Kimi Rutkin
Influencers 15 years ago No Comments


If you earned your interior design degree, landed an industry position (or two), and still haven’t found your passion for the business of interiors, then we have some inspiration for you: Kimi Rutkin. kimirutkintitle.gifAlthough she went so far as to secure her Master’s of Interior Design from the University of Florida after receiving her BSBA Finance on the very same campus, she has traded in her 3-D design world for a 2-D one by starting Fish Lips Paper Designs, a company focusing on eco-savvy gift wrap with fun, modern graphics.

What attracted you to interior design specifically and design in general”

I have always been a creative person and drawn to the process of creating things… sewing, mosaics, building furniture… anything that allows you to work with your hands and have something physical to show for it. I think interior design is an extension of this love, and I believe strongly that designing interior environments can greatly affect the users of those spaces.

What was your first experience working in the design industry, how did you get it, and what did you think”

My first experience working in design was an internship with a firm doing TI [tenant improvement] work. I went to California from Florida for the summer, kimirutkinskye.jpgand my uncle, a contractor, hooked me up with the firm. It was a firm of great people, but I was bored to tears!

What other interior design focused positions have you held and how they have shaped you”

Since then I have worked in two other design firms: one small hospitality firm and one large commercial architecture and design firm. Both experiences have left me needing more… more creativity, more autonomy, more involvement, more control. I saw that so often your role in projects was based solely on years of experience and NOT on ability or the willingness and desire to be involved and work hard.

You now own Fish Lips Paper Designs, a company that offers cool, graphically fresh gift wrap on recycled paper. How did that transition happen”

Actually, Fish Lips started as doodles in AutoCAD while bored at work. Now all of my designs still start in AutoCAD… I guess all of the hours I spent working on Construction Documents really came in handy. Ha!

What has been your toughest challenge owning your own business” Is being an entrepreneur all that you expected”

The toughest challenge has been having patience. Fish Lips is doing very well, but every new business needs time to grow. Of course, I would prefer for things to happen overnight! Being an entrepreneur is amazing. It is difficult and stressful knowing that you can’t turn to anyone else to make things happen, but that is what makes it so rewarding. I guess it is a good fit for us control freaks.

What’s a typical day like for you”

My days are spent doing several things:
– reaching out to current clients and trying to find new stores to carry my paper, which is a constant mission
– packaging and shipping orders
– researching and designing new products and green processes
– looking for new marketing and advertising opportunities
– playing with my dogs

What was the biggest work-related mistake that you have ever made and how did you deal with it”

Luckily I haven’t had many. I think I have avoided them by being very honest and open with everyone that I work with. Being new to all of this, I can’t tell you kimirutkinfishlips.jpghow many times I have had to say: “I don’t know. Please tell me how this works.” People in general have been so helpful and receptive to this honesty.

Tell us about your newest, most favorite designs for Fish Lips. What makes you excited about them”

I am working on boxed sets of note cards. I am so excited to be creating these products because I think that they fill a major void in the marketplace. I just can’t believe the gap that currently exists between hip designs and sustainability in the market. There is no reason for that.

What did you learn in school that you feel prepared you for a career in design, and what have you learned only through experience”

AutoCAD skills have come in handy, haha. Spending so much time in design studio definitely helped strengthen my time management skills. I think learning how to communicate effectively with all different kinds of people only comes from experience – and this is such a critical skill.

What’s the best advice that you could give a student emerging from school”

Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t excite and inspire you. Be brave enough to speak your mind but smart enough to be able back up what you say.

Is there any other information that you would like to mention that we haven’t covered here”

I would just like to reiterate that sustainability needs to become a major part of all fields of design. As designers, we have the opportunity to help educate and bridge the gap between popular culture and environmental responsibility.

Now for the lighter side…

What is your favorite time of day and why”
Anytime that is hot and sunny.

What was your favorite movie of 2007″
I loved Juno.

If you won the lottery, where would you live and why”
Definitely on the beach somewhere in Florida. That’s where my family is, and I need to be close to them.

What the one thing that you wish you knew more about”
Everything! When I was younger I felt like so many things were boring and couldn’t imagine wanting to learn about them. Now I wish I knew more about politics, the environment, history, how things work… everything.

If you like Kimi’s outlook or if you just want to pick her brain a little more, feel free to drop her a line at