STARTUP: Dionne Sandiford launches a cozy concept

Instead of giving herself a fancy C-suite title, the unassuming owner and founder of Corporate Stitch he designates his role as “Threadmaster”.

That is because dionne sandford is quick to tell you how networking helped her grow what started as a side job at a company that introduced its first signature product in April: cozy covers.

“People who say they ‘bleached’ themselves are either extremely narcissistic or just lying, because you can’t possibly do even the smallest thing yourself,” says the enterprising seamstress, as she discusses her true business relationship quilt.

Doug Lineberry, who specializes in intellectual property as a partner at the Greenville law firm Burr & Forman, would counter that the 3-year start-up is not insignificant. After all, he is working to get a federal trademark for Cozy Covers.

“She has a good concept, and she’s just trying to get a business off the ground and do it with her own chutzpah,” he says. “I love that”.

Sandiford’s invention looks like a sleeping bag but slides over foam mats like you’d find in a daycare or emergency shelter; one pocket holds a pillow. What makes Cozy Covers different? Folds up into a tote bag.

But the prototype might still be covered in dust if it weren’t for a friend who told him to clean out his corporate headquarters workshop in the basement of his Easley home.

“I took it off the shelf and started doing something with it last year,” she says. “I didn’t forget about it, I just didn’t think it was good enough.”

Such is the fabric of Sandiford’s personality. Even as he weaves his stories about attending conferences, joining small business organizations and networking with powerful corporate executives, he never fails to sound like a self-promotional machine.

“I don’t really like talking to people,” she says. “If I could stay here all day and just sew and embroider and have a little me in the universe, that’s what I would want.”

Still, at a conference, he met Joan Benore, vice president of Benore Logistic Systems, a nationwide transportation company.

There, Sandiford spoke about her minority- and women-owned business and demonstrated her honesty and integrity, Benore says.

“She’s there to build a relationship and make sure it’s a relationship that works both ways,” says Benore. “She’s a business and she needs to make sure she’s making a profit, but she doesn’t make you feel like that’s her first priority, where other companies do.”

From Corporate Stitch, Benore now orders baby blankets and beach and golf towels with the company logo and as many as 2,000 uniforms a year, she says.

A decade ago, Sandiford moved from New York to Greenville. After leaving corporate life, he worked part-time at Chick-fil-A while starting his own business. His bread and butter products still include t-shirt quilts and memory quilts, teddy bears and the like.

His company survived the pandemic by producing cut-and-sew masks and surgical caps. Now, most of its production comes from embroidery and heat-print orders from suppliers like BMW Tier 1 and the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

“He was doing well,” says Pam Grant, one of two Corporate Stitch employees. “And I’ve seen the growth of her in her since I’ve been here so long. She has probably at least tripled what she was making when I arrived two years ago.”

Sandiford also credits his faith and the inspiration he still receives from his late paternal grandmother. Originally from Turks and Caicos and Antigua, Lola Sandiford worked as a maid on the set of Manhattan’s Park Avenue and Madison Avenue while she was raising Dionne in Harlem after Dionne’s mother died when she was 6 years old.

“I hope my grandmother is proud of me,” he says.

Lineberry sounds like it is. “Many projects fail because it is a dream and no one is willing to put their knuckles in the dust or the blood, sweat and tears necessary to achieve it.”

He adds: “She has the energy for it.”

A patchwork quilt of achievements, honors and awards.

In April, Sandiford officially launched Cozy Covers in downtown Greenville in conjunction with Furman University’s Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Here are some milestones that got her there:

The Greenville Chamber of Commerce recognized Corporate Stitch as its 2021 Minority Business of the Year last May, noting, “Sandiford has grown the company exponentially, even during the pandemic, demonstrating business excellence.”

That same year, he was among two dozen entrepreneurs in the first graduating class of GVL Starts, a state and local entrepreneurship program. In October, GVL Starts selected her to launch Cozy Covers. She was one of three participants who received $5,000 each.

Also in October 2021, Rachel Luna, bestselling author and international speaker, invited Sandiford to tell her story at the Activated by Confidence Conference in Atlanta, where she met Jamie Kern Lima, the first L’Oréal CEO to sell her TI Cosmetics company to L’Oréal for $1.2 billion. Lima soon ordered $10,000 worth of Cozy Covers to be donated to day care centers and foster homes.

In January 2019, Sandiford won a grant from the Carlo and Nika White Foundation. In May, Corporate Stitch was named Eugenia Duke’s Woman-Owned Business of the Year.

He graduated from the chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator Program in December 2018.

In January 2016, it was the featured company at the 2016 BMW Supplier Diversity Matchmaker Conference.

Licenses and certifications

  • Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Small Business Enterprise.
  • South Carolina Department of Transportation (she embroiders hats for SCDOT) Certified minority and women owned business.
  • South Carolina Small and Minority Business Division.

Sources: Dionne Sandiford, Corporate Stitch and LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment