Finding a bestie mom to work with is definitely a plus, and when you’ve been friends for as long as Miriam Silver Verga and Hillary Kaplan have, it’s even more simpatico. These NJMOMprenuers of the week—who’ve been friends for 20 years—opened their own design firm Mimi & Hill 10 years ago, with little experience other than a core concept: Design meaningful, family spaces that create a connection to homeowners and their families. As they’ve grown the business and melded their designing styles (Hillary’s a little bit classic: Miriam’s a little bit trendy), they’ve hit their stride with thankful clients and a wait list. In between their busy schedules of being moms to teens and designing their next projects, we sat down to dish with them about why it pays to have a better half in a new venture, the most interesting places their clients send them to design their houses (hint: Caribbean) and where you can always find them in their hometown of Westfield.
Featured Image via Mimi & Hill
Founders of Mimi & Hill & NJMOMpreneurs Miriam Silver Verga and Hillary Kaplan
NJMOM: What inspired you to start Mimi & Hill?
Hillary: Mimi & Hill was started as a partnership with a love for design, working together and problem solving.
Miriam: I was approached about working for another designer I admired and had used myself. But I had worked with Hillary on so many projects through our elementary school and temple, that I couldn’t imagine doing it without her. The more that we spoke, the more it became clear we could do this on our own.
NJMOM: How did you two meet?
Miriam: We met through our realtor, who set us up on a dinner outing about 20 years ago. Our kids were the same age and we became good friends. Hilary and I work so well together—I feel like she’s my better half. In the beginning, we took time to build and do our own thing. We had a couple clients take a chance on us, and that was it— we’ve had a wait list ever since.
Get a [Mompreneur] partner you can trust and share everything with. We all need support as we have so many roles as mom, daughter, wife and friend.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about running a business together?
Hillary: My favorite part is working together and making our clients happy by establishing a new way of living in their homes.
Miriam: We feel the exact same about this. We get such joy walking into our shared office space and seeing each other every morning. The amazing clients are the icing on the cake.
NJMOM: How do you juggle running a business and motherhood?
Miriam: I have a chronically ill child, so that adds another layer to the dynamic. We give each other room to be moms, and we’re both hard workers. We also have a deep team—a lot of designers don’t invest in that but it’s very important. We have eight women that work with us, and they’ve been tapped from our everyday lives—some are former PTO presidents and others are graduates from design school and friends. We wear a lot of hats and can’t always be there, so either way, they still have a dedicated professional that’s one more person beyond us. Each client has a project manager, and it also allows Hillary and I not to be everywhere at once—we do that so there’s time for real life.
NJMOM: What is the philosophy of Mimi and Hill?
Miriam: Hillary and I are not naturally showy people. Our true value system is family, above all else. What gives us such joy is the ability to help a family live in their house so that they can create a connection to the people inside it. We’ll go into a home and tell a family not to renovate or expand—it will just create more space for your kids to hide from you. We’re not looking for the biggest house or the biggest job. We always ask: Does this bring joy to a family? Does it bring connection to a family? If we can check both of those boxes, then we’re all in for a project. We did one garage at the beach this year that is red, blue, white and so over the top—totally not our aesthetic at all, but it’s about beach fun and being down by the water and where the family loved to hang out. We tried to create as many points of connection in that garage as we could. I received my masters in literature, and I did my thesis centered around the phrase “only connect.” To me, that’s it—making sure that every person in the home can connect, and that every woman has her own space and room for herself as well.
NJMOM: Are your interior design tastes similar or different?
Miriam: I think we used to be more dissimilar—our styles are melding together now. Hillary has always been more feminine and classic, and I’ve always leaned towards masculine and dramatic. We’ve been doing it for 10 years together and hone an aesthetic that brings out the best in both of us. I push trends forward, and she implements the ones we’ll always love. We don’t want to create a design that’s dated in a few years—we see a lot of designers that are interested in what’s trending right now, but that feels wasteful in money and resources. We want to design a home that the family can feel good about, and for us, that means luxury interior spaces that are practical.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite project that stands out to you most over the course of your designing careers?
Miriam: We have one client in particular, that we’ve done every corner of their house. It’s a client with whom we share a similar aesthetic and really believes in us, so we push the envelope with their home. We’ve also done interior design projects in Puerto Rico and St. John’s—those locations are were amazing!
NJMOM: What is the most rewarding part of motherhood?
Miriam: My youngest is 12 and my oldest is 19. We cook together, hang out together and we love to travel together. We’re no longer overwhelmed with toddler life, and now we’re like, “How can we build you up and make your life easier being a teenager?” I feel that my husband and I have raised strong women who are going after the lives they want. Hillary has two boys and a girl. Both of us genuinely choose to be around our kids, because they are our favorite people. We are all in family group texts—our kids are best friends, too. They love traveling, being together and always send us pictures of each other at parties or wherever they are. It’s hard work, but it’s a different kind of work.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in NJ with your family?
Hillary: I love going for walks with my family and my dog to downtown Westfield, grabbing a bite at Boxwood Coffee Roasters or Farinolio, doing a little shopping and heading home.
Miriam: I didn’t grow up in NJ so exploring the state is so exciting to me. We have amazing parks, mountains and beaches. We spent our children’s summers at the beach so it’s our happy place. Currently our favorite one is Diamond Beach, between Cape May and Wildwood Crest.
NJMOM: Do you have any helpful advice for other mompreneurs starting out?
Hillary: Get a partner you can trust and share everything with. We all need support as we have so many roles as mom, daughter, wife and friend.
Miriam: Go for it! We knew we would have failures and while they were tough to stomach, my mantra was “this is the cost of our schooling”. Men are so much more willing to throw their hat in the ring and become experts while women wait to become experts before making the leap—so make the leap and good things will follow.