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The Business Plan

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Urban Colab Architecture

Business Plan

March-2023
Flint, Michigan
810-288-4991
​urbancolab.design​

Executive Summary

Who we are

People first, profit second. We provide design services and products that are directly focused on low-to-no energy consumption. We also extend this focus to developing the site and landscape design that equally serves to reduce environmental impact. With the 20 years of experience of our founder, Kurt, we have a proven track record of creating residential and commercial projects that go beyond net-zero energy consumption with some actually producing excess energy.
Urban Colab Architecture is intentionally registered as an L3C. L3C is short for, Low-Profit Limited Liability Company. This means we are a socially focused business. We provide creative solutions by actively listening to our clients' needs. Our end goal is for clients to feel that they were equal participants in bringing their project to reality. We will guide the process the entire time to act as your “guardrails” giving you an equal stake in the success of your project.

Purpose

Urban Colab Architecture's fundamental purpose is to empower our clients to achieve independent and sustainable lives by designing productive buildings and landscapes. We believe in the thought that “we cannot control the world but we can control how we act in the world”. Our focus is to pursue projects that are truly regenerative and productive. A regenerative solution repairs the impacts made by man. Our projects are intended to engage the landscape with respect to site and place and are designed to operate with minimal utility reliance. Our landscapes are carefully selected to match each site’s unique microclimate for maximum production without wasting resources like water and soil.
Urban Colab architecture is in the wealth-building and resiliency business. Through the service of architecture, we provide our community with the ability to be self-sufficient from a shelter, food, and business capacity all in balance. Enough is more than enough. But to get there we are focused on making sure all of our community members have access to the basic necessities to sustain human life.

Ideal Client

Homeowner Clients

Our ideal clients are individuals and families that understand the basic principles of self-sufficient living as a whole picture of economic, social, environmental, and energy conservation. We want our purpose to align with our client's goals of living more resilient and with the comfort and capacity of weathering any man-made or natural disaster. Seth Godin speaks about “finding your tribe”, a collection of 1,000 followers that would buy anything you sell, Urban Colab Architecture will be successful if we find a “tribe” of even 100 clients/projects. This target is based on a no-compromise attitude. Our sole purpose is to see our clients living their healthiest and happiest life enjoying productive landscapes with renewable resources.

Developer Clients

We are actively working with local nonprofit organizations, Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, and The Genesee County Land Bank Authority. We have completed the rehabilitation of two homes in Carriage Town that represent the regeneration of Flint’s oldest historic neighborhood. These two homes were built by a local small business contractor, Jon Mason, of Above and Beyond Concepts. Jon’s company's painstaking attention to detail has resulted in two beautiful new homes that are ready for occupancy in Spring 2022. We also are working with Communities First, Inc. on two new mixed-use developments in Flint that will provide 74 new units of housing and commercial and tenant amenity services. Both buildings will provide much-needed affordable housing. Urban Colab Architecture and Communities First, Inc. has aligned mission statements to serve our local Flint community.

Community Clients

Urban Colab also is supporting other small businesses in Flint. We are currently providing design services for Rootless Coffee, a local coffee roasting company that has become a shining example of the gritty determination of local small businesses. We are also working with Emily Doerr who is pursuing opening up a boutique retail wine and cheese shop in the storefront of the Historic Berridge Apartment building. While these two projects are smaller in scale, the process to renovate existing buildings is challenging and takes a lot of problem-solving skills to navigate the building code and building department. We are very proud to partner with local small businesses and be a part of the positive impact.

Business Description / Vision

Mission / Vision

Our goal is to launch a remote-work design services business that provides solutions for local/regional projects. We choose to grow the business as a remote-work model to take full advantage of available and affordable technology as well as provide our team with true work/life balance and freedom.

Objectives

  • Choose which projects to take on based on rigorous goal matching
  • Be recognized as a resources for net zero design solutions
  • Be recognized as a resource for regenerative / permaculture landscape design
  • Grow our team sustainably without debt
  • Prepare company financial resources to be resilient from recession or disaster
  • Collaborate with allied professionals in the arts, urban design, planning, horticulture, and other creatives
  • Pursue design competitions annually that align with business goals
  • Provide 10% of time, or 10% of fee discount, annually to pro bono services for clients that are in need
  • Say no to projects that don’t fit with our mission to be able to always say yes to projects that do fit our mission
  • Create strategic partnerships with fellow remote work office structures
  • Develop each project holistically with 3D drawings, building and landscape design solutions, and budget feasibility and estimates
  • Pursue Architect led property development for incremental wealth building
  • Focus on off-grid and regenerative design solutions that have long lasting return on investment for the client and for the planet

Keys to Success

  • Manage project budget and schedule to achieve true work/life balance and freedom
  • Complete projects that satisfy design goals and budget goals
  • Develop client relationships that result in high referral rate >80%
  • Complete all projects within the estimated hourly schedule for consistent profitability

Organization and Management

Company Ownership

Urban Colab Architecture will be created with an initial operating assistance investment of Kurt and Danielle Neiswender. Urban Colab Architecture will be established as a limited liability company (LLC) or a low-profit limited liability company (L3C).
L3C’s combine aspects of a nonprofit and for-profit organization. It is a relatively new innovation in the United States. Its purpose is to attract capital to commercial ventures that promote some sort of social good. The L3C's primary purpose is a charitable mission while generating profits is a secondary goal. It represents a socially responsible entrepreneurial model.

Company Leadership

Kurt Neiswender - Founding Principal, Architect

Kurt Neiswender is a firm believer in sustainability and stewardship of the environment, where he can leverage his professional experience to support the goals of his clients. His career background has uniquely prepared him to become a subject matter expert in sustainable design. He brings a holistic vision of sustainability that goes beyond the building envelope and includes society health and human wellness that strengthens communities.

Danielle Neiswender - Financial

Bio

Operational Narrative

Urban Colab Architecture intends for all projects to be considerate of the ecological impact of their designed solution. Urban Colab Architecture provides solutions that are architectural in nature (i.e. buildings, infrastructure, fabrications, installations), and ecological in nature (i.e. landscapes, gardens, water storage, regenerative property maintenance). The resulting successful project will provide the client with a resilient property that produces more than it consumes. Both the architectural and ecological designs aim to achieve the highest levels of sustainability in their materials and the environmental impact.

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)

Urban Colab Architecture intends to seek certification as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). Kurt Neiswender’s mother, born in Guatemala to Guatemalan parents enables him to qualify for MBE status. Urban Colab Architecture seeks to leverage this national certification for its additional governmental advantages and business prioritization.

Description of Products and Services

Company Location and Facilities

Urban Colab Architecture will maintain no permanent physical office. Core management staff will operate a home office and collaborate with staff and consultants in remote work methodology. Urban Colab Architecture will obtain a membership to local coworking maker space, Factory Two in Flint, Michigan. This coworking space will be used for face-to-face meetings as needed. The Coworking membership will also be used for explorations in design by leveraging the variety of tools provided by the maker space shop.

Service Description

Urban Colab Architecture will provide architecture, interiors, and landscape design services to their client base. We will include consultants on an as needed basis to meet project specific requirements.
The three core services that Urban Colab Architecture provides include:
  1. 1.
    Sustainable Architecture Design
  2. 2.
    Regenerative Landscape Design
  3. 3.
    Placemaking Urban Design
In-house services include:
  • Architectural planning and design
  • Interior design
  • Building alterations and feasibility studies
  • Programming
  • Site planning
  • Space planning
  • Specifications development
  • Furniture, artwork and installations
  • Cost estimating
  • Sustainable and passive design principles
  • Construction administration
Outside consultant services anticipated:
  • Civil Engineering
  • Structural Engineering
  • MEP and Fire Suppression Engineering
  • IT | Telecommunications design
  • AV and Security design

Urban Colab Architecture will focus on buildings with the following ‘Use and Occupancies’:

  • ‘Missing Middle’ Multi-family Residential
  • Adaptive Reuse
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)
  • Professional Office Spaces
  • Interior Office Tenant Alterations
  • Main Street Retail
  • Permaculture Landscape
Notes: Template plan sets for incremental residential / commercial projects suitable for common lot dimensions.

Definition of Market

Michigan Regional Market

The state of the architecture profession in the Michigan region has struggled since the recession in 2008. There is a large gap between large corporate firms and small to medium-sized firms. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) membership data half of all Michigan statewide AIA membership works in Detroit. Not all architects practicing are members of AIA. Approximately 58% of all licensed architects are AIA members. As you move northward away from Detroit the availability of licensed architects drops off dramatically. Other hotspots of architects are Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Lansing. This leaves a lot of geographic territories that has a very low quantity of licensed architects.
Additionally, as a result of the 2008 recession, there was a great loss of mid-career architects in the workforce. Mid-career architects demographic represent individuals with 10-15 years of experience. These individuals that were laid-off either moved out of state for work and have not returned, or otherwise did not return to the profession for alternative career paths. At the lowest statistical point, for every eight architects retiring in Michigan, they were being replaced by one entering the workforce.
While the marketplace is improving, the workforce gaps still exist and firms are struggling to staff mid-career architects. Large firms are also still practicing very traditional methods in regards to maintaining large expensive office spaces and not providing the flexibility for remote work and freedom of work/life balance.

The opportunity

Urban Colab Architecture is based in Flint, Michigan. The Flint area was equally impacted by the 2008 recession and even prior to that with the abandonment of the automotive industry. Flint’s new normal is a population of half of its peak resulting in real estate values that have been reduced to the absolute lowest per acre value in the state, and quite possibly the country.
Geographically, Flint is strategically located between Detroit (~1 Hr by car), Saginaw, Midland (~1 Hr by car), and Grand Rapids (~2 Hrs by car). Being based in Flint gives Urban Colab Architecture the advantage to have easy connectivity to larger metro areas within minutes of I-475, I-69, M-23, and I-75 highways.
Urban Colab Architecture can take advantage of the lower cost of living during its first 1-3 years of operation, and as a remote-work business model we can travel to projects and clients within 100 miles of Flint with great agility.

Ideal Target Market

In our first year, Urban Colab Architecture, with confidence, has the capacity to provide complete services for up to six projects ranging in size from $250,000-$500,000 in construction costs. This represents potential annual revenue of $90,000.00-$180,000.00. Using the ideal project Uses and Occupancies identified above Urban Colab Architecture can target potential clients within 100 mile radius of Flint.

Potential Clients

The potential clients that identify with the construction cost stated above would ideally be individuals seeking renovations or new construction projects that range in size from 2,500-to 5,000 square feet. These projects can be either residential or small commercial projects that would be found in Main Streets, like downtown Flint, Owosso, or Port Huron. Urban Colab Architecture will target clients with a particular focus on adaptive reuse of vacant structures and projects that replace buildings lost to demolition and that have left behind an underutilized vacant lot.
Our ideal client would be focused on the repurposing of existing and previously developed land before seeking to develop greenfield native landscapes. Sustainability and regenerative designs are critical to making our cities and towns more resilient to economic, climate, or pandemic disasters.
Our ideal client demographics could range between young professionals in the Millennial Generation that value social and environmental equity seeking to be more self-reliant to individuals at the end of their career choices to lower their economic and environmental footprint for low-impact freedom in retirement.

Anticipated Market Share

Urban Colab Architecture anticipates a high availability of potential clients that fit the profile stated above. Looking at demographic and economic development data from the Economic Development Authority-Region 6 (EDA) which is hosted by the University of Michigan-Flint, there are hotspots of commercial activity along the I-69 corridor between Shiawassee and St. Clair Counties. Throughout the EDA’s seven counties these hotspots represent potential project locations that fit our ideal client/project profile.
Two factors provide Urban Colab Architecture with a competitive advantage in this share of the market. First and foremost is the remote-work model that reduces all of our unnecessary overhead to allocate all resources to maximize project fees. Second, projects of this size are not worth the time of the large firms in Detroit, and even small 6-10 person firms carry too much overhead to provide the full client services that are needed for repeated successful project delivery.
This section should:
  • Describe your business industry and outlook
  • Define the critical needs of your perceived or existing market
  • Identify your target market
  • Provide a general profile of your targeted clients
  • Describe what share of the market you currently have and/or anticipate

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Positioning statement

We will offer innovative and economical professional design services while maintaining “state of the art” design technology as part of our service. We will meet client expectations on projects of all sizes as well as projects with special integrated design requirements.
Professional services will be tracked on an hourly basis and assigned to a project number. A target of 80% billable is desired to maximize efficiency and profitability. Projects will be contracted on either a fixed fee or time and material hourly basis. We will look to maintain an hourly rate for services that is competitive with the standard as determined by the profession. This rate will be assigned to each employee based on experience and expertise.

Competitive Advantage

Urban Colab Architecture is founded on the 18+ years of experience of Principal, Kurt Neiswender. We will continue to be focused on repeat business and look to maintain a “relationship-based” client firm. The experience gained over the course of the past 18 years at architecture offices of varying sizes and expertise will be the launching point for Urban Colab Architecture. In most cases, the experience points to what best practices are most relevant, and in some cases, points to lessons learned and what practices not to extend into the operations of Urban Colab Architecture.

Marketing Channels

Urban Colab Architecture will utilize the following strategies to market to potential clients:
  • Weekly articles on our website for SEO ranking
  • Guest blogging and podcasting to promote our brand
  • Create a lead magnet guidebook for download on our website. Refresh this monthly or quarterly with new content
  • Obtain video and written testimonials from successful client projects
  • Create a curated collection of plan sets for sale that include one for free that showcase how we package and present our work product
  • Use each social media platform discretely for their primary purpose and audience

Sales Strategy

4 P’s pricing promotion products and place
Plan sets passive income.

Exhibit A: SWOT Analysis for Urban Colab Architecture

STRENGTHS
WEAKNESSES
OPPORTUNITIES
THREATS
20+ years experience
Perceived as too small for some clients
Innovate and reimagine the profession
Other small firms potentially undercutting fees
Network of like minded colleagues
Limited portfolio of ideal projects
Passive income model
Recessions
Financially debt free
Not Passive House Certified yet
Remote Collaboration
Cost of certifications, PHIUS, ILFI, NCARB
Ability to be selective
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EntreArchitect Community (Peer Group)
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Subject Matter Expert in sustainability
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Financial Management

Urban Colab Architecture Financial Startup Analysis

New Business
  • Estimate of start-up costs
  • Projected balance sheet (1 year forward)
  • Projected income statement (1 year forward)
  • Projected cash flow statement (12 months forward)

Financial Summary

Current Contracts Awarded
Client
Type
Estimated Income
J Kretschmer Architect
Consulting Contract
$30,000.00
Orchard Grove Apartments
Design Contract
$105,000.00
Orchard Manor Apartments
Design Contract
$80,000.00
Subtotal
​
$215,000.00

Appendices

This section should include as attachments:
  • Company brochures
  • Resumes of key employees
  • List of business equipment
  • Copies of press articles and advertisements (if available)
  • Pictures of your business products (optional)
  • Information supporting the growth of your industry and/or products (optional)