Redefine Design

This post will mark the start of the use of this blog for the purpose of documenting my experiences as co-founder and designer at Redefine Design. In this post I will briefly run through the story behind starting this business and my experiences with it to date.

I grew up in Fayetteville North Carolina, the son of local architect Walter Vick of The LSV Partnership Architects/Planners, AIA. I developed an interest in architecture at a young age, and in high school began dating Jeanne Beasley, with the shared bond of aspiring to become architects one day in the future. Jeanne began her freshman year in the 'Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture' program at NC State while I was a senior in high school. I entered the BEDA program the following year. Fast-forwarding to the close of the Spring 2010 semester at NC State, Jeanne walked across the stage with a Bachelor of Architecture after her 5th Year program and I graduated with my BEDA, but felt a desire to gain some workplace experience in the architecture field before continuing my education. After graduation, Jeanne and I both moved home to Fayetteville without any promise of employment to begin considering what 'the next step' would be for each of us. Shortly after coming home, my dad requested to speak with us at his office, and thus began the idea that turned into Redefine Design.

My dad's point was simple; with the architecture and construction markets struggling after the downturn of 2008, jobs were scarce. He could not afford to hire us at the time, but presented us with an idea we had not considered - that being to start our own small business with his mentorship, effectively challenging us to learn business operations and begin to look for clients instead of jobs. Though wary of the notion at first given our inexperience, after a few days of deliberation we decided to dive in head-first. My dad offered us a small vacant building in downtown Fayetteville to use as an office, and two weeks later we had come up with a name for the business, obtained a business license, designed stationary and ordered business cards, created a website and email accounts, put a custom vinyl sign on in the storefront window, built our own long desk down the center of the space and purchased what little furniture we needed to complete the space otherwise.

To start, we took over a project that was effectively 'too small' for The LSV Partnership to handle cost-effectively. This project was essentially a permanent canopy for the rooftop terrace of a new downtown Fayetteville building's penthouse suite. The suite owner was both a local surgeon and co-developer of this new building, so the project presented us with a unique opportunity to showcase our abilities to an individual who could spread our names through the community.

After an impressive showing on this first project, we began working on a house addition for the client's friend and an office renovation project we were recommended for by a family friend. As more projects came, we began to pay closer attention to managing our time for both efficiency and billing purposes - we also increased our hourly rates in response to the demand. In addition, we started to develop marketing strategies in order to ensure another project would come along before we became unoccupied. We handed out business cards for card trays in local businesses, tacked cards to cork boards where it was appropriate, attended and contributed to local charity events, started a Google AdWords campaign for our website, and - perhaps most importantly for walk-in business - we became an 'official event stop' for downtown Fayetteville's Fourth Friday arts celebration, hosting a show of music, drinks, hors d'ourves and our own photography at our office on a semi-monthly basis. This last technique brought us our 'Downtown Fayetteville Hay Street Apartment Renovation' job and a couple of kitchen renovations, which we ended up doing a number of over the next two years.

Through this process, we maintained weekly meetings with my dad after-hours at his firm, for purposes of discussing everything from business and professional relationship advice to critiquing designs and red-lining construction documents. I must note that this mentorship was critical to our success.

After a little over a year, Jeanne and I began to discuss an exit strategy by way of which I would eventually be able to return to school to complete the 5th Year B.Arch program. It was decided that when the time came, The LSV Partnership would take over our larger project operations and we would see the smaller ones to a close. At this point, I updated my portfolio and sent in my application to NC State. Jeanne updated her own portfolio as well. When I heard of my acceptance into the B.Arch program, she began applying for jobs elsewhere, not wanting to continue to run the operation on her own. To our surprise or credit, she was offered three jobs within a month of the onset of her search - one each in Atlanta, Charleston, and Richmond. She accepted the offer in Richmond, starting work shortly after I moved back to Raleigh to start the Fall 2012 semester. By this time, 26 months after starting Redefine Design, we had worked on nearly 30 projects at various levels of size, scale, and involvement.

Business-wise, since this time I have maintained contact with a number of our previous clients, and The LSV Partnership has even picked up a few new jobs through the Redefine Design name. It is my intention through this independent study to become reacquainted with our business operations and projects once again, including seeing through to the close of construction a couple of the projects which I started before coming back to NC State. I will use this blog to document my activity and the things I am learning along the way, of which I am sure there will be plenty. As it is my notion not to restrict the viewing of this blog but rather to promote it among fellow students as a potential learning opportunity, I will remain available for contact at thomas [at] redefinedesignnc [dot] com.

Thanks to all involved in this project,

Thomas Vick

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