Women Of The C-Suite: “You constantly have to reinvent yourself “With Emily Mackie Founder of Inspired Interiors
Typically speaking, you start a business because you think you have a great idea that doesn’t already exist in the current marketplace. After 15 years of running Inspired Interiors, I have to constantly stay on my toes to remain relevant in the interior design marketplace. You constantly have to reinvent yourself. You constantly have to be providing something new and fresh that others are not providing, or you join the ranks of Blockbuster & Toys-R-Us.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Mackie, Founder of Chicago-based interior design firm Inspired Interiors and creator of The Vault, a personally curated and collected assemblage of coved lifestyle items that will transform your surroundings and elevate your everyday experience. Inspired Interiors curates spaces that embolden people to enjoy life in new, empowering ways. By building her firm and her team, Mackie has created a work environment where women can realize their professional dreams without sacrificing family and can serve clients in ways that reinvigorate their lives!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am a Texas native who grew up surrounded by beautiful things. Inspired by this desire to create special surroundings, I moved to Chicago to attend the Illinois Institute of Art, where I graduated with a B.F.A. in Interior Design. I began my design career at Gensler and, in the years that followed, continued to work on large-scale commercial interior design. In 2003, I found my niche working in residential design. I received my National Council for Interiors Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and license in the State of Illinois, and became a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID.) By 2004, I founded her own luxury design firm Inspired Interiors.
I originally started my undergrad in psychology wanting to explore a career path that allowed me to connect with individuals and problem solve. A few years in, I ended up switching gears to interior design. While I no longer wanted to work in psychology, I still enjoyed collaborating with people to problem solve. It also allowed me to return to my roots and what I grew up leaning. My mother flipped homes which taught me basic home repair skills and my stepmother sold international antiques from England and France. Interior design was the perfect marriage of my passions, expertise and background.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most impactful experience in my career has been participating in the Goldman-Sachs 10K Small Business Program, which provides entrepreneurs with access to education and business support. It was a very transformational and eye-opening experience because while my undergrad studies gave me the abilities and toolset needed to transform interiors and environments, I knew little about running a business. Financing and marketing were foreign concepts.
In order to scale and truly grow Inspired Interiors, the Goldman-Sach program was key my business development. To this day, I still participate in the ongoing educational courses, because as a business owner I need to be able to stay on top of my game and constantly be on the lookout for new ways to improve my management skills and business acumen.
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?
When I started the Goldman-Sachs 10K Small Business Program, I had to stand in front of the class and present on how I differentiate myself as a business owner. I got up in front of 25 other individuals and let them know that I was probably the only person in the room still lactating after having three children while also running a $2 million company. The women found it funny and relatable but the men sat there completely bewildered.
From that moment, I learned an important lesson in female empowerment. Other female business owners will truly support one another because they understand your journey and your plight, but that is not always the case with male colleagues who don’t share those same experiences.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In the interior design industry, I want to win clients over by celebrating them, not making them fearful that they don’t have good or trendy style. Inspired Interiors creates environments that capture real moments of life. Our tagline is “Capturing moments of life through design.”
I always tell people not to hire my company if they want brand name furniture pieces or products to populate their space. I don’t sell an ego of what we or others believe is great design. Instead, partner with Inspired Interiors because you want my company to help portray you and your lifestyle in an authentic manner.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently working on a project in San Francisco with a gentleman who is moving into a very affluent area. In fact, his bachelor pad will be nestled next to one of the world’s most notable tech giants. While we are excited to work on that project, there is a common string between all the endeavors we undertake.
What’s important with each project is that we learn and identify new human needs. Each venture is an opportunity to identify how environments interact with people differently. It is not just designing or furnituring a place, but interacting with the space. We take that knowledge, extract what we have learned and roll that new perspective into our next project.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Female business leaders are often very hard on themselves. I know I am guilty of this. But allow yourself to score a few C grades on your report card as a business owner. Stop expecting yourself to be an A+ business owner all the time, especially in the beginning. Give yourself space to make mistakes without expecting perfection.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
The most important lesson that I have learned is that you should install layers between yourself and your team. While you should still spend individual time with your employees when you can, you also can’t have everyone coming to you for day-to-day needs. It’s important to have trusted individuals you can delegate to and act as a buffer for direct needs. That will allow you to focus in on your area of experience and further act as a catalyst for inspiration.
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 about that?
This will sound strange but, I am grateful for the hard lessons. There have been two key individuals that have been particularly negative influences in my life. In retrospect, they lit a fire within me to work harder, be better and grow my company. Out of these negative experiences, I channeled that energy into growing Inspired Interiors. Take the hardships and funnel it into fuel that allows you to overcoming roadblocks. In the end, celebrate your victories instead of focusing on the defeats.
I also credit success to every single person that has worked with me or for Inspired Interiors. Regardless of how long we worked together, each person brought a new component and perspective that contributed to the success of the company and for that I am grateful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d like to believe that I am bringing goodness to people’s lives on a daily basis. My goal for my company is to try and recognize the voids in people’s lives, how they want to live differently and what they value and channel those understandings into a space they will live and create in.
When we go back and photograph a finished house, the owners describe how they now live in the space, and it is incredible to hear them speak of the residence just as we were describing it to them in the planning and design phase. Previously, there was function that wasn’t occuring in the space but now through planning and design, we created that function and the client is now happily living in it.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Put a layer between yourself and others as a manager. Leaders might not be able to deal with each day-to-day problem. So position trusted individuals to deal with administrative operations that allow you to focus on the larger picture and creative or collaborative elements.
- Recognize that no one will ever love your business as much as you. I think this is a relatable lesson for mothers who also recognize that no one will ever love their child the way they do.
- Everything has a time and place. Whether it is a project, vendor, space or employee, recognize that there are phases in life where things come and go. Learn to be comfortable with that.
- There is no maternity leave for owners! Being owner of your own company means you work constantly, despite ‘life’ happening or giving birth. Despite there being no maternity leave for you, you have to provide it for others if you want good company culture and morale. If you want your company to continue running you must continue to run with very minimal ‘down time’.
- Typically speaking, you start a business because you think you have a great idea that doesn’t already exist in the current marketplace. After 15 years of running Inspired Interiors, I have to constantly stay on my toes to remain relevant in the interior design marketplace. You constantly have to reinvent yourself. You constantly have to be providing something new and fresh that others are not providing, or you join the ranks of Blockbuster & Toys-R-Us.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 heard a quote recently about bringing out the girl in every women, but I would go a step further and say to bring out the joy in every individual. The meaning touches on how you seek moments and pockets of joy, no matter the stage of life you are at. I believe design transcends beauty and “pretty” objects, but instead it is about creating spaces that help capture that joy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I actually just bought a workout shirt with my favorite phrase on it and each time I wear it, my children read it out loud.
“Suck it up Buttercup.”
As a female business owner I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to suck it up and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how hard the task or project was or the negative moments throughout. Suck it up. Move forward.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find Inspired Interiors at any of the following:
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!