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Meet Juana Najera of Sweet Design Studio in Downtown Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Juana Najera.

Juana, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Ever since I was young, I used to like rearranging my parent’s home every other weekend or so. I used to move things around and change the drapery played with pillows and added accessories. I actually didn’t really know there was such a thing as an interior designer career. I moved out of LA when I was about 13 to South Dakota because my father became ill and I had to live with my sister. Throughout High School, I was always creative and was always interested in a career in the Arts. In my senior year, a teacher mentioned that I can actually go to school and become an interior designer, but that I needed to move back to LA to be able to find work in the field. Upon graduation, I immediately booked my flight back to the Los Angeles and enrolled in El Camino College, later on I transferred to UCLA where I majored in Architecture and Interior Design. Upon graduating, I got several internships in various firms, finally getting hired at a developing firm that helped design and build hotels, however I wanted to dive deeper in the field so I ventured out to work for product manufactures (lighting, furniture, etc.). I really wanted to be as knowledgeable as possible since starting my own firm was always the goal. Throughout this time, I met an incredible designer that took me under her wing and really mentored me and showed me how it is to run an interior design business. Ee worked mainly on Saudi Arabian Palaces, so that really exposed me to the needs of very demanding clients. That really thought me to think on feet and allowed me to develop my style. Once I felt ready, I launched my studio. I wanted to take the same approach as to the higher end clients however I wanted to make sure that people could afford my services. My first project was a foyer for a client and friend in the city of Downey CA. Super tight budget, but we manage to see it through with great results. That allowed me to build in my confidence and continued taking on new projects. Some have been very small, a kitchen, a bathroom, all the way up to new construction home remodels. However, I tried to make sure affordability is always the staple. My regular list of clients are young families and professionals, most are first home buyers or your average family wanting to remodel their home and update their spaces. I’m currently working on starting a product line of home accessories and also working on some furniture pieces that I think will start a new aspect in my business.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think that it’s never a smooth road when someone starts a business, however I think that the hard work invested always paid off. I can remember a particular instance at the very start of my business where a client wanted me to redesign her home but did not want to do new construction or touch any of the original moldings while at the same time she wanted me to make the place look more modern. Needless to say, things got a bit complicated and it delayed the project by several months and ended up costing me more money than I was charging. But as they say, the customer is always right. Also finding vendors and product manufactures that will take me seriously was extreme challenging in the beginning. I was not a big firm and I had no proven record so I was always put in the back of the line. Luckily, I speak Spanish and through some creative ways like bringing lunch for workers and the occasional extra tip, I was able to find some of the most awesome local vendors and product manufacturers in the city and that also allowed me to remain competitive in my pricing. Running a business is always a struggle. Anywhere from finding a reliable assistant, to just getting a container from the East Coast to come without damage products. This business always presents challenges, but thanks to an awesome support group and the resources this great city offers, We’ve been able to succeed

Please tell us about Sweet Design Studio.
We are a Boutique Interior Design firm. We specialize in affordable interior design and custom interior products. I think what really sets us apart is the fact that we never say never. I know it sounds cliché but we’ve always work with our client’s budgets and always set forth a working relationship of confidence and dependability. We never say we can’t do a project because it’s small or because it’s not in a prestigious neighborhood, we are a scrappy bunch and we like to work with local manufactures and craftsman. We are very neighborhood driven in our philosophy. The one thing that we feel the proudest about is that we have great relationships with our clients. Most of them repeat business with us, and we also have great friendships with them.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Summer vacations in Southern California, camping trips to Pismo Beach, Seafood Feast in San Pedro, Fourth of July in Dodger Stadium.

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