Forget what people think or may say; follow your dreams, work hard, and remember the only person to who you really owe anything is yourself. Trust me, it will all be worth it in the end.
As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite” , we had the pleasure of interviewing Eilyn Jimenez.
Eilyn Jimenez (formerly Eilyn Cueto) is the founder and creative director of Sire Design, a Miami-based international interior design studio, specializing in realizing clients’ visions through bold and timeless residential, development, and commercial interior design. Jimenez’s love of both classic and modern design merged with her passion for travel and adventure, has culminated in a honed sense of ageless, daring, and distinct style that she brings to every space.
With a firm name incorporating the word “sire” for its royal significance, Jimenez believes that as a creative, her role is to transform and breathe new life into each project, while translating a client’s needs and desires into a beautiful, built environment. Her design approach, deeply rooted in the modernist principles of design and architecture, leads her and her team to take an analytical approach to their interior work, while having an open-minded view of innovation. Jimenez and her 10-year-old studio pride themselves on creating spaces that are stylistically and functionally everlasting with the use of premium materials and unparalleled craftsmanship.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I always thought I wanted to become a lawyer, with the end goal of becoming a judge, however, at a very young age, I found myself wanting to design my room and was constantly rearranging my furniture. I loved design my whole life, but did not know it — I was always drawn to more mature aesthetics. Once I graduated high school at 16 (I was homeschooled), I went to the university and decided to study business, since I knew this was something that would help me in the future. By my second year in the business program, I became friends with the son of the dean of the architecture program and was curious to see what architecture was all about. That’s when I immediately fell in love with design and switched career paths. While studying architecture I was always drawn to how the interiors of spaces were being used and began creating design concepts for the interiors of my architecture projects, even though interior design was not part of my assignments. My professors always called me out for designing the interiors, telling me that it wasn’t necessary. I have always thought that the way that a space is used internally has a huge impact on the overall architecture, but my professors disagreed. That’s when I knew I had a unique connection with interior design and decided to merge it with my architecture career. Ultimately, I focus mainly on interior design, while incorporating my knowledge of architecture, and to this day that knowledge has been a huge tool while working on projects.
I founded Sire Design with the intention to prioritize timeless and cohesive design while fostering great designer-client relationships and providing enjoyable experiences for all parties involved in every project. Sire Design started as a solo operation and has now expanded to a six-person, all-female team. Our ability to connect deeply and precisely with our client’s visions has resulted in securing an array of projects, ranging from custom homes, high-rise condominiums, private estates, retail spaces, and luxury yachts. Our work is primarily residential design, with that sector making up 80% of the firm. Roughly 20% of our work is in the commercial sector, an area in which we are actively expanding. Over the past nine years, our team has been a part of over thirty projects with several repeated clients — a significant statistic for a firm of our size.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My boutique design firm, Sire Design has come a long way since the early days of my career, when I first promoted my interior design services online charging 99 dollars for a two-hour consultation. Gradually, my client list grew through word-of-mouth, and at just 23 years old, I was selected amongst local top interior design firms for an E! Channel segment to redesign a home for Macklemore’s mother-in-law. Sire Design’s first project brought in roughly 2,000 dollars. Our firm now takes on projects with revenues up to 1,000,000 dollars.
Since I started the company ten years ago, my firm has proven itself adaptable in embracing new technologies, including implementing proactive social media marketing strategies. Many of our clients come from referrals or through social media. I am so proud of how the studio has evolved — to reflect on where we are now, after starting this company 10 years ago, blows me away every day. I am so grateful for the journey and for my team.
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?
I learned the importance of measuring entrance door dimensions and elevator specifications — the hard way, of course!
We purchased a gorgeous custom sofa for a client that was 10 feet long. After waiting months for it to arrive, on delivery day, we realized that we failed to take the dimensions of the elevator, requiring us to take it up via a crane, or up the elevator shaft. Ultimately, after we reviewed logistics and costs, we decided to take it up the shaft — a decision that cost roughly 5,000 dollars just for the lift alone. We learned to ensure all our furnishings fit easily through doorways, elevators, and any entrance. Thankfully it was a mistake never made again, but still makes us chuckle to see such an expensive custom sofa be lifted up a dirty, old shaft. Our clients and our whole team were on edge the whole time!
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?
I will always be so grateful to one of my first-ever clients. When I was just starting out ten years ago, she completely trusted me with her home and allowed me to spread my design wings. I will never forget her as a huge part of my success. Working with her was a staple stepping stone in my career and helped me grow so much!
Also, one of my close friends and realtor (Taylor Richardson) recommended me to countless of his clients and colleagues; he included me in industry events, open houses, and provided introductions with connections that put me in the front of unique clients and projects. Taylor, his wife Ashley (who happens to be one of my closest friends), and the whole team at Carmentate Duchon have played a huge role in my career. They have trusted me time after time with their clients, and have paved the way for me to connect with amazing projects. I am grateful for the continued trust, and for all the projects we’ve had the honor of being a part of. They provided the introduction to the client of the largest design contract we have ever undertaken at Sire Design.
Our most important asset will always be our collaborations: with clients, craftspeople, and coworkers. Our success wouldn’t be possible without the clients we’ve had the honor of coming in contact with. We feel honored that they trust our ability to create spaces that influence the way they live.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high-stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
It’s important for me to take time for myself to ensure I am working at my full potential. Part of my regular weekly activities to ensure I’m keeping my mind and body at ease include weekly acupuncture sessions, working out with a private trainer five days a week, bi-weekly massages, and taking time during lunch to really breathe and relax for a bit. Usually, I’m always on the go — whether I’m in the office or not — so having a few minutes to myself just to enjoy the air in my hair keeps me sane.
When preparing for a meeting, I always sage and palo santo the office in an effort to put all of our energy into the presentation ahead. It’s become a ritual in the office.
Besides that, the weekends are really sacred for me. I spend this time with my husband, my dogs, and really go with the flow of whatever it is we are in the mood for. Not having a strict schedule to abide by is what I look forward to on the weekends.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
In regards to women’s equality and representation in the workplace, Sire Design’s staff is currently all female, which is something that I am proud of. It was not very common when I started Sire Design ten years ago, but I am so pleased to see the structure becoming a norm. There’s nothing like strong teamwork and women empowerment when creating unique projects for our clients. There is still an alarming disparity between wages for men and women in the industry — we must keep fighting for this. I truly believe that women bring so much to the table — we bring a perspective that stems from collaboration and collectivity, versus pure power.
Living in a multicultural, diverse city like Miami allows us to meet people and clients from all over the world. Design is like storytelling; being in a city where everyone has a story to tell pushes us to design differently. In the same vein, it’s so important that we have equity of racial representation in the design industry. We design to start a conversation. We design to tell a story. To do this, we need to have multiple perspectives in the room — everyone has a unique point of view and experience to bring to the table.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example.
We must see ourselves as a “we,” rather than an “I”. The world we live in would change if we stopped thinking of only ourselves, and began to think of ourselves as a whole. I feel that in society, we generally lack empathy and understanding, and determine others feelings’ by what we feel ourselves.
We have to see people for who they are — not the color of their skin, their race, their sexual orientation, or what clothing they decide to wear. If we start respecting each other as equals, the world would be such a different place.
I will never forget visiting the holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., and the gentleman that was our guide — a holocaust survivor. At the commencement of our tour, he explained that what we were all about to see and learn was the result of one thing: a choice. The choice to allow/do/participate/cover/amuse inhumaneness. If the choice would have been different, the holocaust wouldn’t have ever happened. We make decisions every day, and the choices we make will either provide a better future, or history will repeat itself. If we all make the right choices, we could have a unified, equitable, inclusive society.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
We are therapists, problem solvers, and professional hand-holders.
A big part of being a CEO of any business is making sure the happiness of our clients and our team are always in the heart of what we do. But with that comes an array of personalities — from both the team side and client-side. Ensuring that any loose ends in all spectrums are taken care of while thinking about how to evolve and re-spin a wheel that already is in motion. We must constantly work on evolving ourselves as designers, supporting our team, ensuring we are holding our clients’ hand throughout the process, and also make time for ourselves amidst it all. We must be “on” at all times — for our clients, our projects, and our team. That is a 24/7 job that most people don’t get to see or hear about.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
That we work less because we are owners or CEOs — it couldn’t be further from the truth. Our brains are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If anything, we work harder than most. We not only have to take care of ourselves personally but also attend to our business, our clients, our team, and ensure any loose ends are tied up. The day-to-day operation of a CEO is like a giant puzzle that needs to be put together. So much has to be done; we have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyonce, so we have to make sure we are making use of every minute.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Besides constantly being told we are being “too aggressive in our opinions,” or belittled because we are “too pretty to know about XYZ topic”?
I feel men aren’t discredited as much as women are. Women are often told they can’t be everything — smart, educated, hard-working, beautiful, and great CEOs. We automatically “lack” something because we are female, or we are too emotional in what we think/feel/do. We are emotional, and that’s why when we do something, we do it so well! All those negative comments have become our fuel to create a world where we run the show in many industries, and I cannot wait to continue seeing how women will soon take up a large percentile of CEO positions. The future, in fact, is female!
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I did not know I would have to juggle so many personalities. I thought I would effortlessly be able to design spectacular projects without having to worry about anything else. As designers, what we do has so many layers — something I had no idea when I first started my business.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I am a firm believer that leaders are born, but a small percentile is made. You have to have the gene of leadership in your DNA. A leader, for me, possesses the following qualities:
- Is an overachiever
- Refuses to give up
- Has a positive outlook on life
If you don’t like responsibility and being on a rollercoaster of emotions, then stay away from executive roles.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Work hard, work front the heart, and be genuine to yourself, your intentions, and what you foresee for yourself and your team in the future.
Forget what people think or may say; follow your dreams, work hard, and remember the only person to who you really owe anything is yourself. Trust me, it will all be worth it in the end.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have a passion for bettering my community and am actively involved in using my design skills for pro-bono projects, helping those in need to have spaces that will benefit their lives. In particular, I have partnered with KidSanctuary Campus, a not-for-profit organization committed to providing a safe home for abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Florida. One of the most rewarding projects was designing a room for the Kid Sanctuary Campus. Designing spaces for children who have never known what it is to have a home, or their own room, was the most rewarding project I could have dreamed of. Giving someone something they can never repay you for is life-changing. To be able to use my abilities as a designer to impact young children’s’ lives is amazing.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s going to be hard — really hard — but it’ll be worth it.
- Good things happen to good people, so always put your best foot forward.
- Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you’ll need to walk across them again.
- The process of being a leader and CEO involves constant evolution. Who cares if you don’t get it right the first time?!
- Above all, seek happiness in all that you do. The rest will follow.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to inspire a movement for every person to participate in charity, a good deed, or anything that involves giving back on a positive note. If it was required for us all to participate in such activities, we would be a bit more empathetic and learn how helping others actually helps us internally and emotionally. There is no better reward than to give back to those who need it most. Maybe it can be a tax write-off or part of a life milestone — like getting a license!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I think Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’d like to be remembered for how I made people feel.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
The list is long, but at the top of my list is Bethenny Frankel. I’ve watched her tireless work to grow her business from nothing — from when she had her green beetle car driving everywhere in efforts to get Skinnygirl on market shelves, to when she sold her company for millions. What she has done in places like Puerto Rico, California, and Mexico City, and how she used her resources to help those in desperate situations, is so admirable. I hope to one day be able to give back on that scale.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!