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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: John Paul Valverde, Coéval Studios

The creative director and principal for Coéval Studios discusses his firm's most recent projects, the importance of mentorship, and more.
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John Paul Valverde

Architect John Paul Valverde specializes in hospitality, commercial, and retail environments. He has designed the look of Dallas hotspots like The Rustic, Happiest Hour, and Citizen. Prior to launching his own firm, Valverde was fired after asking for a small raise. “It really changed my perspective,” he says. “And it was my catapult to go out on my own and start my own company and change industry standards.”

In his extended 2024 Dallas 500 Q&A, he talks about industry outreach, mentoring the next generation of business leaders, and his firm’s most recent wins.

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California

Education: “I graduated from Skyline High School and attended some college at Mountain View College.”

First Job: “My first job was bagging groceries at Tom Thumb. I left after 5 days.”

Best Advice: “I was fired for asking for a small raise. It really changed my perspective and showed me that when you think life is falling apart and even if you give a company your best, you can always be replaced. However, this was my catapult to go on my own and start my own company and change these standards.”

Dinner Party: “If I could have dinner with any two DFW leaders, one would be Kim Butler. I have always admired HALL Group’s developments and would enjoy discussing how they select site locations and concepts. And also Mark Cuban, for his blunt leadership attitude and his continued accomplishments.”

Destinations of Choice: “I enjoy St. Emilion, France. The mood is small town with excellent food and landscapes. I also love the Yucatan Peninsula for its beaches and Merida for its architecture. Belgium is one of my favorite places because of its DNA in design and Paris is, of course, a place I enjoy. I love its grittiness and its history.”

I Collect: “I like to say I am perhaps a novice collector. I enjoy collecting cars I have a Mercedes SLS, a G Wagon Cabriolet, a G Wagon 4×4 Squared, Porsche 911 Turbo (997), and a Mercedes AMG A35 Hatchback.”

Hobby/Passion: “I enjoy long drives to West Texas or across states with friends. Mentally it allows you to disconnect and be one with the road and car.”

Industry Change: “I would like to see more multicultural leaders and companies in our industry as well as more diverse and more education on how to connect with larger developers and companies. I think it is such an amazing industry and more outreach would create or invite broader creativity for upcoming generations and design leaders.”

Local Fare: “Margaritas on Fitzhugh is excellent. The key is to arrive at before 10am before they get very busy on weekends. I usually order egg and ham tacos on their fresh flour tortillas with a side of queso fresco and guacamole, plus a diet coke.”

Guilty Pleasure: “Basque cheesecake, New York style cheesecake, or a toasted PB&J”

Fun Fact: “I am working on getting my racing license.”

Go-to Adviser: “Kendall Laughlin mostly helps me to reset and remind me of my goal and to not get comfortable with being stagnant. He’s older and wiser so I respect his input. I also think talking in general is healthy about ideas and risk that we take on new ventures.”

Toughest Challenge: “Like most, the beginning of a new business is the hardest, and starting with no loan and being self-funded sets you in a mindset of all or nothing. The challenges of financial obligations, raising a newborn, and striving to prove myself was relentless, exhausting, and beautiful once I put in perspective. We had to learn how to build a portfolio without having clients, we worked for free for five to six projects in order to showcase our talent, prime locations, and prime concepts like the Rustic and Pakpao helped showcase our talent and our capabilities.”

First Car: “My first car was a Honda Accord that was owned by another teenager. It was all I could afford and for $1,500 it seemed like a deal. I drove it for two years and kept its maintenance up for the weekends. It was a great car but could only drive 30 minutes consistently before overheating the transmission. So, I guess it worked out for my parents because I could not drive past Fort Worth without turning back.”

Proud Moment: “Working on three projects from idea to full concept design and being selected over other design firms was a big win over the past year. It’s a challenging but rewarding position. The essence of turning an idea to a tangible experience is always considered success in our industry. For Coeval, it’s what we live and breathe and we are very proud of these new concepts and designs that are currently under construction in Dallas, Detroit, and Scottsdale.”

A Better DFW: “I would enjoy seeing more mentorship opportunities for young adults or teens. I think we need to help groom our recent graduates, or aspiring designers, or business leaders into, or how to get into, different businesses. Educating them on financial literacy and how to build off of one business idea to another is important. We see so many talented applicants that are clueless about where they want to be in the next few years and how to even begin to think of how to get there. I think it’s our responsibility to educate, lead, and keep them engaged with North Texas so they stay here and grow the city.”

Pivotal Moment: “In 2015 my 4-year-old daughter was taken on vacation by her mother to Moscow. After six weeks I was notified that she would not be returning with my daughter. Nineteen months later and after FBI, Interpol, attorneys engaged in Dallas, DC, and Madrid, I had to take matters into my own hands and brought back my daughter in October of 2016 successfully from Madrid on a direct flight to DFW. Perseverance, dedication, and patience reminded me that anything is possible if you want it.”

Walk-up Song: “‘Facts’ (Charlie Heat Version) by Kanye West because of its fun and upbeat sound”

Must-read: “I enjoyed Stoic readings. I recently read Seneca, Letters from a Stoic. The readings are a deep view of life and how to perceive people’s opinions, our own faults, and an honest and blunt view of death.”

Spirit Animal: “I enjoy the duck and the idea of a duck in water. Very calm and relaxed above water and peddling aggressively under water away from view. It is very relatable in the sense that above water, what is noticeable toward others, is that you are calm, collected, and confident; while below the water, what you are doing, when maybe others may not be watching, you are working hard towards your goals, motivated, and putting in the effort to make things happen.”

Alternate Reality: “When I was a young teen I always thought of being a doctor. I enjoy caring for people and helping others.”

Embarrassing Moment: “I won an award for ‘Most Likely to Get Arrested’ during a car rally.”

Bucket List: “Bastille Day in Paris was a nice one to cross off.”

Key Leadership Strategies: “Decisiveness, vision, purpose, and ethical leadership”

Future Forecast: “I think AI is exciting for our industry. We will have to force ourselves to adapt and learn how to use it to compliment our designs, services, and client’s needs. Learning how to still adapt a human touch to the design while using correct prompting for balanced results will be interesting and necessary.”

Author

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…
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