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The Part-Time Jungle Podcast Episode 26: Living by Design with Jessica Velazquez

e026 – The Part-Time Jungle Podcast: Living by Design with Jessica Velazquez

Born in Panama, Jessica Velazquez studied Interior Design in Toronto, a field she combined with real estate. She became known as the realtor-designer. For years she helped expats, relocating to Panama, choose properties by helping them envision their potential and turning their investment into places they could call home. Jessica, her husband, and their 5 children, relocated to Calgary in 2011 and she opened Interiors by Jessica. But it wasn´t until 2018, after some soul-searching, that her niche was born. She is the First-Home Design Specialist. Her live Instagram show, “My Very First Home”, covers topics relevant to the homeownership journey, including ‘Rent Like a Designer’, ‘Expert Interviews’ and ‘Buyer´s Corner’. Her Design Pillars, Departure Points and Design Targets are tools she uses to coach first time homeowners. They are her why and she loves setting them up with an actual plan to renovate without buyer’s remorse.

In this episode:

  • We can control our own decisions and actions but we can’t control the decisions, actions, and resulting consequences of others – both in motherhood and in work.
  • Start before you are ready and take that first step. There is so much learning and growth in confidence that will happen along the way.
  • Living by design in our spaces and in our lives involves clarity, vision, and planning.

Connect with Jessica:

On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a great conversation with Jessica about being mindful of our own decisions and actions, starting and taking that first step before we are ready, how the pillars of living by design – clarity, vision, and planning – apply to both the spaces in our homes and our lives, and so much more!

Jessica was an absolute joy to connect with! Her kindness, compassion, and love for her family and her work as an interior designer comes through so genuinely! Jessica is committed to helping others, particularly first time home buyers, by guiding them through a journey of  living by design! She is also a lifelong learner and I greatly admire her commitment to putting herself out there and trying new things.


Jessica’s entrepreneurial journey started when her first child was about six to eight months old. She believes that her interest in becoming an entrepreneur comes from her Dad, who is a serial entrepreneur. There have been times when she has worked for somebody else. However, most of Jessica’s career, life and motherhood have been defined by entrepreneurship.


Jessica shared that not all of her entrepreneur journeys or ideas were successful. Some of them were harder than others. What she learned the most through her experiences is that there is a careful balance to being both an entrepreneur and a mom. There are expectations to juggle with both. You have expectations to be successful as an entrepreneur and you have expectations to be successful as a mom as well.


Sometimes it’s not the right time or it’s not the right mix. Things vary with every stage of your life the ages and stages of your kids. There is a time for everything. For example, Jessica says that she doesn’t think that she could do what she is doing now when her kids were little.  She says that it is important to remember that she cannot do everything and be everything for everybody at all times.


Jessics says that it is important to be kind to ourselves too. As moms, we demand a lot of ourselves and we have these expectations. Jessica has learned to not take her kids’ mistakes and failures as her own. She shared a story about her eldest son. Jessica and her family were living in Panama and her children were attending a private school with a very strict curriculum. In Panama, if you fail three courses, you have to do the whole year again, regardless of how well you did in your other courses.


A third of the way through the year, her eldest was failing five courses. Jessica took it upon herself to check how his grades were, to make sure that he had handed in his homework, and that he had written his tests. She was constantly checking that he had done everything. Jessica was just hoping that he wouldn’t fail. She frequently talked to his teachers and emailed them but things continued to take a nosedive. There was no way he would be able to finish the year successfully.


The mantra Jessica had to repeat to herself was that her son’s failures were not her own. Her son’s failures did not mean that she had failed. They didn’t mean that she had failed as a mom even though Jessica, in the moment, really felt that she had failed. Jessica didn’t feel that she had failed her son, but that she had failed as a mom. Jessica had to internalize that she had done her best and that she could not save him from the consequences of his own decisions.


Jessica shared an analogy that when you choose a decision, it’s like a long stick with your decision on one side and the consequence on the other. When you pick up that stick, you’re picking the consequences as well. Jessica could not not change the decision or the resulting consequence for her son. What she could do was to manage her reaction and how she was supporting him.


This same lesson has applied to Jessica’s journey as an entrepreneur. You cannot evaluate the results of your actions based on somebody else’s decisions. For example, if she has a sales campaign and she wants it to be successful, the number of sales is going to depend on somebody else deciding to buy. That is their decision. But, Jessica says, if she evaluates her actions based on somebody else’s decisions, she’s doing it wrong. She has to evaluate her results based on what she can control.


For example, she can control the amount of sales offers she makes, the number of sales calls, the number of Instagram lives she does, and the number of ads she posts. Those are the things that she should look at to evaluate her results. Likewise, as a mom, Jessica can’t evaluate her success as a mom based on her kids’ decisions. She doesn’t have control over that. Jessica can control the amount of quality time that she spends with them and the principles that she teaches them.


Jessica talked about how there is learning in mistakes and in failure. She distinguished between “worthy” mistakes or failures and “unworthy” mistakes or failures.

  • Unworthy Mistakes/Failures –  The actions you never take because you are afraid of failing
  • Worthy Mistakes/Failures –  The actions you take where you failed at the attempt but you learned


Jessica was not familiar with the term “imposter syndrome” until a few years ago. It was something that was so real in her life, but yet she didn’t know what to call it. Her husband said at one point that ‘you fake it till you make it’. This is the phrase she used when she and her husband started working in real estate when they lived in Panama. Jessica mentioned that real estate operates very differently in different countries. When they started doing real estate back in 1994, there was no requirement to have a license. With the encouragement of her Dad, a real estate investor, she got thrown into the waters and learned how to do it.


Jessica had to fake it until she made it. She and her husband learned and managed to do it well. The fact that they were both bilingual and provided excellent customer service helped. There were facets of the work that Jessica didn’t know how to do but she pushed herself and she learned along the way.


She worked in real estate because doing interior design failed for her in Panama. Jessica was disappointed in the craftsmanship and the quality of the work that was done there. However, she didn’t enjoy real estate. After graduating from interior design school, she had had dreams of pursuing a career in that field. When it didn’t work out, Jessica and her husband made the best of their experience working in real estate.


Over the years, Jessica and her family have moved a number of times and have gotten involved in a number of opportunities. These included opening a language school which was something that neither she or her husband had done before. However, because of other skills that they had acquired over the years including customer service, perseverance, and setting and working towards goals, they were able to make it work well. Those skills trumped everything else.


When Jessica and her family moved back to Calgary, her husband really encouraged her to get back into interior design. She felt that she had been out of the field so long that she was irrelevant and that she didn’t have anything to offer anymore. Jessica didn’t feel that she could do it.


For Jesscia, starting her Instagram account was a big step for her. She didn’t want to post anything. The imposter syndrome came in. Jessica thought that people were going to say things like:

  • Who does she think she is? She hasn’t been doing interior design for years.
  • Who does she think she is having an Instagram account?
  • Who does she think she is talking about design?


Jessica had a coach who pushed her to post something on Instagram and then, Jessica pushed herself to just do it. It took a lot to make that first post. Then, she was encouraged to do an Instagram Live. The first one that she did was 5 minutes long but it felt like 30 minutes. However, little by little and week after week, Jessica felt more confidence in herself. She was telling herself that, in fact, she did have something to share and something to say. That she did know about this and about that.


A big thing that helped Jessica was to announce that she was going live every Wednesday at 3:00 PM on Instagram. It felt scary to do this, because saying it outloud made her committed. The first step was hard. Once she took that first step and felt comfortable, then Jessica knew that she had to push herself to take another step. It was like climbing a ladder or a stairwell. You get to one point and once you’re comfortable then, you take the next step.


Jessica shared a quote by Marie Forleo: “The key to success is to start before you are ready.” Don’t wait until you’re ready to get things going because honestly, you will never feel that you are ready. You will never feel that you have it all together and that everything is perfect. You need to take that first step. There’s so much learning in doing. If you never take that step, you’ll never learn.


Jessica’s husband always told her that “you have to do what you love”. She would respond that, no, “you need to love what you do. Jessica says that you have to learn to love what you’re doing, whether you’re teaching English or showing properties. Jessica is 52 years old and wished that she would have learned this valuable lesson before She feels like she is young, living her dreams, and doing what she really loves. Jessica has found her why. She can sit down and work the whole day because she is passionate about what she is doing. Jessica is not just loving what she is doing. She is doing what she loves. Once you find that passion and your reason to get up, talk to people, and share, it makes such a difference in how you do everything else. This completely changed Jessica’s work life.


For Jessica, getting to where she is today has been a journey. It took her time to get to where she is now. Jessica doesn’t regret any of the business ventures that she has had along the way. She and her husband still have their language coaching business but she is thinking of letting it go. It’s not easy to do this though. We can feel like we want to keep all doors open. But sometimes, doors need to close in order to have a new chapter. Jessica feels that she has a good reason to turn the page.


In Jessica’s interior design work, she focuses on first-time homeowners. Her niche came to her as the result of a statement that she was asked to complete during a coaching session. “I am the only designer who…”.  She started with completing the statement by saying things like “I’m the only designer with five children or who has a language coaching business”. Then, she noted that she is the only designer who has done real estate. She asked herself why that mattered? Who would care? She realized that somebody who is looking for their first home and who didn’t know the potential of a property would care.


Jessica realized that she could combine her past experience with her passion and what really lights a fire in her. Ultimately, this led her to choose to be a “first home” design specialist. Jessica knew that she could have pursued other routes but she felt that first time home buyers are the most neglected when it comes to interior design. She has been told that designers are too expensive for first time homeowners. This really lights a fire in Jessica because it is not true and she feels that everybody needs and deserves to have a well-designed home. She is trying to bridge this gap. There are ways to plan a design even if you might not be able to renovate the whole home at once. It’s about planning a vision.


Jessica has three design pillars:

  • CLARITY – Being clear in your mind as to what you need, what’s most important, what has priority, and why. This also involves defining a budget.
  • VISION – Developing a vision of the end result first. Think of this as a mood board. If you know where you are going, you can take the right steps to get there.
  • PLANNING – Planning your vision in stages that make sense and that will fit your needs, priorities, budget and timeframe.

For Jessica, these design pillars fit both her work as an interior designer as well as life in general. If we know where we’re going, based on what’s most important for us then we can plan our steps accordingly


Jessica’s very first home, that she and her husband bought, needed remodeling. It was in the right location, it was the right size, and it was the right price. As a designer, she knew the potential that it had. She had a long list of things that she wanted to do but these all came with a price tag. Jessica kept thinking that when she had the money then, she would do them all. Five years went by and they had to sell this house because they were moving. She had made some of the changes but not all of them. Moving forward she vowed to plan things and to do things sooner than later because it is important to love where you live.


Jessica’s Instagram show “My Very First Home” is about loving your home from the minute you start living in it. When you take possession and get the keys, you can use the design pillars in your own time, within your own timeline, and with your own budget. Jessica says that homeownership is a journey. It doesn’t start when you get your first place. It starts when you’re preparing for it.


There are so many questions for new homeowners. Should I get incentives? Should I get a loan? How do I save enough money? How much do I need? Jessica’s kids are older. Her daughter even recently got married! Soon, her children will be considering purchasing a home. Jessica says that it is important to start the journey of home ownership with knowledge, information, and clarity. On “My Very First Home”, Jessica brings in guests to answer these questions. They talk about things such as mortgages, interest calculations, closing costs, and deciding to buy a house versus a condo.


They also talk about things to think about once you have your home. Jessica says that your home needs to nurture you and serve you. How do you go from having these keys and these renovation dreams to actually making them become a reality? Jessica brings in guests to talk about price points, what you need to know when you go into a flooring showroom, for example, and what decisions should be made before others.


Jessica also brings on buyers who have just completed their buying journey. They share their experiences, what they learned, and what they wished they would have known before.


Jessica has created a Facebook group called “My Very First Home”. This is a safe environment for asking questions for those who are looking for both property buying and design information. Jessica hopes that this group can help to eliminate those “I wish I would have…” moments for first time home buyers.


Aa a mom of five children, Jessica has learned that what works for one child does not necessarily work for the others. She was the most strict in her approach to parenting with her first two children. For example, she would count to three and expect them to get their shoes on. With her younger children, Jessica changed her approach. She tried more often to give them choices. What she found is that her younger children are more confident in making decisions compared with the older ones. Jessica feels that this came about because of the way she was helping them to come up with and make their own choices.


Jessica values casual teaching. This is something that she learned from her Dad. When they would be driving somewhere together, her Dad would casually talk to her about what he was doing, his ideas, and some things that hadn’t gone well. He never sat her down and taught her about business. It was just these casual teaching and casual conversations. Jessica does the same thing with her children. She talks with them while they are setting the table or driving together to a game. Sharing stories with them, rather than telling them that she is going to teach them about the value of hard work, is her way of doing this casual teaching.


Jessica feels that there is so much value in being present in our kids’ lives. This can come from knowing about their video games, the latest “memes”, and the shows and music that they are interested in. These things might not seem very significant to us as moms but they are significant to our kids. Being present is so important to Jessica because the time and connection is precious. Eventually, they will grow up to be adults and it won’t be quite the same. Although, they do come back to us and need us even if it’s in a different way.

Thanks so much to Jessica for this fantastic conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!




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