Small Business

137 – Blaze Makoid Architecture


Photography by Joshua McHugh

Blaze Makoid Architecture

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Blaze Makoid of Blaze Makoid Architecture. Blaze shares with us the challenges of starting his own business, how he get’s the word out about his firm, and what’s on the horizon.

Getting to know Blaze

Blaze Makoid is joining Nick in The Lounge from Sag Harbor, NY in the Hamptons, where he looks forward to the beautiful weather and social seasons. Blaze also looks forward to vacations with his daughter. They travel out of the country on winter vacations for skiing trips. Blaze also enjoys a good cocktail – Manhattans, martinis, and tequila.

How Blaze got into architecture

Blaze showed interest in architecture as early as 4th grade. He always wanted to draw. Later on, Blaze attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Classes were set up as trimesters and students were encouraged to take classes outside of their focus over the winter session (like furniture making, glass blowing, painting, and more), which he did. Blaze worked at GBQC Architect Firm in Philidelphia for a year in order to save up to travel to Europe.

After school, Blaze moved back to Boston, where he worked for Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects. Then he worked for two Alumnus of the firm and began in high-end luxury residential design. He very much enjoyed the vibe and intimacy of being in a small office. Blaze continued to excel in his career and found himself at a larger company as a director of design for Hillier and ECCB. He was building college academic and institutional buildings but hated what he was doing because he was doing very little design but instead doing lots of managing. Blaze was faced with the challenge to overcome his fear of the unknown by starting his own firm. He couldn’t reboot and get excited about managing long projects once again. Blaze recalls wearing many hats including being an architect, a consultant, an accountant, a salesperson, an HR person and more. He had no training and had to learn everything on the fly. Blaze also discusses the difficult task of not being shy and “talking money” with clients so you can be paid for the work you do.

Blaze’s firm downsized during the economic downturn, but they survived. Blaze mentions that the firm was reduced down to one. He didn’t even take a salary for a while and accepted payment plans from clients. This turn of events allowed Blaze to slowly hire people who were excited, ready to work, and talented. Blaze continued to only focus on modern architecture, which was hard at the time, but now the firm has an identity.

What the business looks like today

Blaze Makoid Architecture focuses on residential architecture, with most of their work in the Hamptons. The business has grown steadily and Blaze has a goal of one project outside of the Hamptons per year. Blaze also has an office in Tahoe. This remote employee was ready for a change. Since Blaze trusts him completely, he was able to offer this opportunity.

Getting the word out

Blaze recently hired a PR firm in order to get maximum exposure for promoting three different projects he was working on. He also runs advertisements in various print publications during the summer based on competition. Blaze has formed strong relationships with real estate agents, attorneys, builders, and surveyors. He’s started networking at social events and parties, invests time combing through newspapers every week and pouring over real estate ads, and even writes letters to brokers.

What’s next?

Blaze and his company moved into a new space six weeks ago, where they are focusing on bringing in new work. The firm continues to expand by growing by a third over the last five months.

Learn more about Blaze Makoid Architecture on their website and Instagram.

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  • Wrap Up

 If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!

81 – Betsy Burnham: California Interior Designer on a Mission

Burnham design

 

Betsy Burnham:  California Interior Design on a Mission

On Today’s show of The Chaise Lounge, Nick interviews Betsy Burnham, with a former career in Fashion that turned into a lucrative career in Interior Design. Be sure to check out the end of our show notes for how you can connect with The Chaise Lounge, Enjoy!

We start off today’s show by getting to know Betsy;Betsy Burnham headshot what’s her favorite fashion accessory and where is her favorite place to vacation? Tune in to hear Betsy’s answers, especially her description of her recent trip to India. Oh her background Betsy says, “It (Interior Design) was my second career in a sense, a lot of people find their second career kind of later in life, I found mine kind of early in my working life. I studied Fine Art in college and I went on to work in the fashion industry, I lived in New York City, and I was working at the time for the design part of the Gap, so I was in product development in New York doing Men’s design, travelling all over the world, right out of college. It was such a remarkable opportunity to travel and to learn so much about the process of fashion in the mass market.” After moving to Los Angeles in the late 80’s, Betsy had a hard time finding the same kind of opportunities in fashion that she was privileged to have in New York and found herself disenchanted with that career. After having two kids, Betsy decided to go back to school, and attended UCLA to study Interior Design. “Interior Design was something that I could do on my own time, it was creative, it was relative to fashion in that I was already sort of skilled with color and fabric and I understood my own personal taste and style and I was confident in that.” Betsy talked about the struggle she had with a formal interior design education, and how she found herself drawn toward residential rather than commercial design. After a job with a large hotel design firm, Betsy focused her talents on smaller projects and personal client interactions. “Practical experience in interior design is so important, I can’t stress that enough,” Betsy says of her first job after school and what it taught her.

winning small house burnham design“The day that I got the phone call from someone I didn’t know in any way, was the day I knew I was really in business,” Betsy describes the moment she knew that a career in interior design was where she wanted to be. Burnham design today is “a residential design firm, right now we are three people, I have two women working for me and are junior designers, one is on the architectural side and the other is on the fabric and furniture side, and we also have a part time office manager and a part time bookkeeper.” Betsy talks about the ebbs and flow of the business of interior design, and how difficult it can be to foresee the jobs that are or are not going to come.

When Betsy is looking to hire someone new for her firm, she looks for “some interpersonal skills, I look for confidence in an aesthetic, I don’t want any wallflowers that don’t have an opinion. I challenge people who work for me to say ‘I hate it Betsy, let’s do something else,’ I want a studio of people who are contributing.” Nick and Betsy talk about how she finds new employees, and the vetting process for a team member.

Nick describes how he actually connected with Betsy, which came wayfair trade programabout when Nick was scrolling through Facebook and saw a Wayfair ad that was featuring Betsy for their to the trade program. Betsy became connected with Wayfair while working on a show house, and as one of the sponsors of the show house, Wayfair and Betsy continued a professional relationship that later led to the advertisement that she was featured in.

Nick brings up the topic of marketing with Betsy, “Honestly, and I can honestly tell you, it has all been word of mouth, and I have been fortunate enough over the years to get a fair amount of press and press generates more press.” Betsy talks about the show house that brought attention, and how just saying yes to things and networking more can bring in clients. Nick asks Betsy about her social media presence, and how she likes to have total control of that part of her business. “I have a long-time friend who is a database builder and coder, and he made Burnham Design our very own software, I’ve been doing this longer than most of these software companies existed, and this is something that we’ve built over the years since 2002.”

Instant SpaceBetsy talks about another business venture she’s launched, called ‘Instant Space,’ “It’s design for a flat fee, one room at a time, and we do everything online. So you can come from all over the country, with a room that you want designed, give us a lot of information about yourself, fill out a questionnaire, do some drawing, just basic drawing and measuring and tell us your likes and dislikes, and then in 6 weeks we send you a complete room design.” Tune in to hear how Betsy came up with the idea for Instant Space and the great feedback she’s received on the concept and function of it.

To connect with Betsy, follow her on Instagram @burnhamdesign or visit her websites at burnhamdesign.com or www.instantspacedesign.com.

If you are interested in joining me up in Vail, CO next week, please register for the Vail Social Media Summit for Aug 2-3.

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on InstagramFacebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business.  See ya!

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