida and California. What sets D.C. Interiors apart from other interior design companies is that, since having recently received a large GSA (General Services Administration) contract, this has allowed them to broaden their horizons. Aside from the furniture design, they can now do everything from lighting, to painting, carpeting, and artwork, all under one contract. Rather than looking for various companies to do a particular job, D.C. Interiors is the one stop shop. They have it all. And the best part of all is that they are a small, woman and minority-owned business, truly one of the few that combines all that. "It wasn’t very common to see a woman at the negotiating table with men, much less a Latina, yet, I put myself up there with the big boys. I guess that’s a little well-deserved pat on the back to myself," said Darlene.
Darlene was also just awarded a million-dollar contract a week ago for decorating the brand-new NATO flight-training school at Sheppard Air Force Base, which will be the location where every NATO officer from around the world will receive their training. "It was eight of us pitching our companies’ capabilities to the federal government, yet I think it was my passion when speaking about what we do here, that I truly feel made them believe that we were the right match for them," said Darlene. This is pretty amazing, but not unbelievable considering Darlene’s upbringing.
Enough about the business end though, hold on to your seats because once you truly know WHO Darlene Casias is, I guarantee that you will be blown away! Born in Los Angeles, but growing up in San Antonio, allowed Darlene to have that "lucha" in her, which kept her going even when the going got tough. She didn’t always have all the luxuries that she has now, being that she grew up in a family of 8 siblings and a mother who was constantly battling a heart condition. Sadly, her father too was sick and had a stroke when she was younger. "So early on, I always knew that I wanted to contribute and help do whatever I could to help my family," said Darlene. Darlene also grew up with a very religious background, something that gave her that strong moral backbone of hers that truly is reflected in the way that she directs her company, with true devotedness and compassion for her employees.
"Funny thing was that I remember my Mama sent us to church every day, on Monday I was a Mormon, Tuesday a member of the Latter Day Saints and Wednesdays a Catholic. "It was really funny, she [mom] would say it doesn’t matter Mija, it’s all the same God just go to church. I truly think she was just trying to get rid of her 8 kids being home at all times," she said with a chuckle. Yet, much to her dismay, those confusing, early "religious" days, were what gave her the wholehearted integrity with which she leads. Another particular instance that she remembers growing up, was her father telling her at a young age that "nothing was ever going to be given to her, she had to work for what she wanted." A young Casias took this message to heart. Here is where the truly inspirational part sets in.
Darlene always did what she had to do to help her family’s financial situation, so she actually worked in the migrant fields as well. "Talk about hard work, that’s why I have great respect for people, because I remember being about 12 years-old and waking up at 4 a.m., working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and getting home at around 7 p.m. after picking onions, apples, cherries, you name it, all day long." said Darlene. Being that the fields were in the upper deserts of California, the temperatures were extreme, either bitterly cold or terribly hot. The work was hard, yet that was the only way that Darlene knew she could make some money. One night after a hard days work, she came home and told her father embarrassingly, "Apa, please don’t tell my friends what I’m doing if they come by," because it was summertime so surely her friends were going to come looking for her to play. Yet, in a more emotional tone she told us what her father told her in response to her request that night, "Mija don’t ever be afraid of making an honest living, or being ashamed of it." This was something that stuck with Darlene, and hasn’t left her heart yet.
It is truly a compilation of all of the values earned from her faith, her hard work ethic, her family morals and her passion for life, that has allowed her to succeed in a business where it’s usually men who are the most influential and at the top of the game in the interior-design world. Darlene IS the difference. Her message to those who have a dream: "No matter what your upbringing may be, no matter what you’ve done, don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. If you have the will and you have the passion then go for it! Don’t let anything stop you." Her Mama and Apa didn’t get to see how the young girl, who often helped around the house to make ends meet, turned out to be…A hardworking and exceptionally successful CEO and owner of a thriving furniture and interior design company. From the heavens, surely Mama and Apa would be proud!
To learn more about D.C. Interiors, visit the company website at www.dcioffice.com.