Get to know Brandi Markiewicz, Managing Partner, Orlando, CI Group
Through perseverance, dedication and passion, Brandi Markiewicz has grown CI Group from the ground up into a multi-million-dollar company dominating the commercial furniture industry and specializing in a wide range of business interiors products and industrial equipment.
Brandi is an interior designer, business owner, dedicated volunteer and overall inspiration to the Central Florida community serving on nonprofit committees and boards across the Orlando region. She has won several awards, including FSU’s Distinguished Service Award, Orlando Business Journal’s (OBJ) 40 Under 40, and her organization has been awarded OBJ’s 2022 Best Places To Work.
Going back to her early days, Brandi knew from an early age that she wanted to become an interior designer. As a third generation Tallahassee native, Brandi wanted to stay close to home and decided to join the interior design program at Florida State University. Throughout college and her early career, she always planned on doing residential interior design and says she never thought she’d end up working in a dealership—much less owning one.
However, when Drew Marshall, President and CEO of CI Group, asked Brandi to be his partner in 2017, everything changed. Brandi took his offer under careful consideration and weighing a strategic pros and cons list. “The thought of being able to be in control of my own destiny was very empowering,” Brandi explained when describing her thought process in joining forces with Marshall. Together, the two opened a new CI Group location in Orlando where Marshall handles the business aspects of the dealership and Brandi manages the design elements and creative strategy.
Starting a company from the ground up presents challenges that need to be overcome before becoming a profitable organization. Brandi shares, “It takes a minute to earn people’s trust and getting our name out in the marketplace took some time, but that has become easier as we are continuing to scale and continuing to build on an awesome team.”
As a relationship driven business, Brandi and the entire CI Group value their partnerships in the community and remain authentic in everything they do, staying true to their core values. Their goal is not to push out furniture, it is to build authentic relationships and find creative solutions for their clients’ space.
Since opening in 2018, Brandi and her team have seen a growth of over 130 percent. Brandi describes that her key to success and exponential growth is perseverance and describes herself as very competitive and ambitious. While she believes that failure is an extremely important steppingstone to success, Brandi knew failing CI Group was not an option. Within less than a year of moving into their showroom in June 2019 the pandemic hit, yet their team of four remained persistent.
As recognition for her success and dedication to the community, Brandi has recently received Florida State University’s (FSU) Department of Interior Architecture & Design Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an alumni of FSU’s Interior Design program who has rendered notable service to the profession and humanity in general. This award means a lot to Brandi on a personal level, as she continues to want to give back to the profession itself. Through winning this award, Brandi hopes to inspire current and future FSU Interior Design program graduates and give them a different perspective after going in a multitude of directions within the field. “An interior design degree is really a golden ticket into our profession, because yes you can be a designer, but you can also be a hundred other things—the world is your oyster” she explained.
Brandi emphasized that she has been fortunate to have many mentors and advocates along the way, including her family. She describes that her biggest mentor is Marshall, her business partner, as he has been with her throughout her career journey. “He really gets me—he lets me be me and encourages me to see things from a different lens. He empowers me and really developed me in my career,” Brandi said.
Looking toward the future, Brandi hopes to continue to grow and scale CI Group, as well as potentially looking for a new home for their team within the next year, as they are beginning to outgrow their space.