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April 18, 2014

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EXECUTIVE CLASS:

Leslie Parraguirre: Designing her future

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Christopher DeVargas

Leslie Parraguirre

Leslie Parraguirre, principal of Colours Inc., an interior design firm at the Holsum Lofts, knows what builds a successful business even during a catastrophic recession. Although her company has been hit hard by the economic downturn, this lifelong Las Vegan doesn’t let that get her—or her employees—down.

What was your first job?

When I was in high school, I worked for a guy named Sal Palermo, a tough, self-made New York businessman who had a shoe store called Kickers. I knew nothing about shoes, other than that I wanted everything in the store. Sal was old school. He taught me to speak up and stand on my own two feet.

If you could go back to 1988, when you started Colours Inc., would you change anything at all?

I would have never worn those shoulder pads. Such a bad idea (laughing). But seriously, when I opened this company I was a single mother, divorced, had just lost my last business and my dad had just died. I wouldn’t do anything differently because opening this business saved my life. It helped me move forward.

What do you think is the biggest mistake people make in interior design?

Women, in particular, are born and raised to feather their nests. They all think they can do this job. The biggest mistake people make is doing things piecemeal when they need to think of the big picture. They need to design in totality. The biggest misconception is that hiring an interior designer is too expensive.

What two CDs would you want with you on a desert island?

I think that’s a trick question. If I can have CDs, then there’d have to be electricity. So, I could just bring my iPad or iPod.

What was your worst job?

Oh my God, that’s so easy. I was at Valley High School and I worked at a pizza parlor. I was 15. You had to wear these horrible candy-striped shirts and hats. If you worked on Friday or Saturday, everybody cooler than you showed up. It was awful.

Do you now dislike pizza?

Not at all. I especially love Chicago deep dish. I love food, but working with food wasn’t for me.

What TV show do you have to watch every week?

Lately, it’s a miniseries called The Killing. It’s unbelievable. I also love The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She’s so funny. How’s that for contrast?

What are your favorite vacation spots?

I’ve traveled a lot internationally. But I love Laguna Beach, where I’ve spent many summers with my children. I also love Montana—I love the outdoors, but I don’t like camping.

What business philosophy do you follow?

Be honest and work hard.

What’s the single best piece of advice your mother gave you?

To stay true to myself. My mom was a unique woman, and she really, really believed that. She worked at Capitol Records and RCA Records in LA during a time when it wasn’t normal for a woman to work. She had me when she was 36, after trying to have a kid for 17 years. She’s now 89 years old.

So you’re an only child?

I am.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Anything where I could have a magic wand and a tutu. Was I a good dancer? No.

What kind of car do you drive?

I call it my mid-life-crisis SUV. It’s a black Porsche Cayenne.

Parting shots?

I’ve been through three recessions. I believe in this city. We can pull it back together. Also, I’m a general contractor with a Class B license with the state and I’m registered with the state fire marshal’s office.

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