For New Jersey housewife, Dolores Catania, reality TV has been a means to reinvention.
The spirited mother of two, who has held posts as a correction officer, surgical technician, and now a television star and fitness studio owner, may be one of the newest cast members on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but she has quickly emerged as one of the most sensible and empathetic of them all. Catania, who hails from Paterson NJ, tells SWAAY that despite taking an unconventional path in life, most notably skipping a formal college education, she has found empowerment and purpose, in part because of her reality show.
“My life inspiration is to constantly get out of my comfort zone,” says Catania, who became a correctional officer after she graduated high school. “Back when I wanted to be a cop you didn’t need to go to college. It was a blue collar mentality; you’ll have your pension and benefits, you know what you are getting paid every week. I liked law enforcement and I looked up to my dad who became Chief of Police.”
Despite now being divorced for 15 years, she and her ex-husband and business partner, Frank, have a better relationship than most married couples. Their two kids, Gabrielle, 21, and Frankie, 18, may keep the reality star on her toes these days (she says she's not looking forward to her son leaving the nest), Catania found herself bored as a stay-at-home-mom.
“It’s all about drive and not being fearful.”
“When I had my daughter I thought ‘I’m married to an attorney and I thought I can stay home,” says Catania, who openly talks about her husband being unfaithful during her pregnancy, which left her as a single mom unexpectedly. “My mom always worked so I thought I wanted to be there. I soon found that you give up on yourself and lose yourself quickly. Sitting home watching cartoons not doing your hair and makeup, you lose your mojo. You go to the mall to shop at Marshalls. That was my life. I wouldn’t trade it but it did get mundane. I was afraid and insecure and I always thought that if I don’t have an education how can I do anything.”
In order to restart her life and get re-motivated after five years, Catania decided to go back to school and get her real estate license. She says she was petrified of taking the test and began planning how she would retake it before even setting foot in the testing room.
“I was sweating,” she says. “I am very fearful of math. I set myself up for failure. I want women not to be afraid and to have confidence. A lack of confidence is your biggest demise.”
Catania says after unexpectedly passing the exam, she did well in real estate thanks to a strong housing market, but that didn’t last.
“When the real estate market crashed we had to pull together,” says Catania, who then decided she wanted to formalize her education and study to be a surgical technician, which took three years.“It always bothered me that I didn’t have a [college] education,” says Catania. “I live in an affluent area and people always ask where I went to school. I always felt like not answering, so I decided to do something about it.”
Catania Family courtesy of Bravo
Powerhouse Gym in Old Bridge, NJ, which was featured on Real Housewives, now has over 11,000 members and Catania says she just opened a second location also called Powerhouse in Whippany, NJ. According to Catania, having the show as a platform has helped her, and in turn, her business gain popularity.
“My inspiration for the show and for the gym is to tell women don’t fall on your face and stay there,” she says. “We all will get hurt, but be strong, emotionally, physically and financially. Pick yourself up and don’t give up. Care about yourself enough.”
At the gym, Catania strives to do something for women she credits her friend and fellow castmate, Siggy Flicker, with doing for her every single day- motivating her to get up and try harder.
For Catania, who has more than 110,000 followers on Instagram, being a part of The Real Housewives of NJ offers her the chance to reach more women with her message of empowerment.“I had 999 followers when I started the show,” laughs Catania. “I remember saying I wish I had 1,000 followers. [When I got to 1,000] I thought I was so cool. I thought I made it and I arrived. Frank every day tells me how many more followers I have. He’s so supportive and excited.”
“Don’t feel 'less than' because you don’t have a formal education. I know a lot of Harvard graduates who may not have what you have.”
Catania, who along with Flicker have set themselves apart as voices of reason on the show, hopes to continue putting out a positive message for viewers.
“I’ve grown so much,” she says. “I look at what I do from a woman’s point of view and all the women who have been in my position where one day you can have something and the next day you don’t. It’s the scariest thing in the world. You want to curl up in a ball but then you look at your kids and say ‘I can’t fall on my face.’ You take chances and make something work.”
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says. “I went into it with an idea of what I wanted to get out of it and I got out of it exactly what I wanted. I always do something with everybody else in mind. It’s part of my DNA. That’s what I enjoy. I wanted to reach a lot of people and tell them that even though my husband cheated on me, we are friends 15 years later. It’s part of my story. You don’t die. The show is a platform. It’s the best thing to reach so many people.”
“Don’t fall apart. You don’t have the option to fall apart when you’re a mom.”
Regarding her boss, Bravo producer Andy Cohen, Catania said even he saw a positive effect from the show in her own personality.“Andy said you are one of the few people who came out positive [on the show],” says Catania. "I grew. I got my mojo back. I got my groove back. I walk differently and I talk differently. Ideally Siggy and I would want our own show...Andy do you hear me?!”[thb_border]
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
Instagram, I’m a stalker.
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
I wake up under a pile of dogs every single morning, and it’s really hard to get up. Once I scoot out the first thing I do is brush my teeth.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Jessica Alba. She’s awesome.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
The cell phone.
5. What is your spirit animal?
I have this fox that sits on my front steps every few weeks. It doesn’t leave my side and I think it is my spirit animal.
6. What is your life motto?
"Never give up"
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
8. To be successful you must be ___?
“Married to your business”
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve been to recently?
Patterson Arts and Science Charter School. It’s a charter school in Patterson where teachers teach out of an abandoned building. There was so much team work, it was such a happy environment.
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
My rosary, my kids, my dogs.[/thb_border]
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.