The Studio 17: The Architect Entrepreneur

by Tim Alatorre

Haley is out this week but Elise Drakes fills in as co-host and Seth Pare-Mayer, Kelli Franz, and Alaina McBride join us for an unusual show on Architectural entrepreneurship and how to market yourself.

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Show Notes

Site News

  • Tim’s Big News… he passed the California Supplemental Exam!!
  • New Facebook “likers”
    • Chris Allen
    • Chris Foisy

Cal Poly News (no general news this week)

The Show!

  • Seth and Kelli decided to go out on their own the day after graduation
    • Atelier-KS
    • They did their IDP and gained experience with Architects part-time throughout school then they moved to San Francisco and worked for a couple years with firms similar to the type that they wanted to start.
  • Were you scared? Tim is!
    • Never afraid, it was always a goal, and they had good training in the firms they worked for.
    • Seth was laid off at the same time they got a job, that pushed them to go out on their own.
    • Seth has finished the IDP, Kelli is almost done and they are starting to take the ARE’s.
    • Their goal is to do small residential and light commercial projects.
  • How are you getting work?
  • Alaina’s perspective
    • How to use Social Networking for marketing:
    • How to use a Facebook fan page
    • Collaborations – a key marketing trend as a way to offer unique combination services
      • Seth and Kelli have been collaborating with Chris Allen: http://www. cwastudios .co m/. Chris designs and builds custom casework into their residential projects.
      • Building relationships with contractors
  • Kelli and Seth: What is it like to work with contractors right out of school?
    • Worked with other firms and learned not to have an adversarial relationship with the contractor
    • Working towards a common goal
    • Involve builder as soon as possible
    • Sometimes they have better ideas, it’s a give and take
    • Clear communication prevents problems
  • Elise’s question to Seth and Kelli: How do you avoid being taken advantage of (i.e. underpaid and overworked) by Owners because you are young/still gaining experience?
    • Kelli and Seth feel as though they bring energy to their projects, and typically they establish a pay schedule which allows them flexibility to put in as many long hours as needed, while not feeling underworked/overpaid
    • Alaina encourages Seth and Kelli to use their youth as a marketing advantage; older consumer generations are realizing that younger generations are more receptive and skilled at innovative technology
  • Whats the greatest challenge of working on your own?
    • Realization of how long the process is from the first contact to getting a signed contract
  • Where do you splurge and save?
    • Splurged on their desk, made by Chris Allen
    • Save everywhere else they can
    • Many tasks often outsourced by other architects (i.e. photography of projects, editing, website building) are done by Seth and Kelli to lower costs and keep work in-house (Elise’s side note: they are fantastic photographers
  • Alaina’s perspective:
  • Gorilla Marketing = Time, Energy, Imagination, not a large marketing budget
    • The farmer’s market architect is a great example of marketing yourself and gaining contacts to sustain work
    • Linked-In! ( ) Your profile is highly ranked in Google
  • Some general business advice from Alaina
  • For unemployed designers, you have the skills, design and sell something
    • – use digital manufacturing to design something to buy or sell directly on the site
    • – Make and sell stuff (jewelry, furniture, art)
  • Do Seth and Kelli plan on growing or staying a small firm?
    • They hope to maintain a steady workflow of projects, working side by side, in close contact with people they enjoy collaborating with
    • Seth and Kelli saw a Cal Poly presentation and were inspired by the motto, “Start your career how you want to end your career.”
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Michael E. Gerber
  • Get to know your ideal clientèle then you can learn to attract other people like them
  • Baby-boomers are looking to younger professionals to leverage technology which gives younger people a competitive advantage
  • Tim predicts Baroque Architecture being the next big thing
  • Using your cat as your financial adviser; establish a person at your office (fictional or real) as the “financial person”; you want the face of the company to remain loved by all
  • What are our best memories from Cal Poly?

About the Author

Tim Alatorre