Bobi Leonard lost her family as a child and grew up poor. But she’s proven that with faith, hard work and determination, anything is possible. Leonard founded a multimillion dollar enterprise and one of the largest interior design companies in the country. She is behind the revitalization of Main Street in Santa Monica as it is today. She teaches design at Pacific Design Center and at private workshops across the United States. She’s a well-known television personality, an insured Business Consultant and an entrepreneur in skincare products.
Leonard has a passion for mentoring and empowering women in business. Her philanthropic work far exceeds her business accomplishments and she makes sure to hold one large charitable event at least once a year.
The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who this year was honored with the “Woman in Business” Award by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
You recently founded “Women Helping Women in the World, the World Foundation of Women,” which provides mentoring for women in business. What was the inspiration behind that and what is your goal?
There was a Nobel Peace Prize winner who did a mentoring program in India where they would mentor women in business and provide business loans and such. We tried to copy that concept and it worked out well. We started out with 20 women and quickly grew to 1,000 women. It was a great concept where one woman would teach the next woman. But I am so busy with so many things that I can’t fully dedicate myself to it anymore. I would love to get somebody to take over and run it. It’s a charitable foundation and I need someone to step in and help me with it.
You are a very successful interior designer. What advice do you have for students who are just starting out and are interested in pursuing interior design?
The most important thing is to have a really good mentor — someone who has experience that they can call and get help from. Someone they can turn to before a mistake happens. That’s very important. And second, to learn the business of design. A lot of schools don’t teach that. They only teach to design. Nobody teaches how to make money. That’s why I teach business.
How has interior design changed from when you first entered the business until today?
Unless you know design and the business part of it, you can’t stay in the field and be successful unless you absolutely understand the concept of making money in it. People are using the Internet today to research and buy merchandise and interior design product. They can find things on their own. They don’t need a designer.
You are a strong animal rights activist. If you could give one message about rescued animals what would it be and why?
We must focus on the big picture and spaying and neutering is the most important thing as well as rescuing. You cannot buy an animal. There are so many animals in the pounds that are being put to sleep.
What does Bobi Leonard Living offer that makes it unique from other skincare companies?
It really works. It changed my life. It made me sell my design company in 1999 to do this. I learned so much about health and skin. EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) products plump your skin, makes it one color and leave you with no pores. I manufacture 100 different products in the line.
What one message would you like to give to all women striving to succeed in business?
Never give up. Be tenacious. And follow through. You must follow through. Those are the things that make a difference.
Who or what do you owe your success to?
My spiritual work, my faith, God, hard work and I’ve always had a mentor that I could contact.
Do you have any regrets in life?
I don’t have any regrets, I only wish I could do more to help the animals in the world.
What’s an interesting or unique fact about you that people don’t know?
I was a surfer. And I grew up in the Caribbean.
What is your favorite thing about Malibu? If you could change one thing about Malibu what would it be and why?
You can walk down the street and meet someone you know. It’s a community. I want to keep it the way it was and not have too much development.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was a wonderful feeling. It takes you back to the old world. That’s a great thing. She’s a very sweet and wonderful person. She’s very real. And she makes you feel at ease.