Starting your own business is akin to parenthood. It entails lots of work and persistence. Development takes time and repetition. Patience is required. You often experience growing pains and you’re always just doing the best you can.
In the third post of Pippin’s Inspired Life series, I share my growth from designing spec homes to spectacular custom designs and eventually birthing into the world a business predicated on passion and inspiration.
You Have to Learn to Crawl Before You Can Walk
After my debilitating accident, which turned out to be one of my greatest life lessons, I was welcomed back to work at Roebuck Homes in Raleigh. I was SO grateful to assume some semblance of normalcy while my body still slowly healed. However, as with all passage of time, things had changed.
Roebuck Homes was a growing company that had nearly doubled its staff during the short 4 months I was gone. I returned to a new culture of chaos. These growing pains did not resonate with me, and I chose to move on to Chapel Hill where I found work with a small building company that was doing things a little different.
This company was breaking into the new world of contemporary design; a style that was relatively new for the times having just emerged in the 70’s and definitely ground-breaking for the area of Chapel Hill. It was exciting at first till I grew bored from the lack of variety here too. I was beginning to understand my affinity for novelty and a need to express my full creative talents.
I moved on to a small firm in Cary called William Poole Designs which turned out to be my entry into custom design. Even though we still designed spec homes for builders, we also designed new custom homes for our private clients. I was exposed to many different properties and the unique personalities of the people who owned them. It was so fun!
While in Cary, I summoned my soul’s intention, gathered my courage, set my vision towards the future, and took my first step into the world of entrepreneurship. As long as I could remember, I had a knowing that I would one day start my own business.
On a shoestring budget of $100 used to purchase my first drafting machine arm and printer, along with a gifted drafting table that had been handmade out of an old door, Renderings Unlimited breathed life into my dream come true.
It was hard work spending my weekdays full time at William Poole Designs while developing Renderings Unlimited in the evenings and weekends, designing elevations and floor plans for builders to use as marketing material. When given the opportunity I even drew small home designs for a few people who believed in me and gave me the chance I had been waiting for.
I was standing on my own for the first time. I had taken my first steps towards sustainable entrepreneurship. My clientele base was growing…and then life had another surprise around the corner.
The Stumble that Became Part of My Dance
My husband at the time had accepted a business partnership that required our relocation to Charlotte. With no network in the area, it appeared I would need to start my little fledgling business all over again.
This is how life pushed me to my edge of growth. I was presented with a situation that at first appeared daunting. Courage, determination, and a healthy dose of naivety helped me navigate out of my comfort zone and into the life I had been dreaming about all along.
I didn’t know how I was going to succeed, though the HOW was not necessary at that point.
The blazing inspiration within me let me know that I WOULD succeed
so long as I kept moving forward.
I started all over again in the only place anybody can ever start: exactly where I was. Step-by-step, I remained willing to learn along the way. I waltzed with inspiration and allowed it to guide me in the right direction.
I saw opportunity all around me. My husband’s surveying company was a member of the Charlotte Homebuilders Association. They shared their membership book with me, and I began calling builder by builder to ask if anyone needed designs drawn for them. I cold called other designers to see if they had a work overload that they’d subcontract me to complete. While building my network, I created all my own marketing materials, scheduled all meetings and follow up calls, and produced all the drawings. I was a one woman show! Out of pure grit and tenacity my hard work paid off. My little business, now called Pippin Architectural Graphics, began to grow…that is, till it was time to shift again.
Just as I thought things were going well, I received an ominous letter in the mail. It was a cease-and-desist order from the NC Board of Architecture. Thinking it was clearly a mistake and having no clue what I was supposed to be ceasing and desisting from, I read in shock and disbelief that the title of my small, but thriving business, Pippin Architectural Graphics, had to change its name.
I was unaware that a home designer with a AAS Degree in Architectural Technology was prohibited from using the word “architectural” to name and describe her business as per the architectural licensing laws of NC.
It was a matter of semantics. The word ‘architect’ or any version thereof is owned and regulated by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and since I was not a member of the AIA I was forbidden from using such words.
And so, shift I did.
A Growth Spurt
I saw this obstacle as an opportunity. Drawing renderings no longer inspired me, however my love for designing homes continued to deepen. I used this slap of the hand to redefine myself, emphasize my specialty as home design, and rename my business.
Pippin Home Designs was born!
This clarity brought about near instant success.
Less than a year later, one of the numerous builders I had been designing spec homes for offered me the opportunity to partner with him for the “Street of Dreams’ Homes Tour on Lake Norman. It was my first opportunity to enter one of my designs into a home tour competition.
The builder and I collaborated on design ideas. We envisioned a story and a half, transitional style home, exterior of stucco and stone, beautiful outdoor living areas, 4-bedroom suites, wide open living spaces, a very functional flow, and many windows open to the views of Lake Norman.
Two years later the home was completed, the tours began, the public voted on their favorites, and the winners were announced. Our home won both the Best of Show award AND the Best of Architectural Design award!
This exposure to the public was exactly what I needed to launch me into designing Award-Winning Homes with a View. I had no idea the impact this tour would have on my career!
Emboldened on the Street of Dreams
Max Lennon, the president of Clemson University at the time, was planning to build a new lake home. The Clemson graduate architect he hired was having a hard time translating Max’s ideas into the home he envisioned. None of the designs presented looked like a home nor did they maximize the lake views Max hoped to obtain.
The disconnect was occurring because the School of Architecture only taught their students to design commercial buildings. Recent graduates that had not yet gained on-the-job experience designing homes didn’t know the appropriate techniques required for custom home design.
While contemplating how to find someone to translate his dreams into reality, Max attended the ‘Street of Dreams’ Homes Tour. This is where he found Pippin Home Designs. Having toured the award-winning home I designed, he hired me on the spot.
Being regarded by such a prominent figure, while feeling seen and acknowledged by the public, provided the support and encouragement I had been longing for. While feeling grounded in my capabilities as an entrepreneur, I simultaneously floated on cloud 9!
The Door for Business Blown Wide Open
Pippin Home Designs was finally gaining traction. My phone began ringing off the hook. Now that my soul had affirmation that I was following the right path, my mind had the confidence I needed to boldly sell my services.
While in the parking lot of the Mooresville Post Office, I happened to glance over at a truck that had the logo of a local builder on it. As if acting from a higher state of consciousness, I walked inside the post office and directly to the man inside to ask him if he was the owner of the truck. Upon answering yes, I handed him my business card and boldly said “you need to know about me”.
The builder read my card, looked amused, and said slyly, “Is that so? Are you any good?” To which I responded, “Yes, I’m damn good!” The look in his eyes shifted from amusement to intrigue. I could see he had something up his sleeve.
The builder said, “OK, I have a client I’ll introduce you to and if you can make them happy then I’ll have a lot more clients to refer you to.”
I met with the Miller’s, of Penske Racing, who were planning a renovation of their home. They loved my design, and this became my first official entry into the NASCAR market.
Little had I known when I got the urge to march up to a man I didn’t know that that man had a brother who owned a race team. He had been building homes for NASCAR drivers and other employees for years.
This builder was also good on his word. He referred me to many more clients and even hired me to design multiple personal homes for himself over the years.
I designed my first million-dollar home for Peter and Ann Guild who built engines for some of the NASCAR teams. Their design was a big, beautiful Prairie style with a Frank Lloyd Wright custom stained-glass replica front entry.
Word continued to get out amongst the NASCAR community and other high end communities wanting homes designed along Lake Norman. Pippin Home Designs was now firmly rooted as a luxury custom home design firm suited for designing homes with a view along the lakeshore.
Join me on the first Tuesday of November when 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.
I intend the steps along your path in life lead you to an inspired life of passion and growth!
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!)