At EntreArchitect, you’re encouraged to share your knowledge. When we share with other architects, we all benefit. We are able to learn from one another and the profession will grow. One of the goals of EntreArchitect is to provide a platform for other entrepreneur architects to share their stories.
We want to interview you! What’s your story? Do you want to share your knowledge or the story about how you were inspired to pursue this profession? How do you become an entrepreneur architect?
Join us for our series called The Entrepreneur Architect, where each guest has the opportunity to share their story and answer some questions that will provide value to each of you.
This week on EntreArchitect Podcast, The Entrepreneur Architect Series featuring Sharon George.
Sharon is a sole proprietor and the principal architect at Architecture by George in Austin, Texas. She’s worked with custom residential architecture for the past fifteen years, specializing in high-performance homes. She serves on the advisory group for the National Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN) as the chair of the emerging professionals’ committee.
Sharon grew up in India, and didn’t grow up around a lot of interesting architecture or architects. She was very interested in drawing, and her earliest memory was of her father taking her to an art competition. She was encouraged in her artistic skills, but also excelled in science and math. She chose to become an engineer as the path of least resistance.
Due to the system in India, the bar was very high for her to get into engineering school and she didn’t get in. She decided on a degree in mathematics, which was fun for all of six months until her moment of clarity: she didn’t belong there. She realized just because she was good at something didn’t mean it was her passion to follow it.
Sharon soon received a letter of invitation for a new college. There, she saw a huge studio with a bunch of drafting tables. She knew then that that was where she belonged. Though she knew little about the profession, she took the leap of faith. It was the best decision she could have made. Her five years in architecture school were the best years of her life and she enjoyed every moment.
In India, when you graduate from architecture you’re immediately an architect; there’s no need for registration. She worked for a year at the same firm that she apprenticed at. She applied to several universities in the States and loved that the University of Texas at Austin because of their program in sustainable architecture. She attended there and was a part of their first ever solar decathlon. When she graduated, she wanted to work for a firm that did high-performance, high-end homes.
Unfortunately, her education from India didn’t transfer to the US. She had to work for 8 years to gain the experience prior to taking the AREs.
Last year, she started her own firm, Architecture By George.
The Entrepreneur Architect Questions
What is one big goal you’ve achieved in your career and how did you get there?
Sharon isn’t big on goal setting, but it’s something she’s consciously working on. When she looks back at all the things that have gotten her to where she is, and follows her intuition most times. One of her biggest goals was getting her license. Starting her own firm wasn’t always a goal, but when it became her path she focused on getting there.
Why did you start your own firm?
Sharon had worked for almost 15 years in other firms and kept learning a lot. Her world was a steep line on a graph and she thrived on that. After that time, she had kids who were little and realized as an employee, the model wasn’t very sustainable. She decided to deep dive into something she wasn’t totally comfortable with and didn’t have plans for, but that was making itself clearer and clearer that it was what she was supposed to do.
What is one struggle you experienced and how did you overcome it?
Starting her own firm was challenging. She was dedicating all her time and resources to nurturing her business and getting it to a place where it’s thriving. She didn’t start her own business to work less, and certainly is working more now, but going through the journey of getting into a business owner’s skin has been great. She makes decisions from a different place and her time has a different meaning. It has been a lot of work in her own mindset to break her own stereotypes of what a business owner looked like.
Have you had an “aha” moment? How did you turn it into success for your career?
Sharon’s “aha moment” happened when she realized that the business model for architecture is broken. Though she doesn’t have a magic fix for it and she loves practicing architecture, but she was beginning to realize that time was money and people had a tight leash on their resources.
She began a passion project of teaching kids about architecture in an after school project. It’s been a great creative outlet for her and she’s found so many kids who are interested in drawing and building. The younger they are, the more interested they tend to be. When they get older, other passions take the place or the creativity is stifled. The need to teach young people is a huge market and Sharon’s gotten a lot of traffic about others looking to do something similar with other kids.
Are you seeing any influence on your practice because you work with kids?
More on a subliminal level. Because Sharon is in a small niche, she’s forcing herself to learn about things that you can do just for fun.
At what age did you decide to become an architect? 17 years old
What’s your target market? Custom residential homes for young families who are outgrowing their current home, focused mostly on high-performance homes
Hourly or percentage-based fee? Prefer stipulated sum with a hybrid proposal, sometimes use percentage-based, doesn’t like hourly
Other than architecture, what makes you happy? Traveling, drawing and painting, swimming, going camping and hanging out with her family
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Growing up, her mom told her to invest in her own education because it’s one of the only things no one can take away from you
What’s one personal habit that contributes to your success? Sharon has coffee and quiet time each morning
What’s an app or resource you’d recommend? EntreArchitect, of course! Plus QuickBooks Self-Employed app.
What book would you recommend and why? Brand Identity Breakthrough by Gregory Diehl and Badass Your Brand by Pia Silva.
What’s a parting piece of guidance? Learn about business. It’s been a huge revelation to Sharon to understand how the business world works and be able to strategize better and take a proactive approach to your business.
What is the one thing that small firm architects can do today to build a better business tomorrow?
“Put yourself out there. Share your value in your own way. With all the apps and social media platforms that are out there, it’s easy to promote ourselves and share what we’re up to day to day. You don’t have to create content, just document what you do.” – Sharon George
Want to be a guest on the entrepreneur architect series? Connect with us on any social media platform or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
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