March 30, 2022

We salute the WBE firms in our CannonDesign Collective

Throughout Women’s History Month, we’ve shone light on the incredible women leading by example and action across our industry. Now, as the month draws to a close, we wanted to celebrate the women leading the WBE partner firms in our CannonDesign Collective.

The CannonDesign Collective is a 12-week, interactive program focused on knowledge sharing, professional development and relationship building between participating firms and CannonDesign. The women in the Collective are leading businesses, leading change, smashing barriers and amplifying the cracks in the proverbial glass ceiling. We asked them for insight into their journeys that will help future generations follow their example.

What motivated you to start your own business? 

Loren Boyd, Faith Group 

I spent 20 years building one of the largest airport security and technology firms in North America for another company and just didn’t feel valued. The company owners decided I was a “has been” and no longer provided value. That was all the motivation I needed to step out on my own! 

I had built a great and trusting client base, so it was not as challenging as starting completely from scratch. I grew up in a loving, hardworking farm family and was never sheltered because I was a female. I always worked just as hard as, and was treated equal to, all my male counterparts. My family provided me with the drive and determination to do whatever I set my mind to do.

Lisa Reed, Envision Lighting Design 

When I moved to St. Louis from California twenty years ago, one of my mentors told me that after I was established here, I should start my own firm. There is nothing more motivating than having a mentor who believes in you…it motivated me to do something as wild as starting my own business! Shout out to all the mentors along the way who have motivated me to keep growing and achieving in business.

Envision Lighting Design

Jane Louer, Louer Facility Planning

When I started my career as an interior designer for a Design/Build contractor, I found I had an interest in the business side of the organization; how it worked and interacted. This led me to earn my MBA degree, attending classes in the evenings. I also grew to feel that, regardless of my degree, or how hard I worked, or how much I contributed to the success of the company, that I would never be as highly regarded as my male peers. After 20 years of working for others, I decided to start my own company. 

Louer Facility Planning

What does it mean to you to be a woman-owned firm? 

Lisa Reed, Envision Lighting Design 

We don’t lead with “woman-owned,” because the most important part of our firm identity is that we design lighting. But by being a mentor to women in lighting I have given other women in the field courage to realize they can do it too. To me, representation and being an inspiration for other women are the most important aspects of being a woman-owned firm.

Lisa Bell-Reim, Oculus Inc.

It is truly exciting and an honor to be recognized as a woman-owned business. This distinction is both humbling and special, particularly within the AEC Industry. I am very proud to have built a staff that is 50% female, which is well above the current industry benchmarks. I take my role as the president of Oculus, a mentor, and a serious businessperson to heart every day, and recently started a women’s mentoring and leadership group for Oculus to share valuable knowledge I have gained throughout my career.

Gina Konganda, ReStl Engineers TX, LLC

To me starting a woman-owned firm meant 3 things:

  1. To set an example for other budding women entrepreneurs. 
  2. To collaborate with other women in the industry. 
  3. To inspire and encourage women to tap into their entrepreneurial skills

I sometimes tell others that when you don’t get an invitation to the table, you may have to create your own table. 

ReStl Engineers TX, LLC

Jane Louer, Louer Facility Planning

Being a woman-owned firm is a great source of pride for me. I know how hard the road to success has been and know not to take success for granted. I do recognize anyone who starts their own firm, male or female, has these same challenges; however, 26 years ago, it was more unusual for women to take this step, and possibly more difficult to succeed. 

Patty Gaus, Gaus Acoustics

Being a woman-owned business is more important to me than the actual work I do. In the last twelve years, I have learned more about myself, running and growing a small business than I ever could fathom. The disparity and challenges for women and minorities border on inhumane. DEI HAS A LONG WAY TO GO IN OUR REGION. I’m proud to do what I can to make it happen.  

Gaus Acoustics

What are you most proud of? 

Jamie Raymond, Partner at Four Point Design 

Four Point Design is a 100% woman-owned business and all our staff are women. We create a collaborative, inclusive, and flexible environment where our designers can thrive professionally and personally. It is our commitment to mentor and develop our young professionals to become leaders.

Dianne Murata, Kimiko Designs

I am proud to have created a business with a long-standing reputation for excellence and pioneering in the design industry! We have built an organization that not only teaches others how to DESIGN and THINK differently, but we also teach and model how to LIVE differently.

Kimiko Designs

Amy Niehaus Hughes, Owner of H2Ltg

I am the mother of three amazing young women and am proud that I am able to successfully show them that I could be a mom and a business owner.  And I hope that I am able to make that path a little easier for generations to come.

Nancy Jendryaszek, Pathfinder Engineers & Architects

When we formed Pathfinder Engineers & Architects in 1998, my partners and I had technical expertise, but needed to distinguish our company. From the very beginning, we chose to become a certified woman-owned business in order to acquire new clients and to have a business advantage over our competitors in the public sector. 

We have proven ourselves, developed strong client relationships over the years, and have acquired significant roles as leaders in our fields. We have grown to be a prime consultant with all state agencies. In fact, because of this growth and transition, we are considered a “poster child” for what the MWBE Opportunity Programs are about. Our role now is to pay it forward by encouraging other MWBE design companies along their journey.