Maeve Staunton Henderson, Founding Director at Staunton Henderson Architecture says, our manifesto is to make good design accessible to everyone. We supply design services to home owners and renters, established businesses and start-ups. We pride ourselves in bringing a job in on time and on budget.
Give a brief description of Staunton Henderson Architecture & Interior Design.
We are an architectural practice with a heavy emphasis on customer convenience, using online tools to make communication easier and faster for our clients. World class design comes as standard.
How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
I always felt that clients should not have to take time off work to see their architect. So we stay open late during the week, on Saturday morning, and use video conferencing to save client’s time and money. We are not solely online, we also meet in person, just not for every meeting. Our aim is to make great design accessible to more people.
Give a brief account of your education background.
I graduated from the wonderful Architectural Degree course in Bolton Street DIT in 2003. It is quite a technical course. I was awarded a Masters in Architecture from Trinity College in 2006. I fleshed out my experience by working at excellent design houses such as DeBlacam and Meagher and with Sir Richard Rogers of Pompidiu Centre and Millennium Done fame. In 2010 I joined a Yale research project in Cambodia and afterwards lectured in Architectural History at two universities in Phnom Penh. I’ve spent the last 7 years working at Top 100 practices in London and have loved the journey so far!
Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
Yes, in school I designed fashion tops and sold them in local boutiques or was booked for hair wrapping appointments in the school yard during lunch break. Remember those twine braids? I brought them to Longford school yards!
Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
Yes, my grandfather ran a successful drapery store in Mayo and was the first man in Ireland to sell nylon stockings! They were posted to him by his brother who was Chief of Police in Chicago in the 1940’s.
Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I had 20 years of experience in Architecture and Construction before setting up this company. I previously worked for an on-line architectural service in the UK before too.
What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
The most valuable experience I can repeatedly count on was completing my final exams at the Architectural Association in London. The skills taught were a trinity of excellent customer service, world class design, while running the business efficiently. Alumni include Dame Zaha Hadid, Sir Richard Rogers, Sir Norman Foster, each one creating beautiful buildings, with very happy repeat clients, and successful business models.
How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
We sell knowledge and experience, and hence there are low overheads. My business is self-funded. As we are expanding now, and hiring more staff, I am speaking with Micro Finance Ireland to help me feel more secure during this expansion process.
Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
Not at all. I feel the first year in business taught me a lot. Being self-funded allowed me to pivot, speed up, slow down, limit my risk. Now that the first year is completed, I am ready to take funding if and when I need to. I understand myself as a business owner more now and find that knowledge in itself is very valuable.
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
I got very busy, very quickly. During very busy times, I used outsourcing and contract staff. I am delighted to have talented cad technicians in both London and Romania who work with me on a contract basis. Now I hope to hire these staff full-time as well as local architects.
What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Empathy. I feel compassion for all home builders and commercial clients undertaking a construction project. To aid communication we make as many 3D movies or CGI images as are needed to help clients understand what they are buying. We help commercial clients work out their NIA, GIA and yield. We issue timeline trackers to allow clients to see where the project is.
To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
Helping the client to trust us, and then delivering on the promises made. Earlier this year I was awarded a Business All Star in Thought Leadership in Architecture. The selection process was rigorous and revolved around being trustworthy and professional.
What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
All of my clients have come to me though my network, so very important. I find my network an endless source of new work, support, fun and solace. I am on the Board of the Women’s Irish Network in London. Every networking event I attend or help organise leaves me feeling recharged and ready to take on more. A professional network is a support system for an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship can be a solo sport for some, and a network can be your team-mates, cheerleaders and coach, especially one of the calibre of IIBN.
Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
I think entrepreneurship has become more accessible with online work, remote working and flexi-time. We feel Flexi-time delivers better results for our clients. It allows us to source the correct and best skills from anywhere in the world.
Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Absolutely, but as a branch of this company. I love construction and architecture. I feel that Staunton Henderson will branch out and expand our services and portfolio. We have a lot brewing in the pipeline.
If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Like Nike, one of my favourite companies for remaining relevant, has been saying for the past 20 years, Just do it!