True Green Cities/Celebrating Thirteen Years: Running a Small Business

True Green Cities/Celebrating Thirteen Years: Running a Small Business

Celebrating Thirteen Years!  It’s been thirteen years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC on April 19th, 2011 and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. 

Last June, three of my colleagues and I ran a panel at the annual AIA Convention in San Francisco. Our panel was comprised of small firm business owners posing questions to a large group of small business owner attendees, seeking input on how to improve our capacity to handle complex business issues.

My architecture office in a former Ford factory in Buffalo. We had the annual AIA Solstice Holiday party there in December 2023.

How Many Small Architecture Firms Are There?

Approximately 75% of all firms within the AIA are small firms (10 employees or less), which equates to 14,288 small firms within the organization, with sole practitioners comprising 25% or 4,750. Since the pandemic, it appears that number may have grown significantly.  As micro-businesses, a group of us have banded together to create a “co-op” like network to develop the resources that large firms have inherently. While it started regionally, it has expanded to include firm owners across the country who are supporting one another with resources including ideas on how to encourage payment from clients, how to stay relevant as consultants to large firms, determining the importance of WBE/MBE certification, suggesting how to manage administration, and balancing firm growth to identify what our new post-pandemic practices will look like. The movement of practice and communication to an online space during the pandemic opened up the world to small firms who previously might have been limited geographically.  This network is improving our capacity to manage these issues after a major world-wide disruption and we believe that expanding it to include other similar firm owners across the country will contribute to the stability we are all seeking.   

My colleagues and I setting up our panel on small business owners at the 2023 AIA Convention in San Francisco.

Looking Through the Small Business Lens

A group of solopreneurs (sole proprietors) from around the country have been collaborating throughout the pandemic to support one another with challenges that seem specific to our demographic.  Many of us work together in various capacities and once we began having ad-hoc meetings we realized that our issues were common among micro-business firm owners, some of whom are women-owned businesses or minority-owned businesses. We also realized how valuable the actual discussions were.  We are seeking to broaden our network through the development of a national survey. We began our discussions through a meeting with AIA NY State and one of our members is a State Representative for the AIA Small Business Exchange.

Solopreneurs are inherently flexible and adaptable, and the pandemic magnified these values.  A network of micro-firm owners has been developing with support initially from AIA NY State.  We realized the importance and value of relationships – working with empathetic clients and engaging with collaborators. There is something optimistic about the ways we’ve been working together. Some of the hierarchies and professional silos that usually separate us have softened and our voices can be heard. By spotlighting various firms, discussing our connections, reviewing solutions, and launching a national survey, we are looking to expand this network and share our members’ expertise.

Thank you to all my clients, consultants and colleagues who have supported  Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC.