“Working side by side with folks, rolling up my sleeves, demonstrates that I’m not just a manager but someone who’s right there with the team, especially when challenges arise,” says Miguel Espinoza, senior director of corporate real estate and workplace at Sephora.
Sephora was founded in 1969 in Paris as a small perfume shop with an “open sell” concept but expanded exponentially over the following decades. By 1997, Sephora was acquired by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods conglomerate. This acquisition accelerated Sephora’s global expansion and provided access to a broader market. The company now operates over 2,700 stores in 35 countries worldwide, with an expanding base of more than 600 stores across the Americas.
The company celebrated its 25th anniversary in the US last year, those decades spent headquartered in San Francisco. Sephora cemented this milestone by opening its new office in San Fran, a cross-functional effort including Espinoza and his team. This new location allows all the corporate employees to work under one roof, instead of being split between two buildings in the city like they had been.
“We wanted to consolidate our employee base from being split a few blocks apart from each other,” Espinoza says. “The goal was to have all our employees together so that it would enhance collaboration and, obviously, efficiencies.”
The new office provides better amenities that focus on wellness and comfort for employees. The project was 16 floors and roughly 286,000 square feet. The sheer volume of the build made for a complex undertaking which Sephora carried out in multiple phases. Espinoza recounts that the biggest challenge with a project of this size was the timeline. However, by mid-October 2023 all Sephora employees were able to move into the new office and the company was able to decommission the previous offices.
Before joining Sephora in 2017, Espinoza built real estate experiences in a variety of settings. He got his start in real estate at People’s Properties and then moved on to be branch manager at AIG where he honed his finance and accounting skills.
He then got back into real estate working for a few different tech firms, most notably for BlackBerry. “Throughout my career, I’ve developed skills in budgeting, accounting, and auditing,” he says. “Each role, especially at BlackBerry, prepared me for the leadership needed in such a large project like our latest office move at Sephora.”
BlackBerry gave Espinoza and his then team a global portfolio, and their role included managing day-to-day facilities and workplace operations, as well as decommissioning existing sites and constructing new ones.
Now at Sephora, Espinoza uses all the skills that he has learned along the way. He is responsible for managing Sephora’s North American corporate real estate portfolio that involves not only construction and leasing but the facilities management of the offices along with health and safety of its employees. His team routinely collaborates with both internal (IT, legal, contracts, business) and external (project managers, architects, construction) partners.
Espinoza emphasizes that, when managing his team and relationships with multifaceted partners, it’s crucial to lead by example. “It’s important to show that that not only am I capable of doing the work that is expected from my team, but that I’m right there doing it with them,” he explains. “I want to be sure they know, in case something goes wrong or they need any guidance, I’m fully available to them.”
Another important aspect of good leadership, he says, is making sure that his employees are continuing to develop and prepare for the next step in their careers. He eschews micromanagement and instead focuses on ensuring that his team has a good work/life balance. Most importantly, Espinoza elevates his team and celebrates the wins as often as he can.
“It’s all about the people,” he affirms. “If you put your people first, everything else will fall into place.” Those values expand companywide. Last year, Sephora was recognized as a certified Great Place To Work, placed third in the Worklife50 annual list, and won the South by Southwest Innovation at Work Awards in the “Enterprise Diversity Equity, and Inclusion” category.
Espinoza says watching his team’s projects go from 2D to 3D is incredibly gratifying. After 25 years of establishing its presence San Francisco, Sephora is doubling down on its commitment to being in the city for the long haul. Espinoza is proud to be part of that; he loves San Francisco’s vibrancy and how Sephora’s location in the middle of the financial district sets it right in the heart of the action.
The senior director describes Sephora as a “winning company” and says that working for a successful brand is a huge plus but nevertheless it is not the profit margins that set Sephora apart. “What really attracted me to Sephora and what keeps me here is the culture,” Espinoza shares. “There is a lot of diversity—everyone is welcome.”
NOVO Construction, established in 2000, is a prominent general contractor serving both the Bay Area and Texas. With a foundational principle of “Building Rock Solid Relationships,” NOVO emphasizes long-term partnerships over one-time projects, exemplified by their aspiration to undertake 100 projects for a single client rather than one-off ventures with many. This commitment to relationship-building has led them to collaborate with esteemed clients like Sephora, solidifying their reputation in the construction industry.
Revel extends its heartfelt support and appreciation to our valued collaborator, Miguel Espinoza, senior director of corporate real estate at Sephora. Miguel has been instrumental in condensing/relocating Sephora’s multiple offices into a cutting-edge vertical campus. His exceptional clarity in communication and deep understanding of Sephora’s corporate vision empowered the team to create a state-of-the-art ‘distributed workplace’ of the future that caters to the company creative culture. His dedication and expertise have been invaluable in this remarkable journey.