“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. For example: each time after one of my 3 children was born, I was back to work 2 or 3 days later (c-sections included!). In fact, after my third C-section, I went straight from the Prentiss hospital (fully dosed on Vicodin) to my office to try to close a meeting with a Penthouse client. One year later, I won my first ASID Design Excellence award for that project! If you want your company to continue running you must continue to run with very minimal ‘down time’. Luckily, I was able to bring all three of my kids to the office until they started crawling. All three were literally by my desk for the first few months, and so many of my clients, employees, and contractors got the chance to play with my babies. All of them were breast-fed on construction sites during meetings- mostly in bathrooms or closets. All three of them played at my desk in a swing chair with trace paper. Trace paper makes funny noises that they seemed to really enjoy. Just don’t let them chew on it!”
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! What is your “backstory”?
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, I 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 my own luxury design firm Inspired Interiors.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
Our display, ‘Awake and Rising’, for the Dreaming of Design event is the funniest or most interesting story thus far. Within a span of 24 hours, the display was featured in Chicago Tribune, Crain’s, and South China Morning News. It seemed the concept of women supporting each other in such an artistic manner was a HIT! The humorous part is that I was recently introduced at a party as the designer who “did the Boob painting auction…you know the ‘Boob auction”. That type of summary made me really laugh — sometimes the way people summarize our careers cannot be steered in the direction we want!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think that we always have individuals that really care about our clients. Our tag line is “Capturing moments of life through design”. For our bachelor pads, we design for a successful dating life. For our family-based clients, we want them to savor moments of family time. All of our clients will tell you that we took special time and attention to ensure ‘captured moments of life’ — romantic bedrooms, refreshing showers, conversational breakfast nooks, and so much more!
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?
One person I am thankful for — — business and personal note, I would say my oldest brother. He is also an entrepreneur. We share a lot of stories during morning commuting calls! I am thankful for having that constant in my life. He is a really big constant for me — — love you Keller Mackie!
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Several exciting projects that we are working on! San Francisco, this multi-family home combines three generations of family — a bachelor pad, family home, and a grandfather’s home. We are currently working on a few projects with Draper & Kramer. We are breathing new life into their properties, so their clients to enjoy life in a new way! Watch our upcoming social media for revealing details!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Sure, I would definitely say that that’s kind of what we do every day with our clients- put their priorities first and always try to make sure that we’re identifying their needs and solving how they want to live in their space- transforming their lives through their space.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I have a lot of favorite books, but my current favorite is Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity. I’m in the middle of reading it. I adore how raw and ‘human’ he is in the book. Richard talks about all of the different things that transpired throughout his personal and professional life. On several occasions I literally laughed out loud! The book talks about his early business adventures, different failures/mistakes and so much more. His ability to share reality in a raw format is so inspiring.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. MATERNITY LEAVE -
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. For example: each time after one of my 3 children was born, I was back to work 2 or 3 days later (c-sections included!). In fact, after my third C-section, I went straight from the Prentiss hospital (fully dosed on Vicodin) to my office to try to close a meeting with a Penthouse client. One year later, I won my first ASID Design Excellence award for that project!
If you want your company to continue running you must continue to run with very minimal ‘down time’. Luckily, I was able to bring all three of my kids to the office until they started crawling. All three were literally by my desk for the first few months, and so many of my clients, employees, and contractors got the chance to play with my babies. All of them were breast-fed on construction sites during meetings- mostly in bathrooms or closets. All three of them played at my desk in a swing chair with trace paper. Trace paper makes funny noises that they seemed to really enjoy. Just don’t let them chew on it!
No one tells you about all the taxes that you pay when you’re owner of a small business. Assuming your year is profitable, you, and you alone, must pay for the taxes on profits made. The money from your profitable year may or may not actually be in your bank account, but be certain you will owe the taxes! Suddenly, you have to come up with the tax payment to cover that positive cash flow, even though that money may not really exist in your company account.
Taxes are deducted from your paycheck on a bi-weekly basis. But at the end of the year, you will also owe Uncle Sam for all of these hypothetical earnings. Have a savings account set aside with the taxes for these hypothetical funds or taxes on net profits — — — you will need it!
3. VACATION TIME-
In many circumstances, because of the size of my company, vacation time is planned around being able to blend in work hours. I never really get to physically ‘check out’ or fully relax on vacation. My vacation time/location/type are always planned around where I can find two hours each day to work while on vacation. Vacation time is very different working for other companies. When working for someone else, you are able to actually say “see you Later” and let everyone else carry the burden while you really relax. When you’re the owner, no one really tells you that your vacation isn’t necessarily 100% vacation.
On the positive side , I can be flexible and pick multiple vacation times, since I am ‘founder’. I can also have flexibility with the kids’ school calendars. I feel having this flexibility is paramount for me to juggle motherhood and running my company.
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.
When I originally started, I never could have imagined how many times I would have to reinvent the company. Staying relevant means that, many times, you have to continue to climb a proverbial ladder in order stay competitive. My advice — keep climbing the ladder, and never look down to see how far you’ve climbed!!!! If you look down, you might be scared of how high you were able to climb. If you keep looking up to the next rung on the ladder, you will remain fearless. Being fearless is the single most important ingredient to being a successful entrepreneur.
Your DAILY professional existence has to yield enough sustenance (or profits) for a company team and your family! If you count up all the individuals you must support, from your team and your home, you will definitely be ‘looking down the ladder’. There are many nights where you’ll lose sleep worrying about how you are going to provide for an entire team. Buy some Serotonin and some sleep — — you have lots of people to provide for! No one really tells you how intimidating this responsibility is, and the weight that it carries. It’s a double edged sword coming up with all of the money for everyone’s payroll, but then you also have the gratification from creating jobs for people for years on end.
One time I hired a new CPA. This CPA wasn’t aware that I was a single mother, only aware that I owned Inspired Interiors. She asked me it was accurate that she should be filing ‘Head of Household’ on my taxes. I laughed so hard I cried — it was quite possibly the funniest unintentional joke I had heard in years!
As a mother — you compare with other mothers how many kids you have (as illustration of duty/tenure).
As a runner — you compare with other runners how many miles you run each week (as an illustration of endurance and strength).
As an entrepreneur — you compare with other entrepreneurs how many employees you have (as an illustration of your insanity).
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
The one person I would probably want to have breakfast with would be Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She’s a self-made billionaire entrepreneur who became insanely and wildly successful by taking huge risks. She is the epitome of a hard working, independent woman with a dream, who stopped at nothing to make that dream come true. Big risks means big rewards! Self-made holds so much more credit to me.
One time, one of my male clients walked into our office space (for the first time) and said “Emily, you must have a really rich husband or family money to have created such a gorgeous office space”. My receptionist’s jaw dropped to her desktop. I VERY kindly and calmly replied “Neither, but thank you”.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!