DI Alumni Spotlight: Q+A with Jaki Yermian

Photo of Jaki Yermian of JY Design Interiors

Jaki Yermian of JY Design Interiors, DI class of 2016

Design Institute of San Diego alumna Jaki Yermian is having a great year. With recent features in both San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine and Discover Magazines, a television spot on local show “This is San Diego,” and a new lease for a design studio in Leucadia, she is poised to take over the interior design community. We interviewed Jaki recently about her journey from DI student to a business owner, and her story is guaranteed to inspire.

Q+A with Jaki Yermian

Q: When did you graduate from Design Institute of San Diego?

A: 2016

Q: How long have you known that you wanted to become an interior designer?

A: I always knew I wanted to major in art and took a few prerequisites at a local community college, but I had no idea that my calling was interior design until I toured DI.

Looking back, I now see there were signs that this was my path. When I was younger, I used to build elaborate forts, not to play in them, but to layout spaces and make them functional.

Pink barstools line a new kitchen island in a kitchen remodel done by Jaki Yermian of JY Design Interiors

Great view of newly remodeled kitchen by JY Design Interiors

Q: How did you find out about DI and why did you ultimately decide to enroll?

A: I actually had a co-worker who was attending DI at the time. I vividly remember walking through the halls, looking at student work, and realizing this is where I needed to be.

Q: Did you feel prepared to take on the real world after you graduated?

A: I did because I had worked throughout all 4 years of school. I got experience in large firms, small companies, and residential and commercial design. Although DISD’s program sometimes felt overwhelming for me, I was quickly able to apply those skills in the real world since I was working and learning simultaneously.

Photo of a newly installed bathtub in front of a window by Jaki Yermian of JY Design Interiors

Beautiful tub for this bathroom remodel by JY Design Interiors

Q: Did you always know you wanted to start your own business? If not, what led to that decision?

A: Although it was always in the back of my mind (I have a lot of family members who are entrepreneurs), I was somewhat content working for someone else.

I was bartending while in school, and one day met a contractor who asked me to help design a large corporate office space. I was sort of thrown into it, which forced me to get a business license and figure out how to invoice, etc. From there, it really took off! I had no idea what was in store for me.

About a year ago, I transitioned from working for a large local firm to working for myself full time. It was a really difficult and scary decision because, like any business owner, I had a fear of the unknown and what my future would be. Something in me told me it was my time, and I never looked back.

Q:  What has been the most challenging aspect of being a small business owner?

A: Juggling all aspects of a company such as accounting, client meetings, and actual design work. Especially since there are no 9-5 hours when you’re a business owner.

Photo of bedroom remodel done by Jaki Yermian of JY Design Interiors. There is an english bulldog posed on the bed

Bedroom remodel (with a cute four-legged model) by JY Design Interiors

Q:  What is the most rewarding aspect of running a business?

A: Seeing my clients’ homes transform and building client relationships. Nothing beats seeing your clients happy with your work.

Q:  What does your business focus on? Residential? Commercial?

A: Mostly residential. Right now, we have a lot of jobs that are remodels and new construction.

Bathroom Remodel by JY Design Interiors. Shot of two person sink

Bathroom Remodel by JY Design Interiors

Q:  You were recently featured in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine. Talk about that experience and what it has done for your business.

A: It was such a humbling and rewarding experience. I was able to work directly with the photographer to collaborate on shots and angles. The editor was wonderful and so easy to work with. It really helped me feel like I was getting accurately portrayed.

So far, I have found that I’ve gotten more magazine / media offers based on that article than clients.

Q:  You also have been featured on local TV shows, etc. Have you found media to be important in the growth of your business and if so, what advice would you give to budding interior designers on how to market yourself to receive that kind of visibility so early in the game?

A: For me, this has been such a whirlwind and I consider myself very lucky to be able to pick up so much exposure so quickly. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to make sure you love what you do, and that passion will be contagious, whether it’s through clients and referrals, or marketing opportunities. No exposure is too small, and always say yes to every opportunity!

Q:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: That’s always been such a tough question for me to answer. Of course, I’d love to continue expanding and growing as a business. However, as long as I’m doing what I love, I am more than happy to ride this wave, wherever it takes me.

Details of a kitchen remodel by JY Design Interiors. Close up on back splash tiles above stove

Details of a kitchen remodel by JY Design Interiors

Q:  What is the most important thing you learned as a student from DISD?

A: The architectural background and computer skills are really what have set me apart from others in this industry. AutoCAD skills have really been a strong basis for my company. It helps communication through contractors and architects but also helps your clients see your vision.

I also think being in the inspiring and challenging environment DI provides, helped shape me into the designer I am today.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself! We are growing so rapidly, I have hired 4 designers, going on 5. Shortly we will be launching an e-commerce portion to our website where clients and shoppers can buy from us directly without having to hire us for design services.

It’s been such an incredible experience to watch my dreams come true! If I could tell my past self one thing when I was in school, it would be to keep focused and work hard, because it really does pay off. Good things happen to those who work for it!

Follow Jaki Yermian on her interior design adventures:

Instagram handle: @jydesigninteriors

Website: www.JYdesigninteriors.com