How Cheryl Eisen Went From Living on Mom’s Couch to Building Her Own Interior Design Empire

Welcome to E!’s Tales From the Top, our series on women who are leaders in their fields and masters of their craft. Spanning industries and experiences, these powerhouse women answer all the questions you’ve ever had about how they got to where they are today—and what they overcame to get there. Read along as they bring their resumés to life. 

You never know where you’ll get that life-changing spark of inspiration. For Cheryl Eisen, it was on her mom’s couch. 

For a time during the ’90s and early aughts, Eisen was running her own successful company. But, in the midst of the dot-com bubble crash, her executive search firm went under and the entrepreneur was suddenly unemployed with a tricky job history. “I was broke in my 30s, living on my mom’s sofa and I had to completely reinvent myself,” she said in an exclusive interview with E! News. “Nobody would hire me because I had CEO on my resume and I didn’t go to college.” 

While she had already tried a variety of gigs—art director, graphic designer and Macintosh software teacher to name a few—Eisen next turned to real estate, securing her license and a spot at an agency where commissions were her income. Ever the shrewd businesswoman, she stood out in the saturated market after getting an idea from an unexpected source. “I had been watching HGTV during my unemployment days, and I saw this show called The Stagers,” she recalled, “and no one was doing that in New York at the time. And I thought, ‘This is really neat. Maybe I could be the stager that sells real estate.'”

The New York City native, who had grown up with an interest in art, decided to merge her two worlds. “I was creative. I had a good eye for things. I had no experience, but the only way I was going to be able to compete in New York real estate, a very competitive real estate market for getting listings, was to have a differentiator,” she explained. “And I saw this as an opportunity.” 

While Eisen had to take on the costs of staging the spaces herself, she took inspiration from a book on Kelly Hoppen‘s interior designs and got to work. The impact was immediate. “From the first time I did it, it was so successful. The property sold at full-ask, all cash, completely furnished,” she said, “where the seller had been trying to sell it himself for like a year without any success unstaged, so it was a great transformation. And brokers took notice and said, ‘Wow, what is this staging thing? Can you stage my listing too?’ And so then I was not only staging my own listings—and I got a lot of business from it—but also other brokers’ and other agents’ listings. And so, it really started taking off from there.”

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