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10 years later, architects reflect on their story

By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2013 3:00 p.m. MST

The year 2013 marks the 10-year anniversary of Renovation Design Group. It is a milestone year for us, and we'd like to share our story.

It started out as a concept, a dream really. Two of the three future partners were working at an architectural firm in Salt Lake City designing large projects like high schools, office buildings and resorts. With most of our projects, we worked with building departments or developers and rarely met the end-user. That was most frustrating for Annie, who used to say that enhancing people’s lives with architecture was the reason she wanted to be an architect. Ann felt that working at a large firm was interesting, but she was ready to settle into a niche and become an expert in just one area of architecture.

During the years working at a commercial architectural firm, we became aware of many homeowners seeking design help with residential projects — specifically remodeling projects — who were turned away every year. Large firms were not set up to handle projects under $750,000 or so. That seemed like an opportunity calling for takers. In addition, we felt that we could meet our career goals with this type of business: We could have the personal interaction we wanted with the clients and be able to become experts in one area of architecture.

At that point it was just a dream; a fun idea. We were architects, not business women, and we certainly weren’t going to go back to school to get a business degree at that point.

In the fall of 2002, Jared Bulloch was taking a business class at the University of Utah in which he was assigned to write a business plan. When he told his wife Lori about the assignment, Lori mentioned that her sister, Annie, had recently talked to her about her idea for a company. Maybe they could help each other out?

Jared ended up writing our business plan. In the beginning, none of us thought it would lead to anything more than some interesting discussions and a school project. However, when we decided to enter the plan in a statewide business contest, “The Entrepreneurial Challenge” (where the winner gets $40,000 to start up the business), we began to take it all a bit more seriously. The three of us spent a combined 1,000 hours on the contest submission, which included a few test runs of designing remodels for friends.

The proposal didn’t end up winning, but it was one of 30 semifinalists and the whole thing lit a fire under us. We were having so much fun, and with Jared on board we knew our idea could be more than just a dream.

In the summer of 2003, we all took a collective deep breath and resigned from our full-time jobs to start Renovation Design Group. It was a risk, but a calculated risk.

Now, 10 years later, we are still happy we took that leap of faith. We get to do what we love every day. There is such a fulfillment in what we do because we get to see the effects our designs have on the end-user — the homeowner.

We wish all our readers the best in 2013!

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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