Jacki Arena

Photo courtesy of Jacki Arena Interiors
Throughout history, women have been an integral element to the progress and success of society. In the office, in the home, and everywhere in between – women have shown their versatility and ability to more than match their male counterparts.
As a certified woman-owned business, and in honor of Women's History Month, LebaTex has interviewed successful women in the interior design industry that we admire. In this series, we will highlight their accomplishments, detail their journeys, and share their professional advice for other women to succeed as well.
The first woman we talked to for our #WomensHistoryMonth Showcase is Jacki Arena of Jacki Arena Interiors.
Jacki Arena Interiors
Jacki Arena is a Florida Licensed Interior Designer and the founder of Jacki Arena Interiors, Inc. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interior Design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has been an influential member of the hospitality industry since 1992. 
While working at the Boca Raton Resort and Club during art school, she discovered her desire to design luxury experiences in the hospitality industry. She began researching the connection between hospitality spaces and human emotions, and studied people as much as she studied design.
Prior to starting JAI, Jacki refined her design expertise and brand/design interaction while working with Extended Stay America. Assisting in the development of ESA and Studio Plus prototypes was a building block in the foundation of her design principles. Upon her success at ESA, she was recruited to join the team at Hospitality Purveyors Inc. (better known as Sandals Resorts) where she designed luxury resorts in the Caribbean.
Today, with more than 85 hospitality projects, JAI is a leader in the hospitality design industry. Jacki leads a well-rounded team of individuals that offer decades of experience in specialized areas of design, such as architectural design, furniture procurement, and artistry. She also believes in a mentorship business model that allows her team to influence up-and-coming interior designers.
We had the pleasure of asking Jacki a series of questions about her development as a professional and designer. Below are her responses:
LebaTex: Have you always wanted to be an interior designer or did you originally plan a different career?

Courtyard Marriott

Courtyard Marriott Hotel - St. Petersburg, FL. Photo courtesy of Jacki Arena Interiors.
Jacki Arena: I knew in 9th grade after my first visit to La Jolla Beach, CA from Wisconsin I wanted to become an Interior Designer. When I started the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale years later, I was working at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in retail when I decided my more specific design passion was Hotels and Resorts.
LT: What were the biggest hurdles to start and build your own business?
JA: The start was fairly easy as a client from past work followed me when I went on my own and gave me my first project…ready or not! The challenge is having the perseverance and resilience to sustain it for the past 16 years during recessions and all other ebbs and flows this industry takes on a regular basis.
LT: Are there any women in particular that inspired you in your career?
JA: Absolutely. Candice Olson helped me to see modern design could be warm and inviting as at that time, it was very cold and hard. Esther Dunbar-Cullum for her artistic hand and beautiful palettes. And of course my dear friend Stacy Garcia who has been by my side on this journey the past 10+ years with her innovative product design and forecasting of trends and colors.
LT: Do you have any advice for other women who are just starting their career in interior design or looking to grow?
JA: Stay true to your heart and your passion. If it isn’t in your heart, the rest of it will be a struggle because it is a lot of hard work. It is also a lot of fun!