A trio of then-students turned the uncertain, stay-at-home days of the pandemic into a productive incubation period for a now-successful business.
In their third year of the combined undergraduate-master’s program in interior architecture, Yaileen Obregon, Jennifer Perez, and Daniela Purrinos – all of whom graduated last year – founded the design firm of Girls Who Do Interiors.
“The entire world was stuck in their houses, home offices and bedrooms, and the interior design world actually benefited from it due to people wanting to renovate their spaces,” they explained of how COVID quarantine affected the industry. “That's when we started to get client inquiries, and we asked ourselves the famous ‘why not?’ Why should we wait to take clients after we graduated? Why not now?”
So they did what many aspiring young professionals do when they look for advice outside of the classroom: they surfed the internet.
“During those late nights and early mornings working on our designs, we kept looking on YouTube for designers that would inspire us. Unfortunately, there weren't that many relatable designers that show the hard work behind their designs, so we looked at each other and felt like this was our opportunity to pick up our phones and start recording our process and become those designers that inspire other like-minded individuals.”
From this idea, paired with the knowledge they were gaining from their “personal branding” course, emerged the idea of Girls Who Do Interiors. They set up a YouTube channel to document their activities as they got up and running.
Fast forward a few years, and they now have an office and studio space in the heart of South Miami and work with an expansive clientele. Earlier this year, their story was shared as part of a series by a major bank that showcased successful small businesses.
“Being part of a national campaign has been the greatest honor,” they three said. “That type of exposure has been nothing but amazing. We got our first brick-and-mortar studio since it’s been live, numerous client inquiries, a new wave of social media following and audience and an outpouring of support and love.”
The three recently shared their experiences of running and growing a business.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We have six active projects, each one at a different phase and requiring different attention from us. A typical day might start with coffee at our office to discuss the day’s schedule. Sometimes we have to visit job sites and check the progress of the design, preparing design presentations for a new client, picking up samples in the Miami Design District and wrapping up back at the office.
What’s been the coolest thing about your work so far?
The coolest thing is to see homes in the worst condition and being able to visualize the potential and translate that into beautiful designs. And then going to construction sites and seeing our designs come to life is always a surreal moment for us. The idea that our clients will be living in and using a space we worked on is a beautiful thing.
Are there any accomplishments that you would like to highlight?
We celebrate wins of all sizes, from completing a full home renovation while still enrolled at FIU - we’re talking demolishing the house in the morning and then changing our clothes to go to class later that same day – to outgrowing our home office and moving into a commercial office space just six months after graduating to expanding our business by almost 500% in the last year.
We have used our European-forward aesthetic to secure clients while maintaining a wonderful dynamic of sisterhood between us, hiring two freelancers and, of course, being featured by a national bank for a small-business campaign that included billboards, building wraps, radio station interviews and a television commercial.
Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
The “personal branding” course helped us develop our business in the very early stages. As for professors, we would love to give a special thanks to Phil Abbott and Esperanza Muino for encouraging us.
What advice do you have for students interested in careers in interior architecture?
We really believe that the first step in gaining confidence to start your own career is to visualize your higher self and start acting like the person you want to be. Take advice from people in the position you want to attain and start writing your own future. And building an amazing support system will help you achieve your dreams. P.S. Stop waiting.