Any new venture, be it starting a business, starting a family, building a new home, or building a new life, always requires a support system.
The human life is designed for many things. Isolation is not one of them. Together we grow stronger, live more deeply, love more wholly, and expand into possibilities nonexistent in solitude.
In the fourth post of Pippin’s Inspired Life series, I share my introduction to the American Institute of Building Design, how we formed a fast friendship, and how I was able to charge forward into entrepreneurship with my new ally by my side.
Inspired by One Small Ad
My introduction to the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) was not like you may have thought. I wasn’t introduced by a board member or pointed in this direction from a professor or peer in the industry.
It was a small ad in a trade magazine, the name of which I don’t even remember, that caught my eye. Of all the myriad of literature in the publication this one seemingly insignificant blurb seemed to jump out at me. I decided to investigate more about this mysterious AIBD.
Mind you, this was in 1988, long before the time of Google, so I actually had to put some leg work in to find out about this organization that claimed to be the American Institute of the very thing I was so deeply passionate about.
Much to my delight, I learned that AIBD is an organization that promotes residential designers, offering educational seminars, and a nationally recognized certification program. This was exactly the support I needed as a young solo female entrepreneur in the male dominated building design industry of the 80’s. I just knew I had to join the organization and become a Certified Professional Building Designer (CPBD) in order to increase my credibility.
I was excited about this potential and I shared what I had found with a few local colleagues. Two other residential designers jumped on board and decided to also pursue the support system of AIBD with me. There was not yet an AIBD North Carolina chapter and so the three of us decided to charter a small private plane to Virginia Beach to meet with the board members of AIBD Virginia Society.
The Journey Begins Through the Darkness
Our journey to what already seemed like a daunting adventure became far more eventful than I would have liked.
It was very early in the morning and the sun had not yet fully risen when my colleagues and I caravanned to the airport. The guy leading the pack was driving far too fast and as he hit a set of railroad tracks, his car took flight, landing upside down, with him trapped inside. He was alive, thank God, but his back had been broken.
I could hardly believe what I saw. It was an amalgamation of the current accident that had just taken place and visions of my own accident that had occurred in what seemed like the not too distant past.
How on Earth could this be happening?
We called for an ambulance and waited there with our friend while the paramedics arrived. As our friend was being carried away in a stretcher, he insisted that we go on without him to Virginia for the exam. He understood how important the AIBD certification would be for our careers, and he humbly encouraged us to redirect our focus back to our original intent.
With apprehension, we did as he encouraged. We completed our drive to the airport ever so carefully and boarded the tiny plane that felt every pocket of air in the sky. My stomach rose into my chest and my heart sank into my belly with every wave of turbulence and trepidation.
It was going to be a long day.
Running the Gauntlet
When meeting someone for the first time do you ever get the sensation that you’ve known them for lifetimes?
Yeah, well, my introduction to AIBD was NOT that. AIBD was intimidating!
The itinerary for our arrival included individual interviews by AIBD committee members who administered the National Certified Building Designer Certification (NCBDC) exam. Also required and considered for our certification were three full sets of construction drawings and three letters of recommendation.
The national exam was based on regional building codes. I was well acquainted with the North Carolina codes, though codes in Virginia were a bit different and I hadn’t yet been exposed to these variations. Upon seeing these variations on the exam, my discomfort with the day grew. What a damn shame it would be to have come all this way only to fail in our mission?
I’m grateful to say that my test taking abilities, problem-solving skills, and my competence in my craft pulled me through on that day. I passed the exam, was deemed a Certified Professional Building Designer (CPBD) and fortunately so was my compadre. AIBD deemed us worthy of their endorsement. Our mission was complete, and it was time to go home, lick our wounds, recover from the day, and prepare ourselves for next!
Growing My Tribe
Having passed the exam to become a Certified Professional Building Designer (CPBD), I wanted access to as many of the AIBD resources as I could get my hands on. However, needing to travel to another state to attend meetings was a hassle.
I decided to collaborate with other designers in North Carolina and begin an AIBD NC Society. We applied, were granted the request, and I became one of the first Charter members!
While attending the first board meeting, furiously scribbling down notes, wanting to retain every piece of precious information, I noticed I was the only female in the room. I was also the only one taking notes. For whatever societal and/or performance reasons, I was voted in as Secretary of the Board by the other members present. I was honored.
After a few years of maintaining the position of Secretary, I eventually decided to move up to Treasurer. I had fallen in love with my community and wanted to involve myself as much as possible. I quickly climbed from Treasurer to Vice President and eventually to President of the AIBD North Carolina Society.
Pay it Forward
My involvement with AIBD provided the opportunity to connect with mentors all around the country. They took me under their wing and offered me invaluable advice about running my business.
At the time, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know since my degree track had not included a business course. The knowledgeable and successful professionals of my AIBD community taught me the tricks of the trade.
After my 2-year full term as President was up, the title was passed on to someone who unfortunately did not have the time or commitment required by the position. The Board asked me to run for office of President again to get the organization back on track. I accepted, doubling down my efforts to piece back together the Society I believed in so strongly.
This was challenging since I was also a national AIBD Board Director and sitting on a National Presidents Council. Smaller regional chapters had popped up throughout North Carolina to provide more localized meetings for our members who weren’t able to travel across the state, and I somehow miraculously found time to attended many of those meetings as well.
Having recognized how little support I received as a student and that my stumbling upon AIBD was purely happenstance, I wanted to bridge the gap between acquiring the degree and applying the skills to become successful in the industry. In my nearly nonexistent free time, I spoke at local colleges that had architectural programs to offer the students the support of a community I wished I had when I was in their shoes.
I was deeply inspired to do all I could to elevate the industry and educate
about our services as an alternative to hiring an architect for home design.
The Struggle to Support Others While Supporting Self
I had my sight set on being voted in as the first female National President of AIBD. However, clocking-in over 16 meetings nationally, regionally, and locally every year, before the advent of Zoom, made for an extraordinarily busy schedule. I began to notice that my colleagues were growing far more successful than I was. All my time volunteering was cutting into my ability to grow Pippin Home Designs.
I wrestled with this conundrum. On one hand I had received so much from AIBD and I wanted to give back. On the other hand, I wasn’t able to employ all the techniques I had been taught because I was prioritizing community and supporting others.
This seems to be a reoccurring life lesson. My insatiable desire to help and support others often leads me down a path that comes at a price.
I suppose this is part of what it means to be human.
Learning how to care for others while caring for self,
recognizing when you’ve fallen out of balance,
and adjusting accordingly.
This delicate dance required a pivot and so after much deliberation I chose to shift my relationship with AIBD such that I could still maintain my connection with them without offering my time on a board or committee.
As soon as I made this decision, I realized just how burned out I had become. It’s odd how a person can become so accustomed to going full steam ahead when the engine is fueled by passion. It’s even more interesting how a person can have a hard time recognizing that this expenditure of energy is not sustainable.
I let go of my goal to become the first female National President of AIBD. I instead redirected my focus to becoming a successful female entrepreneur in the residential design industry. A tall enough order for the times as it was.
AIBD and I still have a beautiful, supportive relationship with one another. I recently became the Past Chair of the High-Performance Homes Team committee. I love sharing my knowledge about high performance and green design (more to come in the next blog…stay tuned!). I also regularly attend the annual regional and national conferences as a way to stay connected to my community and share in the latest ideas. It’s always good to see old friends and meet the next generation of home designers.
Join me on November 16th to meet my true love and forever partner in life and in business, Wes Stearns. Learn how we together grew Pippin Home Designs into a design firm rooted in health, wellness, love, and inspiration.
I intend you find your tribe, one that supports your truest inspirations.
Inspired by you,
Jenny Pippin, CPBD, FAIBD, CGP
Pippin Home Designs
I am Jenny Pippin, founder of Pippin Home Designs and creator of my own inspired living. I grew up as an ordinary southern girl, working in the fields of my family’s tobacco farm. It didn’t take me long to realize I had greater gifts and so I chose to step into my power and create my own path in life, inspired by my heart’s true passion. (More on my personal story in future posts.Stay tuned!)