About the speaker

Marissa Whitley Tago is an Interior Designer and Owner of The Whitley Co., a full-service design studio in Columbia, Missouri. Growing up in Springfield, Missouri, she was an active child, whose entrepreneurial spirit quickly evolved from fundraising for school activities to organizing closets, asking about heirlooms and creating more livable spaces for her elderly neighbors who had turned into extended family to her through years of entering their home and sharing stories of their lives. Marissa knew then that she could use her love of helping others while gaining life lessons, treasured stories and a deep sense of purpose while shaping an interior space for her neighbors no matter what the task.

Today, Marissa has a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design, and she enjoys creating beautiful spaces for her clients, while emphasizing function and implementing organization. Interior design gives Marissa the ability to enhance people’s lives in the most intimate settings.

At age 18, Marissa moved to New York City after winning the Miss Teen USA Pageant in 2001, and embarked on a whirlwind year that furthered her love of being of service. In 2003, she was hired as a VJ with MTV. She then moved to Chicago where she expanded her resume with work for a non-profit organization then as a Marketing Assistant for The State of Illinois while modeling and acting with Stewart Talent.

In 2009, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked for various companies including Cypress Land Company working in commercial property management along with serving sushi at the visually stunning Katsuya Restaurant in Hollywood designed by Philippe Starck.

With each new opportunity, one thing remained a constant in Marissa’s life, her love of making spaces better than she found them. Her design aesthetic was broadened and her life enriched with each new adventure and she brings that unique perspective and passion for life to each space that she creates for her clients. Marissa loves juggling her passion for work with her bustling brood at home with husband Nicholas, and three children, Kalea-8, Atalia-6 and Kalel-4. Marissa strives to be a positive member of the community and is active in the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, works a committee member for the Great Circle Diamond Gala, is a partner in education working on the Flourish House Initiative, is a member of the Black Artists + Designers Guild and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). The Whitley Co. was awarded the “Emerging Business of the Year” by the City of Columbia at the Minority and Women-

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