As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Raymond Jimenez.
Raymond Jimenez, the creative mind and talent behind RAYMOND NICOLAS, is a respected interior designer and creatively leading voice based out of Miami, Florida. His passion for diversified design was present from a young age, leading him to pursue and complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design in 2010. Within a year of graduating from Miami International University of Art & Design (MIU), Jimenez founded and became co-owner of an interdisciplinary recognized interior design and architecture studio, RS3; where he explored, mastered, and nurtured his passion for high-end private residential and commercial design. Jimenez now looks to act as a creative agent of change, using his platforms and notoriety to amplify the creative minority voice and beckon for racial equality. Motivated and inspired, Jimenez looks to continue following his constant excitement for design by working and engaging with clients who seek a unique, thought-provoking, and timeless design. In doing so, he has, and also looks forward to continuing spearheading projects of many kinds, including retail, commercial, hospitality, and high-end private residential. This well-rounded knowledge and design experience makes for the perfect backbone to his latest chapter, RAYMOND NICOLAS, where he formally serves as founder and creative director.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
For as long as I can remember, I was always interested in the arts. Ever since elementary school, I always found myself drawing sketches of cartoons and even portraits of my family. As I got older, this also evolved into an interest in fashion. I was ripping up jeans and tagging book bags, but I didn’t think of fashion as a career — it was only a hobby. When I entered high school, I started looking into architecture as a career path and eventually enrolled at Miami International University of Art & Design. There, I took a variety of classes and discovered interior design. It felt like the perfect intersection between architecture and fashion.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I began my career while I was still in college because I wanted to get experience in the industry as soon as possible. This journey started off as working as a drafter for kitchen cabinet designs. My first boss, and now a long-time client, taught me all there is to know about the industry. I learned the ropes on how to make kitchens functional and beautiful. After finishing college, I got hired full-time at a high-end residential design firm in Miami, but I felt that there was no room for me to grow within the company. So at the age of 23, I started my own design firm. When you are 23, you have absolutely no fear. I compare the feeling to that of a toddler riding a bike for the first time who is not afraid to fall. If you do fall, you get back up and try again without hesitation. This was a hard time because I watched all my friends have a good time and party on the weekends and I stayed in and worked to make sure I could put food on my table.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I think I was born with a drive to succeed. Growing up, I watched my mother and grandmother do everything they could to provide a better life for the entire family. My mother came to America from the Dominican Republic and made money by selling used clothes by the pound overseas. She would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning shipping and packing clothes to make enough money to support all of us. Using the money she earned, she began to bring us to America one by one. I was always told that in order to be successful, you have to outwork everyone around you and I credit this constant drive to the strong women who raised me.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I have to admit I will always have a chip on my shoulder and strive to do better. There have been a few times in my career that I thought my business wouldn’t make it. During these times, I learned to dig deep, believe in myself, and keep pushing forward. I do not care if you are as successful as Bill Gates, there is always someone who is chasing after and trying to do better than you. I have learned you need to have a constant hunger and strive to always make yourself and your business better, otherwise someone else will.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the world of architecture and interior design, you quickly learn that small mistakes can result in costly fixes. I have learned to get every aspect signed off by the client and other parties involved because the many technical aspects to design need to be precise the first time around. It has also taken me almost a decade to realize the importance of relationships. Early in my career, I relied on my skills and thought potential clients would recognize the high level of work I could provide and hire me just based on my portfolio. Today, I still believe in my skills but understand that people want to work with people they like. They are much more willing to award you a project if they trust you and like you for who you are.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I can confidently say, we are one of the first, if not the first, to combine architecture, interior design, and fashion services under one roof. Many firms have one or two of these offerings but I have not seen someone merge all three. By having these three pillars of RAYMOND NICOLAS, our clients can live, use, wear, and truly believe in our design house. The entire team has a passion to create and we bring it to our customers through three well-executed divisions of our business.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I have found that the key to being an entrepreneur is staying optimistic and as positive as possible. When you are positive about your outlook on life, you attract positive energy. I also believe in listening to your body and taking care of yourself. As a business owner and entrepreneur, it is very easy to get lost in the work and have many sleepless nights. Take the time to get a full night’s sleep, even during high-stress times. Eat healthily and exercise. Your body gets a natural high after a workout and you can use that to drive your business forward. By resting, eating well, and working out you allow your body to reset, clear your head, and put your best self forward.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am extremely grateful for my wife, Eilyn Jimenez. She has been my biggest supporter and cheerleader. She is my soulmate and best friend and I would not be where I am today without her constant support.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At RAYMOND NICOLAS, we strive to contribute to the movement of designing inclusive, welcoming, and accessible spaces where all people can share common ground. We believe that the best ideas come from diversity and we express this internally and externally with our clients. When all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and abilities are embraced, we are kinder to one another, and bigger, better ideas can thrive.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Relationships are extremely important. People will want to work with you if they like you. I used to rely on my talent and work ethic but people will invest in your business if you take the time to personally invest in them. By building genuine relationships, you create a level of trust for your business as well as real friendships.
- Stay lean and keep overhead costs as low as possible for as long as possible. For the first few years of the business, we worked out of our apartments to remove additional rent costs.
- Never forget your passion and always work on your craft. You should always be working on fine-tuning, no matter what creative pursuit you are in. You should be waking up wanting to design, reading and learning about the latest in the industry, and finding mentors that can help you navigate your field. You need to eat, breathe, and sleep your craft. You never want to be stagnant and always be striving up.
- Surround yourself with the right people. Being an entrepreneur is tough and when starting your business, it will fully consume your time. Tell the people around you that you are on a mission for success and may not be around as much. If they believe and love you, they will understand the sacrifice and be there cheering you on.
- Have fun! The process is epic and you have to remember to enjoy the highs and lows. From your first small project to your 20,000-square-foot project, it is all so fun to see where you started and where you are going. Don’t let the wins get to your head and be a good person. I genuinely believe that good things happen to good people.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
You have to be headstrong. For everyone, it is hard to believe in yourself 100% of the time. Being a business owner is a rollercoaster and things will be uncomfortable at times. Accept the discomfort and move forward at all costs. When you’re on the high, ride it but don’t forget to keep your feet on the ground.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe in building diverse communities and promoting optimism. I am also a huge supporter of gun control and tightening gun ownership laws but we need to start with the common want to do good for humanity. We all share this world, why are we killing each other? By educating and accepting our differences, we can understand the beauty within cultures and learn to celebrate differences, not be scared of them.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!