Jeannie DelGreco – Realtor shares her Entrepreneurial Odyssey

Jeannie DelGreco and Jan Swift at taping of Discover Lafayette

Jeannie DelGreco, a Lafayette realtor with eXp Realty, joins Discover Lafayette to share her rich and storied entrepreneurial journey in sales.

While Jeannie’s current career today as a mom and realtor with eXp Realty is fulfilling and successful, in this interview, Jeannie looks back at the various lessons learned and experiences she survived that made her the person she is today. And to put it into perspective, Jeannie is a highly successful real estate agent with eXp Realty, being ranked in 2023 by the firm as the #4 sales agent in Lousiana and #2 in Acadiana with $14 million in sales volume.

While Jeannie has never thought of herself as a sales person, she remembers as a child launching a small business selling Mother of Thousands (Kalanchoe laetivirens) plants door to door all on her own. She says, “It was a brave thing to do, knocking on doors to sell the baby plants I had placed in small egg cartons, asking people to buy one for 25 cents or 4 for $1.00! At LSU as a student, she similarly worked with a friend, painting t-shirts or party cups for sorority events to earn extra spending money.

One summer changed Jeannie’s life trajectory when she was asked to spend the summer with her mother’s close friend from New Iberia, Sandra DeBlanc, who lived in Columbus, Ohio and was employed as Director of Sales for Victoria’s Secret Catalog. Sandy had served in the Air Force Intelligence during the Vietnam War, and was a wonderful role model for this young girl who needed a bit of direction. Sandy hired Jeannie to join the sales force team for Victoria’s Secret Catalog for the summer and she was on her way to learning customer relations.

During the time Jeannie worked for Victoria’s Secret Catalog, it was before the internet became a dominant method way to make sales, and people had to phone in their orders. Catalogs were mailed out weekly and the sales force in Columbus were mainly college girls such as Jeannie. She loved the work and learned how build rapport with customers. She learned how to deal with people who were calling in angry about an order that had gone awry, as well as those who were just shopping, asking for assistance. Jeannie found it natural and easy to describe the garments, get the customers to envison themselves in an outift, and suggest ways to finish a look, encouraging customers to buy more, thereby increasing average order volume. She remained in Columbus, and attended The Ohio State University studying business, marketing, and human resources.

“I loved the sales work at Victoria’s Secret Catalog, and I also learned key lessons from my mom’s friend, Sandy, who taught me that you have to pay your dues in the work place. Don’t expect to come in and be promoted right away. You have to earn your position.”

On the day of Jeannie’s graduation from The Ohio State University, her parents were in town and attended a festival with her. While enjoying the festival, she met a milliner named Patricia Shypertt who made custom hats and holding a raffle to give away a flat travel hat to the lucky winner. Lo and behold, Jeannie won the hat and started a conversation with the milliner inquiring about her practice of designing hats. This serendipitous event led Jeannie down another path, where she decided to become a milliner. She quit her job at Victoria’s Secret Catalog, became a waitress to support herself, and started making custom hats in Columbus, Ohio.

“I had always had this idea that to be artistic, it had to begin when you were very young. You couldn’t change course in your 20’s. Patricia Shypertt (the milliner who mentored Jeannie) was in her 40’s and she said, ‘Oh no, I just learned how to do this two or three years ago. I’ll help you in any way I can.”

After Jeannie began garnering clients, her parents wanted to invest in her company, and took her on a buying trip to New York City. While there, her dad suggested that they explore the real estate rental options. They found a loft in Nolita (North of Little Italy) in lower Manhatten at 212 Bowery Street, just a few doors down from the famous Bowery Mission. Her dad asked her if she wanted to move to the city, and he covered the initial rental costs of securing the loft space. The loft would take about two months to be ready and Jeannie moved to NYC to open her millinery business there.

A small wholesale rep company, Meridian, signed Jeannie on to market her custom hats, along with other entrepreneurial artists making custom jewelry, pottery, etc for display and sale. All the supplies she needed were right there in the Garment District in NYC and her loft conveniently included an outdoor space where she could spray the toxic chemicals needed to shape and set the hat’s form. Jeannie quickly garnered a great following of Orthodox Jewish customers who wore hats every day, and before she knew it, she had a large contract to supply hats for the renowned J. Peterman company. She was careful to be professional in her business dealings, having formed an LLC to protect herself personally from liability or monetary claims.

But, unfortunately, J. Peterman never completely paid Jeannie’s company for the hats she sent them as the company went into bankruptcy. Initially, they had sent her $8,000 of the $24,000 they owed, which she deposited into her LLC bank account. After bugging them daily to find out when she could expect the balance she finally learned the heartbreaking news that J. Peterman had filed for bankruptcy and there would be no further payments. She asked to have her hats back, so she could sell them, but she learned the hard way about Rule # 1 in bankruptcy: when a company or individual goes into bankruptcy, all assets are frozen and unpaid merchandise is not returned. She was left holding the bag for the remainder of the invoice.

She decided to shut down her hat business, realizing that a 9 to 5 job wasn’t so bad after all, with a lot less stress. She took a job at Delia’s, one of the first factory direct sales outlets focusing on young teen consumers, which sparked a fashion revolution.

All was well until the day she remembers her then-boyfriend/now-husband, Anthony, was visiting her apartment and noticed she had gotten mail from J. Peterman. Jeannie didn’t want to open it, as she was done with the retailer unless they gave her back her hats so she could recoup her losses. So Anthony opened the letter and informed her that she was being sued by J. Peterman, demanding that she send back the $8,000.00 An unbelievable outcome, until you realize Rule # 2 of bankruptcy: the bankruptcy trustee goes back 60 to 90 days from the time the debtor files for bankruptcy to retrieve any and all payments the bankrupt made to third parties during that time! While she was operating business under her LLC, the $8,000.00 check had been made payable to her personally, and she had deposited it into her LLC bank account not thinking anything of it. She was found to be personally liable and responsible for paying back the money she was paid.

Pictured is the actor, John O’Hurley, who played J. Peterman on the NBC Seinfeld show, along with the actual John Peterman, founder of J. Peterman. At the 11th hour of bankruptcy proceedings of the J. Peterman company in 1999, O’Hurley bailed out the company, becoming an investor and co-owner of the company, and is a co-owner to this day. Photo attributed to

Jeannie was never made whole for her $24,000 invoice for custom hats, and had to file for personal bankruptcy on the advice of legal counsel. “I felt like a truck hit me. J. Peterman still had my hats, and I thought, please just give them back, I can sell them and pay my expenses incurred while creating them. I got legal advice to file for personal bankruptcy, which went against my grain and upbringing.” She had to go to bankruptcy court in NYC and today looks back and feels as though she earned an MBA with all she went through as a small business owner. “Most laws are not skewed in favor of small business people. Such is life. You can either be resilient, pick up and move on, or you can be a victim. That is not me to be a victim.”

In the meantime, while working at Delia’s running the sales force, Jeannie realized the company wasn’t hitting their marks on sales. She was interviewed by a consultant, who ironically had come from Victoria’s Secret Catalog where Jeannie had previously worked, who was brought in to troubleshoot for Delia’s. After a long day of him listening to Jeannie coach the sales team, the consultant asked what he could do to help and she responded, “Get me the sales people from Columbus.” The realization of the employee pool and the ever-rising costs of prime real estate in NYC led the management team at Delia’s to shut down and move the entire business to Columbus, Ohio.

Jeannie, along with the 250 former employees of Delia’s sales team, received a nice severance package. Jeannie decided to get certified in yoga, and studied under the world-renowned Cyndi Lee, in Union Square, New York City.

Jeannie Derouen DelGreco studied for ten months under the tutelage of the world-renowned Cyndi Lee, the first female Western yoga teacher to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism. Lee founded and ran the OM yoga enter, and is one of the most influential teachers of yoga in the U. S. and abroad, having trained thousands of yogis.

When it was time to get back to a day job, Jeannie joined Kiehl’s, a high-quality skin care company in New York City, which at the time was located solely at Third Avenue and East 13th Street, which is now its flagship store. The company had originally opened in 1851, and had remained a small family-owned store until being purchased by L’Oreal in 2000. Jeannie was brought on as a part of the team to help transfer operations from a family owned business to the world of corporate America. Kiehl’s wanted to maintain its focus on extreme customer service and Jeannie brought just the right skills to the table.

Time went on, and she and her husband, Anthony, were living in Queens, NY, with two small children, and he was an IT Director with New York Life. Anthony was tired of commuting long distances to get to work and missed seeing his young children as he left early and returned late from work each day. Plus, Anthony had always wanted to live in the South, and Lafayette was the perfect place to relocate with Jeannie’s family ties. He looked for a job and found one with a local bank in Lafayette. When Anthony informed his New York Life employer of his decision to move, they countered the next day to allow him to keep his position and work remotely from Lafayette, which was a much better fit given his years of experience with the company. This was in the early days after 9/11 when people were just realizing that you didn’t have to be onsite for a job to effectively work, but not many people were actually taking advantage of this. Off to Lafayette the DelGreco family moved.

In the early days of their move, Jeannie taught yoga at Red’s and City Club, and got into the volunteer lifestyle. But she was soon ready for another business challenge, and met two friends, Jana Hickey and her mother, Charlotte Ducote, who encouraged her to get her license to become a realtor. Jeannie quickly realized she had to hustle to get clients as no one just calls you up asking for help.

Jeannie jumped into the work world, learning how to service clients effectively by shadowing successful realtors and took classes. She originally started at Keller Willliams, for which she credits great training. Her first sale involved a son of someone she met at Red’s, who wanted to buy a mobile home. Her first sale involved “Wheel Estate!”

Jeannie has used all the skills gained throughout her sales career to break down barriers to success in the real estate business. Her journey has helped her weather the inevitable ups and downs in the real estate business. She will cold call potential clients, and identifies opportunities which others may overlook. Jeannie generously shared her tactics during our interview, which include calling neighbors of a house which recently sold to see if they might want to sell their home as the home has the right address, the right neigborhood to successful sell. She will also call people whose listing agreement recently expired, to see if they might want to partner with her, and even reaches out to people who live in a desirable neighborhood that a client wants to live in, to see if they have considered selling.

Jeannie DelGreco says about cold calling potential sellers, “I’m not trying to sell, I’m just asking if they any interest in selling. Lo and behold, people will say they really do want to sell, how did I know? That it is a sign from God that she called.” She believes in being honest with people who are looking at homes and points out issues before they become a problem, such as a perceived defect in a property. That way, all involved are informed and able to make an educated decision. A true professional.

Discover Lafayette wants to thank Jeannie DelGreco for being such a gracious guest on our show. For more information or to get in touch with Jeannie, visit