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Dion Peronneau is a matchmaker of sorts. Since 1990, she has built the Dion Peronneau Agency, an image-development firm that matches hair, makeup and wardrobe stylists with entertainers to help these stars create the optimum visual expression of their music.
“When MTV came about, people began to realize how much of a tool image is in selling music,” says Peronneau, whose Los Angeles-based agency now grosses in the high six figures annually and has experienced a 30% increase in revenues since its inception.
Peronneau’s father, an aerospace engineer, and mother, who began as a registered nurse and later became an attorney, always encouraged her to follow a traditional career path. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Florida State University, Peronneau returned to Los Angeles to work as an emergency room medical technician at St. John’s Hospital. She enjoyed the fast pace of the ER and the satisfaction she got from helping people. But when her mother was admitted with cancer to the hospital where Peronneau worked-and where she died six weeks later-Peronneau’s desire to work in the medical field waned.
After looking inward for professional direction, she rediscovered her love of art. “Art was always an outlet for me,” says Peronneau. She began hand-painting her original designs onto cruisewear, which she sold at boutiques from Martha’s Vineyard to Hawaii. Although she made a comfortable living for four years, being creative on demand became increasingly difficult. “It started to become more of a chore than a thrill,” she says. Again, she sought to change professional direction.
Soon after, she began assisting the owner of Lily Etcie, an antique wardrobe house in Los Angeles that rented pricey period pieces for film and music productions. The job gave her exposure to film and music industry professionals and a clear idea of how the business operated. In 1990, she was prepared to strike out on her own and represent hair, makeup and wardrobe artists.
Her opportunity came when she was introduced to a successful wardrobe stylist who happened to be looking for another agency to represent her. “[The stylist] felt her prior agent had too many clients and she wasn’t getting the appropriate personal attention. Well, that was perfect for me because I didn’t have any,” says Peronneau with a smile.
With $30,000 in start-up capital drawn from personal savings, as well as earnings from her cruisewear design days, the Peronneau Agency was born. Peronneau signed two stylists and began aggressively seeking more by spending time on music video sets, meeting producers and directors, and contacting record companies.
“I really didn’t know anything about a business plan until I was in [business],” admits Peronneau. “I would never suggest young people do it the way I did it. Shooting from the hip is wonderful, but you have to have a clear-cut plan and be able to stick to it.”
She suffered her first setback in 1994, when a major earthquake rocked Northridge, a suburb of Los Angeles, and trashed her home. “I walked up eight flights of stairs of a