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Starting

My Small Rural Business: GPG Architecture and Design

According to the ABS, regional businesses account for over 800,000 businesses. As part of our Regional Heroes campaign, we're profiling some of these incredible small businesses, like GPG Architecture and Design to see what makes them (and their towns) tick!

What is the name of your business?

GPG ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN

What is your website? Instagram and Facebook too please.

Do you have a podcast?

No – Would love to one day!

When did you start your small biz?

I established the firm in February 2006 and we practice throughout the Riverina, ACT, Snowy Mountains and Albury-Wodonga regions. We undertake a diverse range of residential, public and commercial architectural and landscape projects and assist our clients with all aspects of architecture, landscape design and interior design.

Why did you start it?

In 2006, following a tree change to Wagga Wagga from Sydney, I recognised the absence of an architectural practice in the region and made the decision to establish GPG Architecture and Design. The development of my business has grown from a part time sole practitioner in 2006, through to employing a permanent team of four staff and several contractors.

Is it the only biz of its kind in your area?

Yes – We are the only multi-disciplinary team that includes both a registered architect, interior designers and landscape architect within one practice. We bring expertise and experience to all of our projects and are considered the architect of choice in the local region.

What do you love most about living where you live?

“You are what you love, not what loves you.”Charlie Kaufman

The moment I truly fell in love with Wagga Wagga was when I realised I can be me, here in Wagga Wagga and I don’t need to live in the city.

I can be a mum, a wife, a daughter, a friend and an architect and run my own business. The supporting community is by far my greatest love of Wagga Wagga. From close friendships through to incredible supportive acquaintances and colleagues, it does not cease to amaze me what an incredibly supportive network of people we have in the regions.

Do you have a shop front?

Yes, in December 2018 I completed designing and building my new home and self-contained architectural studio on Plumpton Rd. (The building has just won a Riverina Master Builder Award.) The studio is a large self-contained custom designed space that accommodates my design team and is both functional and an incredible inspiration. Clients love to frequent this space to workshop with myself and my team.

Photograph: Justin Green

How would you describe your client base?

Extremely varied to include the following:

  1. Mums and Dads building a new bespoke home or undertaking large complicated alterations
  2. Small-medium businesses building a new premises or undertaking alterations or conversions to an existing building
  3. Local doctors looking for a specialist fitout for their new place of business
  4. Large organisations to include Land and Housing Corporation, Wagga Wagga City Council and other regional councils, and private local and international organisations.

Who/what do you consider your biggest competitor?

My approach to collaboration opportunities with local peers has increased workplace morale for both my own business and those of the two other individual architects in the region. In this case, my practice has now reduced local competition via the act of collaborating with them for larger projects, as opposed to competing against them.

Our biggest competitor has now become Sydney and Canberra architectural firms that compete for local regional projects.

How do most of your clients find you?

Our profile was initially boosted through the implementation of the ‘Inspiration Session’, which we offer to residential clients as a fixed cost, introductory design service and platform for providing additional services. On the commercial front, most of our client contact is due to our strong and established local networks with the construction industry and local council. It is worth noting that the word of mouth referral network is quite influential in regional NSW and our solid reputation has helped us to build our client base with new and repeat business.

We have a website and Facebook page that is updated regularly and an online newsletter to communicate with our clients, consultants, trades and wider community. The newsletter currently has a reach of approximately 900 persons and groups.

Do you network with other small biz in your area?

Yes, I am involved in several groups including Women in Business Wagga Wagga, Chamber of Commerce Wagga Wagga, Master Builders Association Wagga Wagga, Building Designers Association Wagga Wagga, Wagga Women in Construction and last but not least the Wagga Wagga Architects Group.

Do you have a local chamber of commerce in your area?

Yes, we do. We actively attend relevant events where possible. We were award winners last year at the Local Chamber of Commerce Golden Crow Awards. I was awarded the 2018 Business Leader Award and my practice was awarded the 2018 Best Small business award.

What do you think is the greatest challenge your community/area/district faces right now?

Workforce shortages. One of the biggest challenges for my small business and for our regional community has been attracting skilled workers.

Who is your greatest support?

My family, my team and my community.

What’s your biggest goal for the next 5 years?

To continue to improve our design processes in order to create better building solutions for the built environment and our community. Furthermore, I would like to continue to mentor and contribute to the future of architecture and construction, by being an active presence in the field for young men and women looking to enter into the industry.

What is your biggest challenge in terms of growing your business?

Lack of skilled architectural/landscape graduates in the community and gender inequality are the two biggest challenges that I face in the growth of my business. Gender inequality in the construction industry has long been a challenge for me and my female colleagues. My aim is to continue to grow my experience and depth of expertise and in this way, win the respect of those in the construction industry and furthermore, pave the way for emerging female architects to be successful in the still male-dominated industry. My in-house team is all female which demonstrates excellence achieved by women in the profession locally.

Furthermore, the lack of a school of architecture in the region results in a skills shortage for architectural and design practices. Sourcing staff has been a difficult task and often upskilling is the only way to ensure availability of trained team members.

If there was one thing you could do to make the biggest change to your business what would it be?

The biggest change for my business would be to implement increased training opportunities for my team and I. Our regional location often excludes us from city training days, due to cost and distance. Being able to attend or have on offer relevant training opportunities in Wagga Wagga would be paramount and an incredible improvement for both my business and for other design and construction based industries.

What/where is your favourite place in your town and why?

The Civic Theatre Precinct would be my favourite place in town. I have spent many a time at a show, at markets, grabbing a coffee or just visiting the art gallery with my friends and family. Located in the centre of town, there is always an abundance of parking and the performances are varied and provide entertainment for the kids and young at heart. The performances are very affordable and the flair that is showcased at these events is a true indication of how much talent there is in the regions.

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