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Female Disruptors: Emily Mackie of Inspired Luxury Homes On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

“Proximity is Power.” This is a Tony Robbins quote. Who you choose to put yourself next to on a daily basis influences who you are. I am always really cautious about who I spend time with because the older I get, the more I’ve realized that I don’t have time for people who are negative or stuck because I don’t want to be around that energy. When I find people who are going places and doing things, I will find the time to be around those people.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Mackie.

Emily Mackie is an award-winning designer, entrepreneur, and founder of Inspired Interiors, a renowned Chicago-based design/build/furnish firm, and Inspired Luxury Homes, a new business venture that offers an innovative way to design new construction homes and sell them virtually before any construction starts. Emily has a passion for creating spaces that transform the way people live, love, work, and function in their environments. As a mother and an entrepreneur of 18 years, Emily is motivated by fellow women-owned businesses and the power of giving back to her community.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?

Growing up, my mother was a single mom who would flip old houses. She would put up flyers saying “do you want to sell your home” on old homes with elderly homeowners and basically invented the reverse mortgage. She would get the homeowner to sign a reverse mortgage and would flip their house and then find a buyer. After finding a buyer she would pay the original homeowner and sign the title of the house to the new owner. Mom was a badass!

My stepmother would shop Paris flea markets and antique shops in England. She scoured England and France and then would ship the contents back to her store in Dallas. While clients would walk through her store, they would hire her to do their entire home. So due to her high-quality antiques, it became “a business card” and sold people on hiring her to design their spaces.

I was able to see both sides of the process — the hands-on, construction, house-flipping side, and the high-end design side.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

For so long, building homes has been a male-dominated profession. With the launch of Inspired Luxury Homes, my all female-owned real estate development firm, we are out to shatter the glass ceiling in real estate development while completely improving the customer experience by making it easier and cheaper for a future homeowner to visualize their dream home before they even break ground.

Most new construction home buyers and remodelers do not know what they want and the process of figuring it out can cost many thousands of dollars in architecture and design time. Using state-of-the-art 3D virtual technology, a homeowner can make any changes they want and experience their dream home before a single shovel full of dirt has been removed.

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?

Early in my career, I was working at Gensler architecture firm and I was preparing for this huge client meeting, a several million dollar contract for a big fancy law firm. While preparing, I pulled three or four all-nighters, leaving work at 3:00 am and coming back at 8:00 am the next day. Along with many late nights, I created presentation binders for each of the board members attending the meeting and even had samples of the various types of chairs and secretary stands delivered so they could be tested out in real-time. The day of the meeting comes and the presentation is going really well. Then we get to try out our chair options. The vice president, a heavier-set man, tries out one of the chairs and he gets stuck! And as he’s trying to get out, he shouts “Why would you pick a chair that not everyone can get their ass out of?!” This experience taught me that you never know what is coming at you and you can’t possibly prepare for everything.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Many of my grandmothers were pillars in my life for a variety of reasons. My maternal grandmother was always in a good mood. Every day was a happy day for her and nothing ever took her down. In a similar vein, my step-grandmother was married five times and was the life of the party. She, too, was always a joy to be around and everyone admired her. Her light was always shining. Another step-grandmother came from the middle of Texas with nothing and throughout her life, she was able to successfully enter Dallas high society and would throw parties for charity groups. She felt comfortable doing it too. There was never any insecurity about not belonging in her new social group. They all taught me invaluable personal skills that I use every day in business.

My industry is male-dominated and the majority of my peers are very talented men who I often go to for advice, like Tony Robbins. I have also participated in Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a group that offers network and education opportunities for small business owners. It is important for me as a woman to share the knowledge I have acquired from my peers and my grandmothers with other female designers.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Being a disruptor means you have the courage to believe that your idea is solving a void in the marketplace. A positive example of this is crowdfunding websites. Crowdfunding websites are phenomenal. Anyone can put their idea out there on the marketplace and find investors. Instead of a bank evaluating whether your idea is worth lending to, crowdfunding sites are totally disrupting the marketplace, so more investors have access to and can fund these ideas. A not so positive example is monopolies, like Amazon. Anything that monopolizes the marketplace doesn’t leave room for new ideas. I love and am addicted to Amazon because, with three kids and my business, I don’t have time or energy to get the things my household needs. But I do worry about all the little mom-and-pop shops that I’m not shopping at. If someone could combine the convenience of Amazon with support for small, local businesses, I’d happily jump on board.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

1) “Trust your gut.” I have wasted a lot of time second-guessing myself. The majority of the time your gut instinct is right. If I had all the time back that I’ve spent second-guessing myself, I’d be 25 years old again.

2) “Proximity is Power.” This is a Tony Robbins quote. Who you choose to put yourself next to on a daily basis influences who you are. I am always really cautious about who I spend time with because the older I get, the more I’ve realized that I don’t have time for people who are negative or stuck because I don’t want to be around that energy. When I find people who are going places and doing things, I will find the time to be around those people.

3) “I’ve got three sons and one daughter and the only one with a pair of balls is my daughter.” That was my Dad. You have to be fierce, channel your inner warrior, and find ways to support that every day. Exercise really helps me, specifically hot yoga and Peloton.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’ve never been short of creative ideas, there are at least a dozen new ideas brewing at any one time. I have plans to branch out into rental communities, both long and short term. I want to create satellite Golden Girls communities where elderly people who do not want a traditional assisted living situation, but who also don’t want to live alone can rent out the rooms in a single-family home

I also always encourage all my children to explore their own ideas and create their own businesses. My daughter created a lip gloss business when she was 13 and my youngest son is currently exploring the Turo car rental system.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Going back to having male business mentors — a lot of men have male friends or fathers and grandfathers that own businesses. Women don’t often have those generational ties to draw from or call to ask for advice. The fear sets in a lot faster, because you don’t have the support system around you. Also, lending is a huge hurdle for women entrepreneurs. Banks want people with assets and experience and a lot of women have really great ideas, but they don’t have the structure to get lending from banks in the traditional way. I recently watched Becoming Warren Buffet on Netflix and a quote of his really stuck out to me. “Imagine a world where 50% of the population [women] realizes their inner abilities and talents and puts them to proper use.” I thought that was really profound. It was a really good documentary, by the way.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I love reading books about other entrepreneurs or creative types. I am obsessed with Richard Branson — he’s the perfect combination. I recently read Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights and I really enjoy his spirit. His whole book is about waking up to who you are and actualizing your dreams — when you see opportunities in front of you — green light, go for it.

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. 🙂

For almost two years now I have been partnering with Hope of the Silent Voices, an orphanage in Cambodia that brings attention and resources to disadvantaged, abused, and “voiceless” children so they can be nurtured in childhood and be able to help their own society out in the future when they are adults. I’d love to be able to expand on the mission of Hope for the Silent Voices across more countries. We donated an iPad to this orphanage for Christmas last year and all the kids gather around this one iPad, which is a stark contrast to just my own house where the kids are on their individual iPads most of the day. These children don’t have access to very basic resources and COVID-19 has just exacerbated this.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have quotes taped all over my house. Two of my favorites are “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of my way” and “where focus goes, energy flows”. I am happy to follow if someone else has a really great idea. I am happy to lead if no one else will, but don’t get in my way. The trajectory is always moving forward and if you’re a roadblock in my path, it’s not going to work out. The second quote is another Tony Robbins quote. As I mentioned previously, I find myself lacking mentors and am really drawn to people and programs like Tony Robbins that have democratized that kind of business mentorship for everyone.

How can our readers follow you online?

@inspired.interiors on Instagram

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Female Disruptors: Emily Mackie of Inspired Luxury Homes On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.